Whether it’s a marathon or a half-marathon, a long run puts your body to the test. Eating well before the big race will help you get the most out of your training.
Hopefully you have all been mindful about your running nutrition practices during your entire training cycle. As you taper activity, now is the time to really put the frosting on the cake. As you cut back on your activity this week, you are going to want to maintain your usual energy (calorie) intake and continue to eat a diet that is 60-70% complex carbohydrates.
For ideas on whole grains, visit http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org. I also have some delicious whole grain recipes on my website, http://www.kimberlyevansrd.com. As tempting as it might be to eat less because you are exercising less, or to eat more because you want to load up, these tactics will likely backfire.
In the two days before the marathon you want to really make sure your glycogen stores are topped off and ready to go. This is the day to perhaps have a big pasta dinner and a good night’s sleep. It is also the time to really make sure you are hydrated. Drinking throughout the day, and taking in a little more sodium than you normally would, will help ensure that you are well-hydrated on race day. The idea is to get enough nutrition in before the pre-race-day jitters set in.
On the day before the marathon, continue to drink fluids throughout the day and eat your normal diet with adequate complex carbohydrate consumption. Eliminate any high-fiber foods and foods that cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, bran cereals, etc. Good choices today are complex carbohydrates that are low in fiber and fat, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, bagels, tortillas, rice, yogurt and most fruit. A large bowl of chicken soup with rice and a roll can be a good pre-race dinner. Eliminate alcohol and reduce caffeine to the bare minimum.
Finally, it’s race day – and, for most of us, nerves set in. Hopefully you have trained your GI tract to tolerate eating before running. Whatever you choose for breakfast, it should be low fiber, low protein, and fat-free. You want to provide your body with carbohydrates that are easy to digest. I recommend roughly 200-300 calories per hour for every hour leading up to the race. So, if the race starts at 8 am and you get up at 5 am, you will have wanted to consumer 600 calories of carbohydrates over that period of time. If you must have some coffee, have as little as possible. Drink a large glass of water 1-2 hours before the start and have only sips to drink until the starting gun. That starts you off well-hydrated but gives you enough time to eliminate any extra.
Follow these tips, and good luck!
Kim Evans, RD, is a clinical dietitian for the UVM Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.