Many runners, especially amateur or non-runners, don’t have a proper nutrition plan in place when training for a marathon. Eating well leading up to a run, long or short distance, gives the athlete a variety of benefits, including a better workout performance, reduced injury, and faster recovery time. Here are some steadfast rules to help you create a more balanced eating plan and make your eating habits more approachable.
Increase Carbohydrate Intake
Carbs are essential for your muscles to perform at a high level, and they should be the foundation of every meal. According to the International Olympic Committee’s research-based recommendations, the amount per pound of body weight increases based on the intensity of the workout. So use this as a guide to modifying your diet for harder workouts.
- Moderate exercise (up to 1 hour/day) = 2.5-3 grams of carbs per 1lb. of body weight
- Endurance exercise (1 to 3 hours/day) = 2.5-4.5 grams of carbs per 1lb. of body weight)
- Extreme exercise (4-5 hours/day) = 3.5-5.5 grams of carbs per 1lb. of body weight)
For a 160lb marathon runner who trains for 2 hours each day, this comes out to about 400-720 grams of carbs per day – equivalent to 1,600-2,880 calories per day. So, load up on that pasta from your local Ynot Italian restaurant the night before you plan on a long run.
Building Eating Habits
When training for a marathon, it makes sense to count your calories because as you increase the intensity of your training by running longer distances over time, your body burns more calories. What also needs to be taken into consideration is what you’re fueling your body with. Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins should all be counted in addition to calories.
As a general guide, it’s important to stick to eating from these four main food groups at each meal during your training: protein, dairy, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. It’s also equally important to fuel your body with healthy snacks throughout the day. Make sure these aren’t just snacks with empty calories, such as sweets. Sugar-filled foods only provide short-term energy. Instead, opt for snacks like nuts and granola bars.
If you’ve sworn off eating carbs, fruits and veggies are great substitutions for a higher caloric intake. Blend up a smoothie from berries, carrots, and cucumbers.
Dig into that salad. You might also substitute your carbs for more proteins. Use chicken, beef, or other options as your main source of fuel to reduce the number of carbs you have to take in. What matters is to avoid eating empty calories and opting for healthier options.
Training for your first marathon is exciting. Use these tips to help you get started and to give you the foundation you need to run your very best.