Marathon Nutrition

My friend Suzanne emailed me the other day and inquired about my marathon nutrition and if I had any resources or advice. So besides what works for me to share i decided to do a search for some more concrete advice!

What works for me:
Balanced diet, 60% carbs, 25% protein,15% fat
Lots of water – as much as possible! Choke it down at least your 32 oz a day… it is now my favorite drink (Pellegrino also counts as water!)
SEE my story of my hospital visit after Boston! Don’t want to do that again.
Black coffee – I try to count it as water

Eat carbs more in the morning and lunch, save the protein for dinner with veggies.
I eat cereal for breakfast, toast sandwich of some kind for lunch and protein with veggies for dinner.
Minimize alcohol – white wine is my new favorite (try to keep to only a few nights a week)

Lot’s of rest!

Here are the other resources that I found on the internet:
Talks about getting enough carbs….
This talks about during the run …
A simpler piece – 70/20/10 ratio promoted

A great blog for triathlete and marathon training – good nutrition stuff here

This one is probably my favorite but it is geared toward women
And I really liked this comentary:
Presently, there is an abundance of endurance performance nutrition products on the market.  We can choose from thousands of drinks, gels, energy bars, etc…  It can all get a bit confusing.  The current problem is not that there aren’t enough nutritional options available, but that there are too many. 
Each body has a certain amount of calories it can absorb when exercising at marathon intensities.  The highly adapted gut might be able to consume 250 calories an hour, while the inexperienced stomach absorbs around 200 cal/hour.  Any food not absorbed will either just sit in your upset stomach, or pass through your intestines in the form of waste.  Unwanted calories might lead to time spent in the “port-a-johns” late in the marathon.  I dedicate the remainder of this column to understanding the nutrition demands during a marathon.
Tools to help you determine your Marathon Nutrition Plan
·        Learn your sweat rate:  Your goal is to drink the perfect amount of fluid, resulting in neither weight loss nor weight gain.  In the heat you sweat and drink more. If it is cooler, you sweat and drink less.  To determine sweat rate, just weigh in before a workout and weigh out after a workout.  Then, account for fluid consumed during the workout and add this into the total weight loss.  Let’s do the math for a hypothetical 60-minute run in the heat.
Determining weight loss:
Pre-workout weight                  158 lbs
Post-workout weight                154lbs
Total weight loss                        4lbs
 Determining sweat loss:
Weight loss                               4lbs
Fluid drank during workout       2lbs or 32oz (most sport bottles hold 20oz)
                        Total weight loss in sweat          6lbs
Knowing your sweat rate under different climate and intensity situations will establish how many calories you can consume through fluid intake.
·        Drink only sports beverages:  The combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes in a sports beverage has been proven to enhance endurance performance.  Water alone will dilute the blood sugar and electrolyte concentration in the blood, and can lead to cramping, a sloshy stomach, low blood sugar, and eventually hyponatremia, a potentially health-threatening condition marked by poor electrolyte and fluid balance.  Practice using sports beverages in training.
·        Determine calorie content in sports beverages:  A typical sports beverage has 50 calories per 8oz serving.  You usually get about 4oz of fluid (25 calories) when handed a cup at the aid station during a marathon.  How much you should drink at each aid station depends on your sweat rate.
·        Ensure adequate caloric intake:  Marathoners burn anywhere from 600-1000 calories an hour, depending on pace and efficiency.  A typical runner has about 2500 calories of stored carbohydrates to use for maintaining marathon pace.  This would get a runner through 2.5 to 3.5 hours of running if drinking only water.  If a runner consumed around 25 calories (4oz of fluid) at every aid station he/she would consume anywhere from 150 to 250 calories in an hour depending on their pace.  After 3 hours of running, 150 calories an hour would give an extra 450 calories of available carbohydrates to help maintain pace through the end of the race. 
·        Consider energy gel supplementation: On colder days when sweat rate is lower, an athlete does not drink as much sports beverage.  In this case, supplementation with energy gels might be necessary.  A typical gel has 90-100 calories.  These gels can upset a stomach, so make sure you practice and learn your tolerance.  I suggest taking only half a gel at a time, and aim for consuming one whole gel in an hour.  This amount of gel, along with a sports beverage, will keep your calories topped off.  On hotter days, an athlete is often better off sticking to a sports beverage alone and skipping the energy gels.
·        Eat well on race morning:  A good breakfast would be 400-800 kcal of oatmeal or your favorite healthy cereal made with water or soymilk, with protein powder mixed in, about 2-2.5 hrs before the start.  Stay away from lactose-based milk, as it may not digest completely.  Drink about 12-16 oz of a highly concentrated carbohydrate sports drink (15% carbs) during the 90 minutes before the race, and another 8oz of normally concentrated sports drink (6-7% carbs) within 30 minutes of race start.  This formula will top off energy, electrolytes, and hydration stores.
·        Eat well the night before:  The typical noodle or rice dinner with a protein source like chicken or tofu will work really well.  The goal is to top of carbohydrate stores, consume a balance of protein and fat to help settle the stomach, slow down digestion, and provide muscle recovery during and after the race.
Marathon nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. By taking a few simple steps, you can increase your chances of success in your next big race!

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Nancy Cook 2021

About Nancy

Nancy Peck Cook is a trainer and speaker who has presented in front of large and small audiences for the past 25 years.  Her work as an executive and volunteer trainer for the American Cancer Society during the growth of the signature activity Relay For Life trained professionals to be more confident and successful in their roles. 

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