What’s Your Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Your Big Race?

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“Plans Are Nothing: Planning is Everything” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hello Runners,

So, you’ve put in some great training, and you have a goal, and maybe even a purpose higher than yourself, which can get your through some of the toughest portions of your marathon. The weather on your race day is ideal. You’re able to run without any injuries. But, you could still fail to achieve your goal on race day due to dehydration or fatigue caused by burning up all your available carbohydrates.

Therefore, you need a plan before and during your event to make sure you stay as hydrated as possible, and don’t run out of available carbohydrates. Basically, we don’t have enough available carbohydrates in our body to complete a marathon. We need to take on additional carbohydrates during our event.

Where so many runners fail on race day is not having a game plan for how they are going to hydrate and fuel themselves during their event, or they have a game plan ahead of time, but don’t follow through. Also, many runners rely on what’s handed out at the event without practicing with it ahead of time (sports drinks, gels, etc.), and sometimes found out the hard way that what’s handed out is not best for them.

So, what’s your hydration and nutrition strategy for your event? How often will you drink? Will you use a sports drink? If not, what will you eat, so that you have enough energy to finish your marathon? Hopefully, you have been practicing your strategy during your training and have a plan you will use during your big race.

Practice Hydration and Nutrition (Fuel) Strategy During Your Long Runs

Your long training runs are a great time to practice hydration (how often and how much you will drink) and figure out what you will use for fuel during your event, as well as when you will consume this. There are lots of options available as far as fuel, including sports drinks, gels, beans, chews, real food, etc. You may want to practice what will be handed out at your event, that way if it works for you, then you don’t have to carry your own fuel.

Most likely your event won’t have these, but here are some fuel options you might try: SuperStarch by UCAN, Infinit-E by Millenium, and Vitargo. Some other options which are lower in calories, but provide electrolytes include Osmo Nutrition and Skratch Labs. Ideally, practice under similar conditions that you will experience during your event.

The Week Before Your Event

Before I talk more about your hydration and fueling strategy during your event, I will mention what you should do both the week of and the day before your event. After all, you want to start out with a full tank, otherwise, you will be trying to play catch up during your event, and that won’t work and will negatively impact your performance.

So, be sure to hydrate well throughout the week before, and especially the day before your event. Limit alcohol consumption during that week, as well, especially the day before your event. At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.

During the week of the event, this is the time to load up on carbohydrates, including grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits (such as blueberries). You should also be consuming proteins including nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh, fish, other meats, if you normally eat them. Fats are the nutrient you need least during the week of your event.

It is popular for events to have pasta dinners the night before an event. This is more traditional than beneficial. This pasta will really not help you during your event. In fact, you may want to have a salad with some nuts or a small bowl of pasta or white rice for dinner, and eat a larger meal for lunch or in the early afternoon. This larger meal should consist primarily of easily-digestible carbohydrates (such as white rice and white pasta), with some protein, and little fat. Avoid spicy foods and any new foods. Beware of eating a lot of fiber the day before an event and FODMAP foods (beans, onions, garlic, dried fruit, apples, pears, etc.), which can cause gas and bloating.

During Your Event

Don’t consume anything on race day that you haven’t practiced with during your training. Several years ago, when I was living in Maryland, I made an annual habit of running the Baltimore half-marathon. I really enjoyed that event and the crowd support throughout much of the event was great! Within the last few miles of the event there were people who traditionally would hand out gummy bears. Boy, was it tempting! Many people indulged. I passed and recommend you do the same. If you want gummy bears, have them after the race.

General guidelines for hydration

Water loss through sweat of as little as 2% can negatively affect performance, if fluids aren’t replaced because of:

  • Decreased blood volume resulting in the heart having to work harder
  • Increased usage of carbohydrates which can lead to fatigue happening sooner
  • Ability to dissipate heat is reduced
  • Imbalance of electrolytes which can cause cramping and weakness
  • Possible cognitive impairment

Keep in mind this will depend on your sweat rate and the conditions of your event. If you sweat profusely you will likely need to include electrolytes as well. In general you should consume 250 to 500 mg of electrolytes per hour. See previous post. During your event drink 3-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes (a gulp is ~ one ounce), basically drink to thirst.

