Nutrition While Training For A Marathon
by Gemma Carter
When training for a marathon or any
long run, nutrition can play a vital part in maximizing your
performance. This article takes you through the basic foods of a
runner's diet as well as performance maximizing foods and drinks.
Eat well, train well:
At the foundation of any runner's diet should be a balanced range of
nutrients generally high in carbohydrates, low in fat and with moderate
amounts of protein. Eating well should be part of your routine just as
much as the training itself.
To maximize your performance as an athlete it is therefore important to
make sure you are getting the right ingredients from your diet, and in
the right quantities. This is a great way additionally to fight off
infection, keep your energy levels high and sustain yourself throughout
your training. Make sure that you fuel up before and after a
preferably 2 hours before a long run to give your system enough time to
digest the food fully and
aim to refuel after a run as soon as is suitable.
Here are a few of my top foods:
Greens (kale, broccoli, spinach,
asparagus) - a great source of iron
fuelling the body. Low iron restricts your body's ability to produce
haemoglobin and thus reduces its oxygen carrying capacity. So your mum
was right after all, eat your greens and become Popeye!
to a study by M. Murphy et al, eating beets 75 minutes before a race
can help you to improve your running performance by an average of 3%
and as much as 5% in the last mile. This increase in
most likely due to dietary nitrate being converted to nitrite to nitric
oxide thus requiring the muscles to use less energy.
Kiwis, tomatoes and red peppers - packed
full of vitamin C. They boost
your immune system and fight off illness. Most colourful fruits should
have high levels of vitamins in them so why not vary your fruit intake
and every time you visit the supermarket try a new one. Some fruits and
vegetables such as apples and red onions are rich in the antioxidant of
quercetin which boosts muscle endurance.
Carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, rice and cereal)
- this is your body's
main fuel and important energy foods for hard training. Look for foods
with slow release energy instead of sugary snacks.
Seeds and nuts (almonds) - many runners love
eating these as they are
easy to take with you when you travel and a great energy booster,
packed full of the right kind of fats - Omega 3.
Eggs - a great source of protein, especially
for those of us who are
vegetarian. If you are not a fan of eggs try something like kidney
beans (full of protein also)
Frozen vegetables and frozen fruits - being
frozen they are packed with
the nutrients straight from the ground that may have been lost
otherwise such as vitamin B and C and Beta Carotene as well as many
Mixed salad leaves- great for any meal, low
in fat and tasty. This can
be a great source of iron as well as a great variety of other minerals
and vitamins depending on the leaf.
Fish (E.g.-salmon) - as well as being great
brain foods, fish have high
levels of Omega 3 in them which reduces heart disease and can lower
Magic marathon food and drinks:
Here are a few extras that you can add to your diet when training just
to give you that extra boost:
Flat cola - great post run drink, with
caffeine to boost muscle recovery
and keep energy levels high. Having the cola flat is easier on the
Bananas - a great source of magnesium,
reducing muscle cramps.
Chocolate Milk - a source of Calcium and
great recover drink after a run.
Ginger and mustard - strange but true these
ingredients are great for muscle aches.
Green tea extracts - packed with
antioxidants which fight off
infection. If you don't like green tea try white tea or a herbal tea
like peppermint instead.
Herbs and spices - herbs like rosemary have
properties whereas parsley, mint and coriander can be great
digestion and stomach cramps. Be sure to stock up on these. Try adding
them to your cooking. So go on be adventurous!
Dietary supplements for runners:
Caffeine - whether from your daily coffee or
pill form caffeine is shown to boost performance levels.
Glucosamine and Condriotin - this supplement
is used by many runners to
help keep joints supple and cartilage at its best. Other great
supplements along this line are iron, calcium and Omega 3 but it is
preferable to try and get these from your general diet instead.
Carbohydrate drinks - these replenish
glycogen stores during and after
training if large drinks are hard to carry throughout the run, try gel
Isotonic drinks - these replace minerals
lost in training, through sweat (especially when it's hot).
So there we go readers, be adventurous and experiment with a good range
of basic food substances! If you are not sure of the properties of some
foods, look at the labels and don't be afraid to do a bit of research.
With a healthier diet you'll feel more energized and happier so get
On a final note - don't forget to hydrate, hydrate!!! I can never
remind you enough of the importance of getting enough water before,
while and after training. It is so important for optimizing performance
and preventing cramps and muscle aches by flushing out the toxins in
your body built up from exercise. Water also cools the body
and can prevent exercise
Carter is a fully trained fitness and life coach. Visit
website at http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk
or email her at: