Running a marathon can be a daunting task, especially for beginners. There is a lot of information about how to train your body for the 26.2 miles but what about how to fuel your body for those training runs? Many marathon training groups just skim the surface when it comes to what to eat and drink and when. Having a nutrition strategy is just as important as a running or training strategy.
As you run harder and farther, your nutrition plan becomes increasingly important. When you increase the miles you run, your body diverts energy from non-essential functions, such as digestion, to your muscles and brain in order to keep up the pace you are running. You must practice getting in nutrients and fluids or you may get stomach issues at race time.
The following are some nutrition focused questions to ask yourself before the day of the race:
- Hydration: What kind of drink do you like? Make sure to ask what fluids will be at the race or what you should bring.
- What kinds of food, gels/gummies, bars, etc. do you like? Avoid energy products with protein because it slows down digestion and it isn’t beneficial during the run.
- Be specific with energy products. Do you really enjoy the flavor? How will you carry it? Set a routine early in your training schedule. A slight change in your routine can cause you to have a rough day at the race.
- Have at least 3 training runs where you go through your entire nutrition plan. How do you feel? Are you fueling enough? Do you feel well hydrated?
Many of the providers and employees at Aligned Modern Health run marathons or other endurance races. Here are a few of their recommendations:
Dr. Blake Butler, DC, Functional Medicine Provider, typically drinks 18-24 ounces of fluid per hour depending on the temperature outside. He alternates between water and electrolyte support such as Nuun tablets or Tailwind Nutrition. He also suggests adhering to a “modified Paleo” diet during training to help reduce inflammation. This ensures the reduction or elimination of processed food. He allows grains only when low blood sugar is an issue.
Ross Drever is an area manager at Aligned Modern Health and suggests to train every long distance workout using your nutrition plan. This should be anything over 60 to 90 minutes which will allow you to be able to tweak it accordingly. He also recommends trying out fueling options with different textures. Eating only gels or gummies at an all day event may make you miserable. Mix it up but make sure to practice with each item to see how your body reacts.
Dr. Lexi Mikrut, DC, Functional Medicine Provider, recommends to make sure you are eating enough calories, especially for women. Not eating enough can cause problems down the road such as weight gain, lack of menstrual period for women or feeling fatigued earlier than expected when running. She also states that as the race goes on, your appetite will decrease and it will be harder to get food in. She tries to avoid processed or “junk” food and will refuel with squeezable applesauces, gluten-free bread with ghee, granola bars, dried fruit strips, dates and date energy bars. If she chooses dried fruit or applesauces, Dr. Mikrut looks for varieties with high total carbs and low fiber (at or less than 3 grams). For a recovery drink, she grabs Tart Cherry juice.
Edwin Alvarez, L.Ac, Acupuncturist, suggests having food already prepared for when you get home after the race. The last thing he wants to think about is cooking after a long run. Make sure that you have a well-balanced meal with plenty of carbs and protein to help with recovery.
We can’t forget about avoiding injuries when discussing endurance running. Dr. Adam Altman, DC, Chiropractor, says that proper mobility is necessary to avoid injuries. He states that many runners, especially first time marathoners, neglect to strengthen their posterier chain. Dr. Altman advises a strength and mobility series which can also be used as a body weight work out, for those who are short on time and have trouble keeping up with their prescribed work out routine. His recommendations are here.
These are just a few of the tips and tricks from some of our employees and providers at Aligned Modern Health that help them run a successful race. How you fuel training runs and the race is often overlooked and can either make or break you. Not getting enough calories while training or the right amount of carbs, protein and fat may cause health issues further down the road. Implementing a nutrition strategy and avoiding injuries are essential for a successful race. At Aligned Modern Health, our practitioners can help with everything from pre-event nutrition to injury prevention to after-race recovery.
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