General guidelines for nutrition

The main cause of fatigue in those participating in endurance events is running out of available carbohydrates in the body. You will need to determine if you will use fluids or solids for your carbohydrate fuel, and which you will use. If using solids, you may want to wash these down with water, don’t use a sports drink to wash them down. During your event, make sure you using something that doesn’t bother your stomach, contains little or no fiber and that you consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (~120-160 calories) every hour. For events lasting 4 hours or longer you may want to consume ~60 grams/hour.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that you may need to carry your own fuel, whether it’s a sports drink or solid, during your event. This has been pretty much the case for me in every marathon I’ve run. I don’t do well with the sports drinks typically handed out at events.

Even if you have a strategy, you may need to develop a plan B and possibly plan C. What if you encounter heat and humidity during your event? What if they run out of sports drink or water at an aid station? (This happened at the Chicago marathon several years ago).

You should be well-hydrated before the start of your event. You should have eaten a well-balanced diet on the day before your event to ensure that carbohydrate stores in the body are maximized. Also, you should start calorie and fluid replacement early in your event.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

Recover Better With Better Sleep: Sleep Aids That Can Help You Improve the Quantity and Quality of Your Sleep Part 2

In the last post, I discussed different sleep aids that you can use to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. This is important for facilitating recovery from challenging runs that you have and will allow your body to undergo certain adaptations, which will allow you to become a better runner.

As I promised, I will discuss other sleep aids in this post, focusing on what you eat and the timing of what you eat, as well as supplements.

What and When You Eat Matters

The food you eat before bed can affect your sleep. Research has shown that a high-carbohydrate meal may be detrimental to sleep. Even though a high-carbohydrate meal can get you to fall asleep faster, it will not be a restful sleep. Instead, high-fat meals can promote a deeper and more restful sleep. If you still want to eat a high-carbohydrate meal for dinner, you should eat it at least four hours before bed, so you have enough time to digest it.

Avoiding caffeine before bed is also important and for some people caffeine should not be taken less than eight hours before bed to optimize quality and quantity of sleep.

Certain Foods with Sleep Promoting Properties

Taking the following foods before bed (such as dinner or dessert) can be helpful in promoting both sleep quality and quantity.

Almonds: Almonds are a source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium which also may help improve sleep quality. In fact, my wife and I have had success as far as sleep quality when taking almond milk before bed.

Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in the brain to promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

Kiwi: Kiwi contains serotonin which regulates your sleep cycle. The antioxidants (vitamin C and carotenoids) in kiwis may also help promote sleep due to their anti-inflammatory effects. This is another food that my wife and I have been eating before bed, which also seems to be beneficial.

Tart Cherry Juice: May be an effective sleep promoter due to its high melatonin content.

Fatty Fish: Including salmon, trout, and mackeral contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and this combination has the potential to enhance sleep quality because both increase production of serotonin.

Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the best food sources for melatonin. Walnuts also contain fatty acids that help increase the production of serotonin.

Passionflower Tea: Contains apigenin, an antioxidant that produces a calming effect and increases GABA, a brain chemical that inhibits other brain chemicals that induce stress. 

Supplements

There are too many to talk about one blog post, however I will mention a few. Be aware that there is always the potential issue of the quality of supplements and possible side effects. So you should check with your physician before taking any supplements.

Melatonin: I recommend using this sparingly, such as when you experience jet lag from travel, because taking this often can affect our body’s natural production of melatonin. This supplement may also be beneficial for daytime sleep quality for those whose schedules require them to sleep during the daytime.

MCT or coconut oil: take 30-60 minutes before bed. Dave Asprey discusses the use of MCT oil in his book The Bulletproof Diet as a helpful sleep aid. MCT or coconut oil can be effective for minimizing any food cravings that might keep you awake, because it provides a slow-burning source of fat fuel and won’t cause insulin levels to spike, which occurs when you have carbohydrates or protein. Dave provides a recipe for a beverage called the Non-Coffee Vanilla Latte, which specifically incorporates MCT or coconut oil. I have used this beverage to help improve my own sleep. Here’s the recipe:

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of hot filtered water
    • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or ghee
    • 2 tablespoons MCT or organic coconut oil
    • 1 teaspoon unsweetened vanilla powder
    • ½ teaspoon organic cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of cardamom or ½ teaspoon of raw organic honey
  •   Add all ingredients to a blender and process until all are incorporated. It is important that they are blended with blender, Vitamix, etc. and not just stirred by hand

Magnesium: Magnesium promotes sleep by reducing inflammation and it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Magnesium also appears to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain messenger with calming effects. The best forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, aspartate and chelate because they are the most absorbable forms. Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide.

