What To Eat To Boost Your Marathon Training
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Marathon training requires dedication, sacrifice, and hard work to perform our best on race day. We run dozens of miles each week, lift weights, and stretch to prepare our body for the big day. But what about our diet? Are we eating the right foods to maximize our results and enhance our training?
Take your marathon training to the next level by improving your nutrition. With the right combination of foods, fluids, and snacks, you’ll help your body handle hundreds of miles of running and boost your recovery from workout to workout.
Read on for the essential nutrition tips to crank up your results and reach new heights on race day.
Eat to Train
One of the biggest mistakes people make is beginning marathon training to lose weight. The time to focus on achieving a healthy weight is during periods of less demanding energy needs, not when beginning a marathon training plan.
During marathon training the focus should be on eating in a way that helps accomplish the training. This is a period of demanding energy needs. Trying to cut back for the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss can reduce the effectiveness of the training effort.
On the flip side, over eating is also a common mistake. Energy demands should be met by eating a healthy variety throughout the day and well-timed around workouts. Skimping on energy needs during long runs and throughout the day can lead to overeating (or over rewarding with food) at after the training run or at the end of the day.
As you increase your mileage, eat more calories and calories from complex carbs to support your training — for endurance athletes, target roughly 5 – 7g/kg each day.
Improve Your Exercise Nutrition
The more you train, the more important your pre- and post-workout nutrition and hydration becomes. With bigger demands on your body, your body requires more nutrients and fluids for peak performance and fast recovery. This also prevents hunger during your run, sudden energy drops, and excessive weight loss from sweating.
Here’s what to eat and drink before, during, and after the run:
A few hours before your run, eat foods that contain carbohydrates to charge your batteries. Protein and fats are helpful too, but they take longer to digest.
For a 140lb woman:
Carbs: 63 – 126g
- LUNA Bar + banana + 16oz CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink
- 2 cups cornflakes w/ milk + 16oz CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink
- 1 cup of oatmeal w/ honey + raisins
- 16oz CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink + 1 CLIF Bar
For a 175lb man:
Carbs: 77 – 154g
- 3 pancakes w/ syrup
- 20oz CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink + 2 slices of toast with jam
- CLIF Bar & banana + 16oz CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink
- 2 cups oatmeal, with fruit and milk
As you run, get plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace what you sweat out. As a starting point, aim for 400 – 800mL per hour, but adjust according to how much you sweat. Also, when you run more than an hour, eat 30 – 60 grams of carbs every hour (which equals 1 – 2 CLIF SHOT® gels per hour).
You just finished a tough 16-mile training run. Now what?
Now you have a 30-minute “recovery window” — use this time to enjoy something that has both carbs and protein to speed up your recovery and muscular repair.
For a 140lb woman:
Carbs: 63–95g; Protein: 10–20
- Sunflower butter + jelly sandwich + 8oz of grape juice
- 1cup granola w/yogurt
- CLIF Bar + 8oz of chocolate milk
- Turkey sandwich + yogurt
For a 175lb man:
Carbs: 79–119g; Protein 10–20g
- 20oz CLIF SHOT Protein Recovery drink+ 1 CLIF Bar
- Sunflower butter and jelly sandwich + 16oz of grape juice
- CLIF Builder’s 20g protein bar + 16oz of juice
- Large bean and cheese burrito + 16oz CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink
Keep Fine Tuning
Use your long runs to fine-tune your race day nutrition — test which foods, fluids, and sports nutrition products help you feel great and travel well while running. During the Boston Marathon, for example, you’re limited to what you can bring with you; use your training runs to figure out what works best.
Don’t Forget The Rest Days
Your training nutrition doesn’t stop at the finish line: Eat nutritious foods even when you’re not exercising so you can be ready for your next run.
Throughout your off-days, drink water and eat 3 – 4 small meals and 3 small snacks with a mix of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Also, eat more carbs and calories on your rest days too as your marathon training ramps up.
- Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrate and exercise performance: the role of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Clin Nutri Metb Care 2010, 13:452–457
- Burke L., Hawley J., Wong S., Jeukendrup A., Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci, 2011; 29(S!): S17–27
- American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise and Fluid Replacement: Position Stand. 2007
- American College of Sports Medicine. Nutrition and Athletic Performance: Joint Position Statement. 2009
- Maughan, R. J., & Shirreffs, S. M. (2012). Nutrition for sports performance: issues and opportunities. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71(01), 112–119.