With the London Marathon looming, our expert Alexandra Cook shares her top nutrition tips for long races.
Alexandra is an endurance athlete, a sports dietician and a UKA athletics coach. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience to make sure you are feeling race day ready.
What do people need to eat to refuel after a long run?
Balance is key, it’s not just focusing on one nutrient. Follow the 3 R’s – rehydrate, refuel, rebuild to nail your recovery every time.
Rehydrate with water or / and an electrolyte drink. You need to take on fluid at a reasonable rate. As soon as you have finished your run drink (500ml fluid), drink little and often. Drink until urine is clear or you have reached your pre-run weight.
Refuel with carbohydrates, but no need to over compensate! If you have 24 hours between sessions your strategy can be a little more relaxed. Follow your daily carbohydrate needs appropriate for your level of activity and ensure a well-balanced meal within an hour of finishing exercise. Ensure your meal hits all the main food groups – a portion of protein, a carbohydrate and half a plate of veggies or salad. Simple but effective!
If you have less than 8 hours between sessions, or you have done gruelling fasted sessions, you need to be more exact. Take approximately 1g carbohydrates per kg of body weight, each hour for 3-4 hours to maximise glycogen synthesis. This way you will ensure your glycogen stores are as restored as much as possible for the next session.
Rebuild with protein. Protein is not essential for the immediate post session recovery, but it’s vital for long term recovery and adaptation to training. Get in to the habit of having approximately 20g protein 60 – 90 minutes after your run. Do the same for subsequent meals to get your recovery right.
How soon after your long run should you eat?
This really depends on when your next training session is. If you have less than 8 hours before your next session then you need an immediate post-run snack within 30 minutes of finishing, followed by a balanced meal in the next hour or so.
The sooner you eat the faster you will replenish those depleted glycogen stores. However, most of us have at least 24 hours before our next run and will have longer to get fuel stores replenished. Eat a balanced meal within 60-90 minutes of finishing your run and continue to eat adequate carbohydrates for the remainder of the day. Meeting your daily training requirements will ensure you are well recovered for your next run.
Endurance runners should have anything between 3-12gs of carbohydrates per kg of body weight. Depending on your training load will depend on how much you need. For example, if you are doing approximately 1 hour of exercise a day, you should be aiming for 5-7g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight. So, for a 70kgs runner this would be between 350-490g of carbohydrates per day. The higher the training volume, the higher the demand for carbohydrates.
Do people need to consider what they should eat straight after short, hard training runs like interval sessions or tempo runs, or can they get what they need to support their training from their regular diet?
High intensity training can deplete your glycogen stores quickly so runners must still be attentive to refuelling strategies after these types of sessions. Look at your training around the session. If you have 24 hours or more to recover before your next session then a post training meal within an hour or so of finishing will be adequate to kick start the recovery process. If you are training sooner, have a carbohydrate and protein rich snack straight after your session. Follow with carbohydrate rich meals and snacks to ensure glycogen reserves are replenished before your next run.
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