Valerian Root: Valerian root is one of the most commonly used sleep-promoting herbal supplements in the US and Europe. However, safety remains uncertain for long-term use, and in special populations such as pregnant and lactating women.  

Glycine: Glycine is an amino acid thought to act in part by lowering body temperature at bedtime, signaling that it’s time to sleep.According to the research, taking fewer than 31 grams per day appears to be safe, however more studies are needed.

L-Theanine: Consuming a daily supplement containing 200-400 mg of this amino acid may help improve sleep and relaxation.

CBD oil: now legal in at least 30 states, this supplement has gained popularity as a sleep aid the past few years, although research is limited as far as its effectiveness. There are people that I know, including my wife, who swear by CBD oil as an effective sleep aid.

If you have, or suspect you have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder, you should meet with a specialist, if you haven’t already doe so, to be assessed and have a treatment plan developed for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Please feel free to share this with anyone you feel might benefit.

Sleep well.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-fall-asleep

The Bulletproof Die. Dave Asprey, Rodale Inc: 2014.

“Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality.” St-Onge MP, Mikic A, Pietrolungo CE. Adv Nutr 2016 Sep 15; 7(5): 938-49.

“High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset.” Afaghi A, O’Connor H, Chow CM. Am J Clin Nutr 2007 Feb; 85(2): 426-30.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep

“Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being.” Zeng Y, Yang J, Du J, Pu X, Yang X, Yang S, Yang T. Curr Signal Transduct Ther 2014 Dec; 9(3): 148-155.

“Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin.” Meng X,  Li Y, Li S, Zhou Y, Gan R, Xu D, Li H. Nutrients. 2017 Apr; 9(4): 367.

“The magic of magnesium.” Boomsma D. Int J Pharm Compd. 2008 Jul-Aug; 12(4): 306-9.

“The effect of magnesium supplementation on the primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. J Res Med Sci 2012 Dec; 17(12): 1161-9.

“Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.” Srivastava J, Shankar E, Gupta S. Mol Med Report 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895-901.

“Herbal medicine for insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Leach MJ, Page AT. Sleep Med Rev 2015 Dec; 24:1-12.

“Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality on adults with sleep problems.” Lin HH, Tasi PS, Fang SC, Liu JF. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011; 20(2): 169-74.

“Phytoserotonin: A Review.” Ramakrishna A, Giridhar P, Ravishanskar GA. Plant Singal Behav. 2011 Jun; 6(6): 800-809.

“Diet promotes sleep duration and quality.” Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Nutr Res 2012 May; 32(5): 309-19.

“How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs.” Young S. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 Nov; 32(6): 394-399.

“Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Anitioxidants Contribute to Selected Sleep Quality ad Cardiometabolic Health Relationships: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Kanagasabai T, Ardern C. Mediators Inflamm. 2015; Oct 19.

“Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep.” Halson S. Sports Med. 2014; 44(Supple 1): 13-23.

“Fish Consumption, Sleep, Daily Functioning, and Heart Rate Variability.” Hansen AL, Dahl L, Olson G, Thornton D, Graff IE, Froyland L, Thayer JF, Pallesen S. J Clin Sleep Med. 2014 May 15; 10(5): 567-575.

“Health Benefits of Nut Consumption.” Ros E. Nutrients. 2010 Jul; 2(7): 652-682.

“Melatonins in walnuts: influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood.” Reiter RJ, Manchester LC, Tan DX. Nutrition. 2005 Sep; 21(9) 920-4.

“Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin.” Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Food Nutr Res. 2012 Jul 20.

“Serotonin and sleep.” Ursin R. Sleep Med Rev. 2002 Feb; 6(1): 55-69.

“Risks and Benefits of Commonly Used Herbal Medicines in Mexico.” Rodrigues-Fragoso L, Reyes-Esparza J, Burchiel S, Herrera-Ruiz D. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2008 Feb 15; 227(1): 125-135.

“The role of GABA in anxiety disorders.” Lydiard RB. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003; 64 Suppl 3: 21-7.

www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-aids

“Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag.” Herxheimer A, Petri KJ. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002; (2): CD001520.

“Shift work: coping with the biological clock.” Arendt J. Occup Med (Lond). 2010 Jan; 60(1): 10-20.

“Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Am J Med 2006 Dec; 119 (12): 1005-1012.

“Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.” Fernandez-San Martin MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, Sancho-Gomex P, Calbo-Caldentey C, Flores-Mateo G. Sleep Med. 2010 Jun; 11(6): 505-11.

“Biorhythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy, and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion.” Durlach J, Pages N, Bac P, Bara M, Guiet-Bara A. Magnes Res. 2002 Mar: 15(1-2): 49-66.

“Benzodiazepene/GABA(A) receptors are involved in magnesium-induced anxiolytic-like behavior in mice.” Poleszak E. Pharmacol Rep. 2008 Jul-Aug; 60(4): 483-9.

https://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/20/magnesium-the-most-powerful-relaxation-mineral-available/

“The Sleep-Promoting and Hypothermic Effects of Glycine are Mediated by NMDA Receptors in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus.”  Kawai N, Sakai N, Okuro M, Karakawa S, Tsuneyoshi Y, Kawasaki N, Takeda T, Bannai M, Nishino S. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 May; 40(6): 1405-1416.

“New therapeutic strategy for amino acid medicine: glycine improves the quality of sleep.” Bannai M, Kawai N. J Pharmacol Sci. 2012; 118(2): 145-8.

“The nature of human hazards associated with excessive intake of amino acids.” Garlick PJ. J Nutr. 2004 Jun; 134(6 Suppl): 1633S-1639S.

“The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans.” Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, Liley DT, Harrison BJ, Bartholomeusz CF, Phan KL, Nathan PJ. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004 Oct: 19(7): 457-65.

“The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Lyon MR, Kapoor MP, Juneja LR. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):348-54.

What Are Your Vitamin D Levels and Other Important Testing for Runners and Triathletes

I hope that you are all psyched for achieving your goals for 2015! I know that I am! I came within 27 seconds of attaining my marathon goal for 2014 (3:05) and this year I want to achieve that goal and get closer to my ultimate marathon goal (breaking 3 hours)! Not bad for a guy who was repeatedly told by his cross-country coach that he had no talent.

Last month I talked about goal setting. In this article I want to talk about the importance of having a checkup and blood work done before you get too far into your training for 2015. This is important because you want to insure that you don’t have conditions that could lead to serious injuries or health issues that could put you out of training for several months or longer. So, if you haven’t done this recently, I recommend meeting with your physician for a checkup and to have blood work done. You should be assessed for the presence of heart disease and/or risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Back in the 1980s there was a runner named Jim Fixx who died while out on a run. Jim helped me get into running with his book The Complete Book of Running. Jim had been a smoker throughout his life and his family had a history of heart disease. Jim took up running to improve his health and he helped get many others into running, including myself with his books. Unfortunately, he had heart disease and died one day on a run. He was 40 when he died.

In addition to being checked for heart disease or heart disease risk factors, women who are postmenopausal, or who are pre-menopausal and have irregular or no menstrual cycles, as well as anyone who is especially thin, should be assessed for bone mineral density. Low bone mineral density, referred to as osteopenia or osteoporosis, can increase the risk of fractures.

Finally, you should also have blood work done to check for the following:

– Lipid (cholesterol) profile

– Fasting blood glucose (sugar) levels

– Complete blood count (CBC), which includes testing for red blood cell (RBC) count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit (the percentage of blood composed of red blood cells)

– Levels or concentration of ferritin, which is a measure of your body’s iron reserves

– Vitamin D levels

– Cortisol levels

Lipid profile and fasting blood glucose levels are important, however the focus of the rest of this article will be on red blood cell count, iron, vitamin D, and cortisol. I will talk more about cholesterol and blood glucose sugar in future articles relating to nutrition.

Red blood cell count and iron

Why are red blood cell and iron levels important?

– Red blood cells and iron play vital roles in carrying oxygen to your exercising muscle, as well as other tissues

– Lower than normal levels of these can result in iron deficiency anemia, which can result in fatigue, heart rates higher than normal at lower exercise intensities, shortness of breath, sluggishness, light-headedness, paleness, loss of appetite, poor recovery, and subpar performance

What causes iron deficiency?

