We all already know that eating five fruit and vegetables a day is important for our bodies. If you’re training for a marathon, or doing any sort of regular exercise, are you aware of what you should be eating to give your body the best chance of sustaining you?
What you eat will help your body to recover efficiently. Training and resting are so important, but if you’re not putting the right fuel in your body then you’ll struggle with the long runs, and on the day itself.
So what should you be eating?
Carbohydrates, fats and protein
Your body loves doing exercise after eating carbohydrates because this is its preferred source of energy. The best foods for this are slow release carbs like wholewheat pasta and rice, sweet potatoes, bagels, and porridge.
Don’t go overboard though! Too many carbs and you’ll end up putting on weight leading up to the big day. About 60% of your food should be carbohydrates, so make sure you eat protein and fats, and lots of vegetables too.
Protein helps rebuild muscles so while carbs are important don’t neglect these. Eggs are a great source of protein, as are meat and fish.
Fat helps provide energy for lower intensity running, so don’t overlook butter and cheese as well as oil when cooking.
If you’re struggling for recipes or are sick of eating the same food, here are some recipe ideas specifically for marathon trainers!
Don’t go hungry
Hunger can put you off going for a run and can also hinder you after a run. To combat this try to eat a couple of hours before you go running. A bagel with peanut butter or a chicken sandwich will help fuel you for your run.
Afterwards, it’s best to eat within 20-30 minutes of finishing a run. A protein and carbohydrate snack or meal will help your muscles to repair and refill your carbohydrate stores. A home made smoothie can be good if you don’t want a full meal.
Eating small meals during the day will help stave off hunger, or keep a banana or rice cakes in your bag for a handy snack during the day.
We all know how important it is to stay hydrated anyway, but during training this is really important because of the water you’ll lose through sweating. If you have a headache, dry mouth or thirsty then you’re dehydrated, and this will impact your performance. However, taking on too much water can lead to hyponatremia which is not good.
Getting the right amount of water is a balance that’s unique to you. The easiest way to check is to look at your urine. Clear urine is good, dark is not.
Maintain your hydration at a constant level throughout each day. Don’t gulp down a pint of water before you go running! On long training runs that are over 90 minutes you’ll probably need to take on water at some point. One idea to help with this is to make your run loop past your house or car so you can grab some water fairly easily.
One week before the race
By this point your diet and body will be a well oiled machine. In the week before the race you’ll want to increase the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating to store the energy in your muscles on race day.
The Good Food website has a meal plan to follow a week before if you’re looking for some guidance.