Training for the marathon? Although some of you may have already gone through the trials of how to fuel your body for peak performance, there may be some first timers out there confused about which foods will provide them with the most energy and quality nutrition during their training.
Every athlete wants to know what is the best food to eat before exercise. Well, I only wish I had the winning recipe! The best pre-training diet is one that takes into account both physiological and psychological factors. Each person has unique food preferences and aversions, so no one food or ‘magic meal’ will ensure top performance for anyone.
What works for you, may not necessarily work for the friend you train with. So while you train for the marathon, it is important to determine which foods work best for you.
When you find which foods supply you with the best energy, stick with them. This is where that physiological factor comes in. The confidence that you experience within yourself illustrates the psychological factor of a training diet. Because, you can feel assured that you have prepared and equipped your body with the nourishment you know has worked for you during your training, and ultimately the marathon.
Nutrition before . . .
Eating carbohydrate foods and high carbohydrate meals is necessary to fuel and refuel your muscles. This way, they’ll be ready for action. About 60 to 70 per cent of your training diet should come from carbohydrates. Protein and fats are also part of the diet, but because they take longer to empty from the stomach, they can cause gastrointestinal problems (or discomfort) during training. So do still include these fuels, but in moderate amounts.
For training or events lasting longer than 60 minutes, choose carbohydrates with a moderate to low glycemic effect. Examples of these foods include bananas, yogurt, apples, oatmeal, and pasta. Eating moderate to low glycemic foods one-hour before training will allow these foods to be digested enough to be burned for fuel during the event, but will also continue to provide sustained energy during the long workout.
Also, remember to allow adequate time for food to digest (a high-calorie meal will take longer to leave your stomach than a lighter meal). Drinking plenty of fluids (16 oz up to two hours before event) and up to 8 oz (as tolerated) 5 to 10 minutes before training is also crucial to preparing your body before the marathon.
Nutrition during . . .
Your nutritional goal during exercise is to maintain proper hydration and a normal blood sugar. Drink fluids as tolerated during the event. Through your training, you will get a sense of how much fluid is too much and how much is too little.
You can increase your stamina during the event by eating 100 to 250 calories each hour of the endurance exercise (again, remember to experiment during your training to ensure what works best for you). Typically, the best options include: sport drinks like Gatorade, bananas, dried fruit, pieces of energy bar, or animal crackers.
Recovery nutrition . . .
During your training, a recovery snack straight after each session is essential to help refuel the muscles for the following training session. Remember that exercised muscles are hungriest for carbohydrate within the first two hours after a hard workout. My suggestion? Aim to eat within the hour of a training session or race.
What foods will allow your body to recover optimally? Carbohydrates! Sport drinks, fruit, cereal bars, low-fat muffins, bagels, juices, in other words, carbohydrates with a high glycemic effect, because these foods will work quickly to boost energy by raising blood sugar.
Don’t get stuck running on fumes this December. If you do plan to run the marathon, please take this time now to learn which foods help you train optimally and provide you with the best energy before, during, and after the event.
Best of luck to all athletes!