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Marathon Tips to Get You to the Finish Line-part 3!

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:06pm

 Get ready for part 3 of my tips for the marathon  training countdown  Nutrition and Fueling!  Part 1 and Part 2  in case you missed them!

Carbs on the Run

 So part 3 of the Jack Rabbit Sports Marathon Tips Session covered nutrition.  I am going to be honest and admit I left right before this session, but this was one of the sections that had a handout, so my info will be from there and from the many team in training nutrition clinics I attended—I’ll put the TNT info at the end.

So let me start by reiterating something I have heard from several marathon coaches and trainers: 95% of runners hit the wall due to nutrition.  They run out of fuel.  While Seinfeld popularized riding on “E” to see how far you can coast before dying, it’s not recommended you test this on marathon day.  Fill up your tank and live on the edge the next weekend :)

So here are tips from MS, RD, Cristina Rivera of Nutrition Energy!

Common Mistakes to Avoid leading up to the event:

  • Drastically cutting calories in an attempt to lose weight. This will not only affect your training and decrease performance, but inadequate caloric intake can lead to the breakdown of muscles as well as injury.
  • Using training as a pass to eat whatever you want. While your body needs extra calories to support your workouts, the most efficient times for this are before, during or after your event. 
  • Never eating before you train. This is like driving a car with no gas.  Fill up before you go.  (edited to add: my coaches always said you have about 1 hour of calories in you from the night before, but you want to make sure to eat at hour 1 and every 45 minutes thereafter.  However, you know your needs for morning eating, if you are hungry in the morning eat!  If you have a big nighttime snack and aren’t very hungry, you can probably eat very lightly or wait until the 1 hour mark.  On marathon day, I would definitely say eat before the race, you are standing around for a long long time before you start running!)
  • Losing too much weight during an event.  This means you are not hydrating properly, which can hinder your performance and increase your risk of muscle cramping, fainting or seizure.  For every pound lost, drink 16 oz of fluids.
  • Trying something new on race day.   Don’t do it! Bring your own fuel and don’t take anything along the course that might throw you off!

From TNT coaches:

  • Start hydrating days before any long run or race, get in the habit of upping fluids 3-4 days before.
  • Add salt to your diet a few days beforehand.
  • Increase your proportions of carbs to protein, but don’t increase your portions too much.   So instead of chicken with rice, have rice with chicken.
  • Eat your gus/gels in one shot.  This is not brunch, swallow, drink water and keep running. This way your body metabolizes and then refocuses on giving you the energy you need to keep going.

PRE-EVENT! pasta-party-artist-canvas

  •  
    • Make sure to eat a snack or small meal 1-3 hours before your event.  The size of the meal depends on how long you have to digest. 
      • This will give you energy to enhance performance as well as spare muscle glycogen, which will result in longer, stronger workouts.
    • Try have a mix of carbs and proteins to hold you over until event time.
    • To avoid GI Distress, avoid foods that are fried, creamy or high in fat.  Certain individuals tolerate liquids better than solids before an event.

During the event:

  • For events lasting over an hour, it is important to take in 30-60 grams of carbs per hour.   (a gu packet is 28-29 grams)
  • For events over 2 hours, some protein should be included to keep blood sugar levels steady.

Post event:

  • One of the most crucial time to replace muscle glycogen is within the first 30 minutes of completing the event.  Keep in mind that the first 30 minutes is a window, and like most windows, it is not always open. Don’t wait until it is too late to refuel.
  • Replenishing properly will improve performance, prevent injury and control your appetite the rest of the day.
  • Carbohydrates are absorbed quicker and more efficiently into the muscles when combines with some protein, such as a bagel and egg whites.
  • To find out how many grams  of carbohydrate you need following an event, divide your body weigh in pounds by two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More tips from my Team in Training coaches:

