There’s loads of advice out there on the best way to eat when training for and then running a marathon. As with lots of the nutritional advice out there on the web, a lot of it is basic common sense, some of it is high-end stuff geared towards top athletes, and some of it is just pure nonsense! But, what to believe?
The fact is, everyone is different. Different body clock, different age, different body shape, different level of fitness, different lifestyle, different goals and different likes and dislikes. So, there is no one optimal eating plan for running a marathon.
But there are a few key messages ….
Your body will be under a lot of strain as well as slowly getting fitter and stronger. A lot of repair will be taking place when you take off your trainers and rest. So, make sure you have all of the good vitamins and minerals on board to help in that recovery process. You probably don’t need supplements though, as they are never as good as the real thing. Instead, prioritise fresh, unprocessed food to get those essentials in their natural state. Healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish will give you nutritious energy. A rainbow of veg and fruit will provide lots of vitamins. Raw is usually best though tomatoes are more nutritious if lightly cooked. As well as veg, wholegrains or pulses are the way to get your carbs for a slow-release fuel.
Cut back on sugar
Sugar is often the go-to as a quick source of energy. But, the rapid spike in blood sugar is soon followed by a slump as insulin kicks into action. It’s better to avoid those sugar rollercoasters and go for the slow and steady energy sources like fats and complex carbs. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, after all! There’s no better time to reduce your reliance on sugar – with lots of other benefits too.
What about carb-loading?
The classic message that most long-distance runners take to heart is to carb load. The standard advice to fill up on a huge pasta meal the night before a big race is, to my mind, flawed.
Why? Would you believe that there are plenty of endurance athletes out there who don’t actually stock up on carbs at all? The reality is that fat is a great fuel too, and we have more calories stored in fat than we can access from stored carbs. If your body is used to burning fat for fuel, it can tap into your body’s own, natural energy stores when the fuel gauge is hitting empty, and avoid that classic problem of ‘hitting the wall’ as the carbs run out. So, you can make a start now by reducing your dependence on carbs. It may take a while to ‘fat-adapt’ and regain the energy that previously came from carbs alone. But, when you do, you’ll find you can keep on going like the Duracell bunny!
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