Nutrition for Marathoners

So, many people want to run a marathon but when they begin, they haven't taken a look at their nutrition and this is something that cannot be ignored. Obviously as you all know, carbs are going to be essential in the journey to a marathoner, and you need to make sure that you are fueling yourself appropriately for those goals. If you are in a state where you feel that your metabolism is low and that any time you add carbs, you can weight then this might be something to work on before you start the journey to a marathon because it's so vital for your overall health (AND HAPPINESS!) 

Part of the reason I love long run days is my on fire metabolism after. I just eat any and everything and my body is just a vacuum and sucks it right up and then my stomach growls 10 minutes later! It's fun! haha! 

While carbs and proteins and fats (oh my!) are important, your micronutrients (potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, iron, etc) are also very important to keep regulated for your race. Today, I'm going to talk about your macronutrients, and later this week I'm going to talk about the details of micronutrients and how to make sure that you are on target with those (which are mostly referred to as "electrolytes"). 

Finding your right nutrition for your race is the most important thing. I can give you these guidelines to follow but at the end of the day, if you are already head deep and doing something that you enjoy/works for you then that is what you should stick with. This guide might be for someone who has never done anything before, and wants to start but doesn't know what to do. 

My general rule is that if you run for an hour, you add 50g of 100% carbohydrate to your calories that you would normally eat for the day. That means that if you run 18 miles and it takes you 2.5 hours then you would add 150g carb to that day. This would include your gus and gels so if you are to take in 2 gus along the way, then that's 50g of carb so you are left with 100g extra for the day. This is going to vary across the board, and may seem like nothing to some people (as it's "only" a 600 calorie increase) but to others they might think this is SO much food and impossible to get in. Most of all-listen to your body because as I say a lot...your body's natural signals tell us more than we could ever imagine. 

If you don't have a general caloric intake or carb amount that you follow then I am one that would definitely recommend it. I'm not saying to be obsessive by any means or that you have to even track, but it's just good (in my opinion) to make sure that you are getting ENOUGH to support your goals as I feel many women are not. Not always but if you are losing weight while marathon training, then you could be depleting muscle which is the opposite of what you want to do. Muscle helps with recovery. Muscle helps with speed. Muscle helps with metabolism (aka muscle to me = more food). You want muscle so don't deplete it by not eating enough. 

That is normally my recommendation however if you are calculating your macros, you are going to include an activity factor for your baseline. If your activity level is very high (because you are training for a marathon), then your activity factor is going to account for that in your basal metabolic rate of calories and so I normally only recommend the increase of 50g of carb/hour to your longest run days, and keep all other days at that baseline. If you are an ultra runner and getting up past 10+ miles during the week days, then that's a different ballgame, but for the most part, even at 6-8 mid week runs, you will be fine with your normal intake. 

I also would recommend thinking of a possible low carb day on your rest day just because your activity level is so high on other days, a low carb rest day might keep your weight maintained because some people will eat so much during training that they gain weight and this could help. I, for one, don't like a low carb day. ha! I'd rather just keep my nutrition steady and I've learned that my body does just fine with that. 

So what about during? My rule for myself is that if I'm not running more than 12 miles, then I don't take any gus with me. I also don't take any water with me. I know that some would tell me that this is not a smart thing to do but I've found it's what works for me and I don't like bothering with all of that for runs at that length. I'll be honest and say even at 14 miles, I probably still wouldn't but that's not my recommendation. Once you hit 14 miles, I would recommend having at least one gu/gel/chomp with you on your run. Don't wait until you feel that you need the nutrition to take the gu. You want to take the gu halfway through so that your pre workout meal follows through to that point, and then you are replenishing those glycogen stores halfway through to help you make it the rest of the way. 

I know that every single time I'm diligent about my nutrition, my runs are awesome. If I get lazy because I hate carrying stuff with me, my runs always suffer. You HAVE TO HAVE FUEL (Can you tell I'm shouting this at myself! lol). Ever since I was a little kid on the soccer field, I hated intra workout nutrition. I never took the water, grapes and orange slices at halftime. If I had two games back to back, I never drank the Capri sun after the first game. It just always is weird to me, and doesn't feel natural. I have to force it. I can distinctly remember coaches always fussing at me "Raines! Have you drank water?" UHHH NO!!! ha! {{Raines is my maiden name for those confused}}

If you are running 18 miles, then I would recommend 2 gus/gels. You want to space them out along the run. While you normally wouldn't need a gu at 6 miles, this is when you would take your first, because you want that to last you to the end. Again, I'm going to be honest in that, if I run 18 miles, I will take ONE gu. 

If you are running a marathon, take 50 gus. Jk jk! Normally I would say to take a gu every 6-7 miles and normally totaling 4 total. The general unwritten rule is that you take a gu right before a water station. This is just an effective way to wash it down. So, if I spot a water station at around the mileage that I'm going to be taking a gu then I grab one out of whatever I have them stored in! 

What about the morning of a marathon? The general rule is that you want to have a slow digesting carb and protein when you wake up and then you want to have a fast acting carb right before you start the race. Some foods that might fit this would be if you were to have a bowl of oats with a side of egg whites and some peanut butter for breakfast, and then before the race began, you had a banana. Fruit or some sort of bar or candy is going to be a great source right before there race. It's quick, easy to eat and gets energy right where you need it without making you feel full like the oats and fiber might do!

I simply cannot carry water with me. A water bottle in my hand drives me crazy sloshing around. However, I've found that I like having my camel back. This just feels less annoying to me, and so if you don't have one, then I would recommend looking into getting one because I personally love it. However, having water for those long runs is so vital. If not, you will end up with a dehydrated gut and bloating and bloody diarrhea for the rest of the day. Did you like that visual? Can you tell I've been there? ;) 

Feel free to ask any questions as I'm sure I didn't cover everything, but I wanted to give you guys a good idea of how to schedule your nutrition around your marathon running goals! 

with love and marathon nutrition, 


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