Running a marathon distance of 42.2km requires extensive training and preparation to enable your body to be physically and mentally ready for the challenge. Whether you are a first timer or a veteran distance runner, the importance of optimal nutrition is the same. The right diet can support the body through high training loads and help to prepare for and see you through the big event.
With your marathon on the horizon, the next few months of diligent training will challenge your body both physically and mentally. It is vital to support your training with good nutritional practices and this factsheet will help to answer your questions in the lead up to the big day. Remember for more detailed expert advice you can contact a sports dietitian through the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (link).
MARATHON TRAINING DIET
Distance runners require high energy intakes to allow the body to undertake long, intense training sessions. Carbohydrate is the most critical fuel source for marathon training and is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. These fuel stores are limited and need regular replenishment. A diet high in carbohydrate is essential to keep these levels topped up.
The recommendation for carbohydrate intake for runners is between 5-10g carbohydrate/kg body weight/day. As training load increases and you start running longer distances, the amount of carbohydrate you eat also needs to increase. In order to meet these high carbohydrate demands, it is important to base all meals and snacks on foods that are high in carbohydrates.
Good sources of carbohydrate include:
Moderate amounts of protein are important to support and repair your muscles, in particular during intense training periods and to optimise recovery (see ‘after the finishing line’ section below). The recommendation for protein intake in distance runners is 1.2-1.4 g protein/kg body weight/day. Protein intake is usually proportional to total calorie intake, so the more food you eat the more likely you will meet these needs.
Aim to include a good source of protein at lunch and dinner; consume milk regularly throughout the day and include sources of protein in some snacks.
Good sources of protein include:
During training you lose fluid through sweating. Unless these fluid losses are replaced by drinking, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated, which can cause fatigue and impair your performance. Fluid requirements are different for everyone and it is important to develop your own hydration strategy in training and for races. If the weather is warm and/or humid you will need to drink more than usual to replace the extra fluid you have lost through sweating.
You can make your own isotonic drink using the following recipes:
|Option 1:||Option 2:|
50 – 80 g sucrose
1L warm water
Pinch of salt
Sugar-free squash for flavour
500 ml water
500 ml unsweetened fruit juice
Pinch of salt
TIPS FOR THE LAST FEW WEEKS OF TRAINING
SAMPLE HIGH CARBOHDRATE TRAINING DIET
60g wholegrain cereal (e.g. porridge / bran flakes / muesli) + low fat milk
Fruit e.g. banana / apple / dried apricots / raisins
200 ml fruit juice
500ml flavoured milk
Wholemeal roll / bap / bread + low fat spread
+ Chicken / ham / tinned fish / egg / low fat cheese
Fruit / fruit juice
Slice of fruit cake / cereal bar
Yogurt / fruit / handful of nuts and dried fruit
Meat / fish / eggs / beans
Potato / pasta / rice (50% of plate)
Side salad + low fat dressing
200ml low fat milk
60g wholegrain cereal + low fat milk
Before the marathon
During the race
NOTE: Experiment with what works for you during training. Try and avoid last minute changes to your fluid and carbohydrate strategy by race day free promotional products.
After the finishing line
The 3 rules of recovery are:
REFUEL energy stores with carbohydrate!
REPAIR muscle tissue with protein!
REHYDRATE body fluids with fluid and electrolytes!
Created by Lauren DelanyMSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition, BSc (Hons) & PG Dip Human Nutrition and Dietetics, ISAK1 October 2013, updated by the SNIG April 2016.
Review date: April 2019
© 2016 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.
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