– Diminished dietary iron intake

– Excessive iron losses

– Often occurs in women up to the age of 50 because of iron losses every month during menstruation

– Those who are on a vegetarian diet may be at higher risk

– Running can contribute to iron deficiency because of loss of iron in sweat and through breakdown of red blood cells (hemolysis) that occurs through repeated landing of the feet on hard surfaces, an increased speed of red blood cell movement through the bloodstream, and acidosis from high-intensity training

– Iron-deficiency anemia affects 3-5% of all women in the U.S.

– 26-60% of female athletes are affected by iron deficiency

What if you are iron deficient?

– Talk to your healthcare provider about taking an iron supplement

– Adequate diet including daily intake of iron-rich heme and non-heme foods

– Heme (more readily absorbable form of iron) foods include: red meat and dark poultry

– Non-heme foods include: dried fruit, dark greens, beans, whole grains, and soy foods

– Increase absorption of iron by including foods containing vitamin C

– Consider using a cast-iron skillet for cooking acidic foods such as spaghetti sauce

– Cook foods for a short amount of time in a minimal amount of water

– Consume iron-fortified foods

– For vegetarians consume plenty of legumes, nuts, and seeds and foods rich in vitamin C

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is vital for numerous functions in the body. Sunlight initiates vitamin D synthesis in the body. However, because it is February, vitamin D will not be produced in high enough levels due to sun exposure only. Last February when I had my vitamin D levels checked I was surprised to find how low my levels were. So I have had to use a vitamin D supplement to help raise my levels.

Why is vitamin D important?

– For absorption of calcium for bone health

– Vitamin D contributes to a variety of other important functions in the body too extensive for this article!

– Some research has suggested relationships between vitamin D intake and cancer prevention, increased immunity, and blood glucose regulation

How Do We Get Adequate Vitamin D?

– Sunlight

– Fatty fish, such as salmon (I highly recommend wild caught) and tuna, and foods fortified with vitamin D

– Supplements

Cortisol

What is cortisol?

– A major stress hormone

– Regulator of the immune system

– Can negatively impact sleep, mood, bone health, ligament health, cardiovascular health, and running performance

– Primary function is to increase the breakdown of muscles in the body, inhibits the uptake of glucose into the body’s cells, and increases the breakdown of fats

What are the effects of higher than normal cortisol levels?

– Causes the body to be constantly breaking down muscle

– Causes suppression of the immune system

– Lowers levels of other important hormones including testosterone and DHEA (dehydroepiaandrosterone)

– Can increase risk of development of upper respiratory tract infections

What can cause increased levels of cortisol?

– Overtraining

– Training in a carbohydrate-depleted state (following a low-carbohydrate diet)

– High-intensity and long-duration training

Signs that your cortisol levels may be high, besides having these levels measured, include: mood swings, lack of motivation to run, and loss of muscle and appetite

How do you control cortisol levels?

– Daily nutrition is important which includes consuming enough carbohydrates to support your energy needs

– Research has also shown that including glutamine and branched chain amino acids (BCAA), which you can typically get by eating whole foods, during your post exercise nutrition plan can help

Please contact me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com if you have questions or comments.  I would love to hear from you!

See you on the road or trail,

Brian

 

Tips For Marathon Day Nutrition

Tips for Marathon Day Nutrition

Recently, an article in Men’s Health Online summarized the results of a research study that suggested proper marathon day nutrition could improve your marathon time by as much as eleven minutes. In this same article, I offered some tips on marathon day nutrition.

Here is the link to the article:

http://news.menshealth.com/the-easy-fix-for-a-faster-marathon/2013/10/04/

In this article, I basically outline a strategy to stay properly fueled during a marathon in order to minimize fatigue and injury-risk, as well as help with finish time, and have a successful marathon experience. In this blog I expand upon this strategy and offer additional tips.

Find the Fuel That Works For You

There are lots of options to fuel you during a marathon. Sports drinks, gels, sports beans, foods such as bananas, pretzels, oranges, dried figs, etc. I encourage you to try out different fuel options during your training long runs to determine the one that works best for you. Trying a fuel out for the first time on marathon day is a potential recipe for disaster! Also during training, I recommend you try whatever fuel will be provided at the marathon. If this fuel works best for you, then you won’t have to carry other fuels during the marathon, and just take it at the aid stations. Notes on aid stations: If fuel is provided at aid stations on the right and left, choose the left side. This side is usually less crowded. Also, I recommend you walk when you are consuming the fuel. Don’t try to take it while running, unless you are already skilled at this, because you will probably end up dumping a significant portion. Beware that aid stations may run out of the fuel that you are counting on using. So, it is always good to carry some backup fuel, especially if you run at the back of the pack. You can also have friends and family strategically placed on the course with your fuel of choice (see below).