Q:   What’s a well-balanced diet for long-distance runners?
While training for your half or full marathon, you’ll want to make sure carbs make up about 60 – 65% of your total calorie intake. Without a doubt, carbs are the best source of energy for athletes. Research has shown that for both quick and long-lasting energy, our bodies work more efficiently with carbs than they do with proteins or fats. Protein should make up about 15% of your daily intake and no more than 25 – 30% should come from fats.
Q:  What should I eat before a run?
When you begin a run, you should feel neither starved nor stuffed. Try to eat a light snack or meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein.  Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include: a bagel with peanut butter; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk.  Stay away from rich and high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress (more on that later in the season, but if you are having problems, please let us know).
Q: How much should I drink?
Staying hydrated is critical, especially when running in the heat and humidity. Hopefully you all read the tips on staying safe in the heat, but here are some quick reminders:
> Try to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water or other non-caffeinated fluid about 1 hour before your workout (Stopping fluid intake an hour before your workout will give you a chance to expel any excess fluids before you start running, so you won’t have to stop to use the bathroom during your run).  You can drink another 4 to 8 ounces about 10 minutes before you start, so you start out your run hydrated.
> Here’s a general rule of thumb for fluid consumption during your runs: You should take in 6 to 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during your runs. During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink (like Gatorade) to replace lost sodium and other minerals (electrolytes). 
> Don’t forget to rehydrate after your run.  If your urine is dark yellow after your run, you need to keep rehydrating. It should be a light lemonade color. 
Q: Should I eat anything after a run?
After a workout, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible.  Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.  Again, you’ll want to consume primarily carbs, but don’t ignore protein.  A good rule of thumb for post-workout food is a ratio of 1 gram of protein to 3 grams of carbs. Nutrition bars, such as Clif bars or Power bars, are great because they’re easy to carry in your bag. Other examples would be a bagel with peanut butter or a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt.

~~~~~

My two cents on  natural alternatives:

So that is a lot of info, clearly if you follow a specific diet, such as raw or vegan, you will probably have issues with the conventional use of sports beans, gus, blocks and gels—at least there are a few options that are organic and fairly natural thanks to Clif!  But simple things such as coconut water, dates, dried fruits, honey packets, and hemp based protein powders, give you easy sources of natural energy.  I have tried these options, and find they work as well as the commercial products, but I do tend toward Clif Shots since the ingredient list is short enough for me and they are easy to carry.  As long as you watch the fiber before and during the run.  Maple syrup, agave and honey can be substituted for clif energy gels and gus, etc.  For more tips on being a “natural” athlete check out books and articles  by Tim Van Orden ( the raw runner)  or the Thrive Diet by Brendon Brazier.

No matter what you decide, make sure you test it several times before the race.  It took me ages to find the right something that didn’t bother my stomach and to figure just how much I needed to stay fueled.  Take the time to listen to your tummy, gain a grasp on your running metabolism, and find products that you can tolerate and work for you.  For example, I found sportz beans to be yummy, but far less effective than gus in providing almost instant and sustained energy.  While I don’t love the taste of gus, they do their job well, and never leave me craving for more.

For more info check out these runner’s world articles:

Snack Smart

Carbs on the Run

What to eat Post Run

Five Pre-race Nutrition Mistakes

Also, check out the Spa at Chelsea Piers for Marathon Mondays, 15% (non-members) to 25% (members) discount on massage treatments every Monday from 4-9PM through Nov. 2nd

 Get ready for part 3 of my tips for the marathon  training countdown  Nutrition and Fueling!  Part 1 and Part 2  in case you missed them!

Carbs on the Run

 So part 3 of the Jack Rabbit Sports Marathon Tips Session covered nutrition.  I am going to be honest and admit I left right before this session, but this was one of the sections that had a handout, so my info will be from there and from the many team in training nutrition clinics I attended—I’ll put the TNT info at the end.

So let me start by reiterating something I have heard from several marathon coaches and trainers: 95% of runners hit the wall due to nutrition.  They run out of fuel.  While Seinfeld popularized riding on “E” to see how far you can coast before dying, it’s not recommended you test this on marathon day.  Fill up your tank and live on the edge the next weekend :)

So here are tips from MS, RD, Cristina Rivera of Nutrition Energy!

Common Mistakes to Avoid leading up to the event:

  • Drastically cutting calories in an attempt to lose weight. This will not only affect your training and decrease performance, but inadequate caloric intake can lead to the breakdown of muscles as well as injury.
  • Using training as a pass to eat whatever you want. While your body needs extra calories to support your workouts, the most efficient times for this are before, during or after your event. 
  • Never eating before you train. This is like driving a car with no gas.  Fill up before you go.  (edited to add: my coaches always said you have about 1 hour of calories in you from the night before, but you want to make sure to eat at hour 1 and every 45 minutes thereafter.  However, you know your needs for morning eating, if you are hungry in the morning eat!  If you have a big nighttime snack and aren’t very hungry, you can probably eat very lightly or wait until the 1 hour mark.  On marathon day, I would definitely say eat before the race, you are standing around for a long long time before you start running!)
  • Losing too much weight during an event.  This means you are not hydrating properly, which can hinder your performance and increase your risk of muscle cramping, fainting or seizure.  For every pound lost, drink 16 oz of fluids.
  • Trying something new on race day.   Don’t do it! Bring your own fuel and don’t take anything along the course that might throw you off!

From TNT coaches:

  • Start hydrating days before any long run or race, get in the habit of upping fluids 3-4 days before.
  • Add salt to your diet a few days beforehand.
  • Increase your proportions of carbs to protein, but don’t increase your portions too much.   So instead of chicken with rice, have rice with chicken.
  • Eat your gus/gels in one shot.  This is not brunch, swallow, drink water and keep running. This way your body metabolizes and then refocuses on giving you the energy you need to keep going.

PRE-EVENT! pasta-party-artist-canvas

  •  
    • Make sure to eat a snack or small meal 1-3 hours before your event.  The size of the meal depends on how long you have to digest. 
      • This will give you energy to enhance performance as well as spare muscle glycogen, which will result in longer, stronger workouts.
    • Try have a mix of carbs and proteins to hold you over until event time.
    • To avoid GI Distress, avoid foods that are fried, creamy or high in fat.  Certain individuals tolerate liquids better than solids before an event.

During the event:

  • For events lasting over an hour, it is important to take in 30-60 grams of carbs per hour.   (a gu packet is 28-29 grams)
  • For events over 2 hours, some protein should be included to keep blood sugar levels steady.

Post event:

  • One of the most crucial time to replace muscle glycogen is within the first 30 minutes of completing the event.  Keep in mind that the first 30 minutes is a window, and like most windows, it is not always open. Don’t wait until it is too late to refuel.
  • Replenishing properly will improve performance, prevent injury and control your appetite the rest of the day.
  • Carbohydrates are absorbed quicker and more efficiently into the muscles when combines with some protein, such as a bagel and egg whites.
  • To find out how many grams  of carbohydrate you need following an event, divide your body weigh in pounds by two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More tips from my Team in Training coaches:

Q:   What’s a well-balanced diet for long-distance runners?
While training for your half or full marathon, you’ll want to make sure carbs make up about 60 – 65% of your total calorie intake. Without a doubt, carbs are the best source of energy for athletes. Research has shown that for both quick and long-lasting energy, our bodies work more efficiently with carbs than they do with proteins or fats. Protein should make up about 15% of your daily intake and no more than 25 – 30% should come from fats.
Q:  What should I eat before a run?
When you begin a run, you should feel neither starved nor stuffed. Try to eat a light snack or meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein.  Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include: a bagel with peanut butter; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk.  Stay away from rich and high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress (more on that later in the season, but if you are having problems, please let us know).
Q: How much should I drink?
Staying hydrated is critical, especially when running in the heat and humidity. Hopefully you all read the tips on staying safe in the heat, but here are some quick reminders:
> Try to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water or other non-caffeinated fluid about 1 hour before your workout (Stopping fluid intake an hour before your workout will give you a chance to expel any excess fluids before you start running, so you won’t have to stop to use the bathroom during your run).  You can drink another 4 to 8 ounces about 10 minutes before you start, so you start out your run hydrated.
> Here’s a general rule of thumb for fluid consumption during your runs: You should take in 6 to 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during your runs. During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink (like Gatorade) to replace lost sodium and other minerals (electrolytes). 
> Don’t forget to rehydrate after your run.  If your urine is dark yellow after your run, you need to keep rehydrating. It should be a light lemonade color. 
Q: Should I eat anything after a run?
After a workout, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible.  Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.  Again, you’ll want to consume primarily carbs, but don’t ignore protein.  A good rule of thumb for post-workout food is a ratio of 1 gram of protein to 3 grams of carbs. Nutrition bars, such as Clif bars or Power bars, are great because they’re easy to carry in your bag. Other examples would be a bagel with peanut butter or a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt.

~~~~~

My two cents on  natural alternatives:

So that is a lot of info, clearly if you follow a specific diet, such as raw or vegan, you will probably have issues with the conventional use of sports beans, gus, blocks and gels—at least there are a few options that are organic and fairly natural thanks to Clif!  But simple things such as coconut water, dates, dried fruits, honey packets, and hemp based protein powders, give you easy sources of natural energy.  I have tried these options, and find they work as well as the commercial products, but I do tend toward Clif Shots since the ingredient list is short enough for me and they are easy to carry.  As long as you watch the fiber before and during the run.  Maple syrup, agave and honey can be substituted for clif energy gels and gus, etc.  For more tips on being a “natural” athlete check out books and articles  by Tim Van Orden ( the raw runner)  or the Thrive Diet by Brendon Brazier.

No matter what you decide, make sure you test it several times before the race.  It took me ages to find the right something that didn’t bother my stomach and to figure just how much I needed to stay fueled.  Take the time to listen to your tummy, gain a grasp on your running metabolism, and find products that you can tolerate and work for you.  For example, I found sportz beans to be yummy, but far less effective than gus in providing almost instant and sustained energy.  While I don’t love the taste of gus, they do their job well, and never leave me craving for more.

For more info check out these runner’s world articles:

Snack Smart

Carbs on the Run

What to eat Post Run

Five Pre-race Nutrition Mistakes

Also, check out the Spa at Chelsea Piers for Marathon Mondays, 15% (non-members) to 25% (members) discount on massage treatments every Monday from 4-9PM through Nov. 2nd

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