Marathon training places huge demands on your body and it is therefore hugely important to tailor your diet to ensure your body has all of the nourishment it needs to keep you feeling healthy, energised and strong – particularly as you up the mileage. For that reason we’ve teamed up Charlotte Kenned, sports nutritionist at Etixx, to give you the low-down on how to adapt your diet while training for a marathon. Here’s what she told us.
Increasing your carbohydrate intake
First and foremost, as your workload increases, so will your carbohydrate requirements and therefore tailoring your nutrition is essential. The amount of carbohydrate you should be eating will depend upon the duration and intensity of the exercise you are doing. If you are training for about an hour a day, the recommended carbohydrate requirement is 5-7g/kg BM/day. On longer training runs, when your sessions are one to three hours a day, carbohydrate requirements will increase to 7-10 g/kg BM/day. Alter your carbohydrate intake based on your training intensity and duration that day.
It is also important that you don’t ignore fats in your diet as they have many important physiological roles, including being a useful fuel source. However, try to avoid saturated fats and, instead, aim for ‘healthy fats’ in the form of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Try to have two to three portions of healthy fats per day. Some examples include avocados, olive oil and nuts.
The importance of protein
Protein is important when you are training for a marathon as it will help your muscles to make training adaptations – recovering and repairing after runs and ultimately becoming stronger. Aim for sources of high-quality protein that are low in saturated fat such as oily fish, quinoa, chicken or tuna. The recommended intake for endurance athletes is 1.2-1.6 g/kg BM/day.
Getting the right nutritional recovery after your sessions will allow you to recover and replenish ready for your next session. Recovery should begin as soon after your strenuous training runs as possible. Try to get in some form of carbohydrate and protein to begin the recovery process. A great way to do this is through the use of recovery drinks such as an Etixx Recovery Shake. These are easily digestible and should be consumed about 15-30 minutes after exercise, to begin to refuel your muscles with glycogen and start the muscle growth and repair process. However, recovery should not stop there and you should continue to recover by eating a well-planned main meal in the few hours following the end of your session. This meal should again contain carbohydrates for fuel replenishment and protein to stimulate muscle growth and recovery. A good example would be pasta with minced beef and steamed vegetables or salad.
Your water requirements will increase with the increased demands of your exercise programme. Ensure you drink enough to replace lost fluids and use your urine colour as a way of checking your hydration status at the end of a run. Your urine should be a light straw colour; too dark and you’re dehydrated, but too light and you’re drinking too much!
Keeping your immunity up
It is recognised that increases in training intensity places increased stress on the immune system, which is one reason why athletes are more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections. Fill your diet with lots of vegetables. These will provide you with essential vitamins to help wade of illness, while also complementing your training plan.
Taking all that into account, an example day would be:
Breakfast: Porridge with semi-skimmed milk, nut butter and blueberries (good source of antioxidants)
Lunch: Tuna sandwich with wholegrain bread and side salad
Dinner: Oven-baked salmon with brown rice and leafy greens
– Make your own trail mix (mixed nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate chips…)
– Rice cakes with peanut butter
– Low-fat yogurt with fruit
– Etixx Energy Bar/ Complex Training Shake: ideal for when you have limited time between taking on fuel and starting your exercise session. They can be consumed around an hour before exercise and they digest quickly to provide sufficient fuel for you to complete your session efficiently.