Fuel Up During the Week of the Marathon

Would you start a long trip with your gas tank only half full, or on empty? I hope not, and you shouldn’t on marathon day. Be sure that you are fueling your body with vegetables (especially leafy greens and sweet potatoes), vegetable (such as tempeh, beans, and legumes) and lean proteins, unsaturated fats (such as olive oil and avocados), fruits (especially blueberries and raspberries), and grains (such as brown and wild rice, steel-cut oats, and quinoa), throughout the week preceding your marathon. Approximately 55-65% of your calorie intake should come from carbohydrates. Although simple sugars are a source of carbohydrates, their consumption should be minimized during meals, dessert, and snacks. Don’t rely on the pasta dinner the night before the marathon to bring your carbohydrate levels up to full. Although the pasta dinner the night before a marathon has become a fun tradition, your body may not have enough time to fully digest and use it and it may cause GI issues. Finally, make sure you stay well-hydrated and get plenty of sleep throughout the week of the marathon.

Fuel Up on Marathon Day

The most important meal of the day is breakfast, and it’s no different on marathon day. I recommend that you have a meal of approximately 200-500 calories two to four hours before your event. This meal should be low in fat, and composed primarily of carbohydrate foods that can be easily digested. As I mentioned in the Men’s Health article, some good options would be oatmeal and almond or peanut butter on a banana. Orange juice and toast with almond or peanut butter is another good option. The composition and timing of the meal should be practiced during training. Again, you want to determine, before marathon day, what is going to work best for you. Additionally, consumption of carbohydrates within 5 minutes of the start of a marathon can be beneficial. This could be in the form of a sports drink, gel, banana, etc. Again, this is something that you should practice in training. Caution should be used in consuming carbohydrates 15 to 45 minutes before the marathon because of the possibility of developing hypoglycemia shortly after you begin running. Also, consume about 500 ml or 16 ounces of water two hours before the marathon.

Follow Your Fueling/Hydration Plan

Based on what you found out during your training, you should have a plan as far as fueling during the marathon. Research has shown that runners need approximately 30-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour during the marathon. The wide range is due to factors such as body size, level of training, and even diet. You should start taking your fuel no later than 40 minutes into the marathon. After this, I would recommend fueling every 20-30 minutes to get the proper amount of carbohydrates that you need each hour. Also, you should be drinking 3-7 ounces of fluid approximately every 15-20 minutes. This could be water or sports drink or you could alternate. If you feel thirsty you should drink additional fluids. Being dehydrated can trigger diarrhea. To make sure you follow your fueling/hydration plan, set a watch alarm and/or use strategically placed friends and family (see below). Also, depending on your pace, you can determine which miles you should be taking water and/or fuel. Make sure you stick with you fueling/hydration plan!

Get A Little Help From Your Friends and Family

If possible, have friends or family strategically placed, with your fuel of choice, at various points in the marathon. Also, if they can, have them run a mile our two with you to provide a welcome lift.

Don’t Forget the Electrolytes

During the marathon you will lose electrolytes, primarily through sweat and urine. You will need to replace these electrolytes, which are vital for muscle contraction and fluid balance within the body. Sodium is the primary electrolyte that will need to be replaced (approximately 300-500 milligrams/hour). So your fuel of choice should contain sodium, or you will need to include something that will provide sodium, such as adding sea salt to water (0.5 to 0.7 grams of sodium/Liter of water).

Refuel Soon After the Marathon

Ideally, within the first thirty minutes of completion of your marathon, and especially within the first two hours, you should begin refueling with carbohydrates and protein. The mixture should be approximately 4:1 carbohydrates to protein. There are specific recovery drinks formulated in this ratio. If you are like me and would rather consume foods instead, then consume bananas with peanut or almond butter. Energy bars can work as well. Delaying refueling after your marathon will significantly hinder replenishment of stores of carbohydrates within your body and slow recovery. Every 1-2 hours for 5-6 hours, you should continue consuming carbohydrates and protein. Consume water to replace sweat losses during the marathon (24 ounces per pound lost). Also, consume foods or recovery drinks with sodium to replace that lost during the marathon.

See you on the road or trail.

Brian