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Healthy Articles

Marathon Training: Nutrition

March 31, 2015


What should you eat when training for a marathon? The Toronto Marathon is coming up on May 3rd and if you’re participating, you’re already in training.

Diet is just as important as how often you are running. Without both proper training and eating, long-distance runners can hit the wall.

Lara Brown, a marathon runner currently training for the Boston Marathon knows how hungry runners can get leading up to race day:

“When I’m training and I get hungry, look out! I describe the state I get in as “Run-gry”; like, I need food NOW! For me, it’s all about carbs, carbs, carbs.”

The number of calories you need to consume daily depends on the duration and intensity of your workouts. Keep in mind that you'll burn roughly 100 calories for every mile you run, depending on your size. If you run four miles, you'll burn about 400 calories more than you would have if you hadn't exercised.
Your daily meal breakdown should look something like this:

  • 60-70 percent of calories from carbohydrates (grains, pasta, bread, etc.)
  • 20-30 percent of calories from fat sources (oils, avocados, nuts, etc.)
  • 10-15 percent of calories from protein (fish, meat, chicken, beans, etc.)

The “Rules of Marathon Nutrition” involve both what to eat and when to eat it. When you run, you use glycogen and fat as energy. Once your body runs out of glycogen to burn, it turns to fat. This is often the point at which runners do hit their personal wall. Before a run, you should eat lighter. This could be a banana or some oatmeal. It should be an easily digestible food.

If you decide to carry snacks with you on those longer run days, the goal is to provide yourself more energy with foods that contain complex carbohydrates and can be easily digested. You also want to be able to easily carry them. Foods that fit all three of these criteria are fruits, gels, and energy bars.

After your runs, you should be eating foods with complex carbohydrates and proteins. This helps your body recover from those long runs and keeps you ready for the next one.

It’s also very important to train your body to stay fully hydrated. The week leading up to your race day, make sure you get plenty of water, says Brown.

“Carrying bottles of water, or depending on a drink station can be tricky. Carrying a water bottle can chafe your back and personally I like to drink water when I want to drink it – and not depend on the drink stations. If you train your body in the time leading up to your race by drinking a lot of water, you won’t need to drink as much and you can avoid becoming dehydrated.”

If you have any questions or concerns about marathon training - running or nutrition - please feel free to contact us!

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