It’s time to get your trainers on, knees strapped, and nipples lubricated, because marathon season is back and it’s here to stay. For the seasoned runners, we all know that getting into “marathon mode” is different from any other conditioning. This is a battle against the elements, and only the people with the strongest of wills will be left unbroken; save for a few bloody toenails and chafed no-no areas.
What to eat leading up to the race?
Runners are a different beast, and so more often than not they prepare in different ways to other athletes. The issue with running an endurance race is that your body is forced to deplete its many energy stores in order to maintain a level of peak performance. Sure, all the training is done leading up to the race, but it’s also equally important to eat correctly.
Studies suggest that carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient when it comes to endurance running.
If you want to be prepared for an endurance race, you should consume the right amount of complex carbs such as pasta. Slightly Adjusting your and upping your carb intake even a little bit will serve you well when it comes time to burn energy.
A study conducted by Asker Jeukendrup and colleagues at the University of Birmingham, England, compared the effects of a 41 percent carbohydrate diet and a 65 percent carbohydrate diet during an 11-day period of intensified run training. On the low-carb diet, performance levels decreased and the runners’ self-reported fatigue levels increased. On the high-carb diet, performance and energy levels were maintained. Therefore, what we already know seems to be true. Carbo-loading is an important aspect of the runner’s diet as it gets their body into a state where they are filled with glycogen and ready to burn it all off. The body will also be able to look to other stores during the race at times of intensity, but an adequate amount of healthy carbohydrate will keep you fit and capable of going faster.
In 2001, Vicki Lambert, an exercise scientist at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, tested the effects of 10 days of fat loading followed by three days of carbo loading on endurance performance in cyclists. “After warming up with two hours of moderate-intensity cycling, Lambert’s subjects were able to complete a 20K time trial 4.5 percent faster after using this protocol than they did when carb loading was preceded by their normal diet.” The issue with the study is that to get these benefits, 65% of your calories need to be from healthy fats for 10 days starting 2 weeks before the race. Healthy fats include avocados, cheese, eggs, nuts, salmon, and olive oil.
Beetroot juice has been discovered to have some sort positive performance effect in endurance runners and might bump up your performance by about 1% if you’re a beginner, but more experienced runners will not see any benefits. They’ll have to improve the hard way—training! If you're new to discovering your fitness potential you can download our Fitness Hacks for Beginners.
Race day grub!
Before we get into what you should eat, we’ll talk about the why behind you need to refuel during a race. Various sources explain that during a race you will “hit the wall” and that this happens due to glycogen depletion in the muscles. It is delivered to the muscles via the bloodstream in the form of glucose and once it is depleted, energy sources are too. Basically, you’re running on fumes.
So, what are the steps you should take to ensure that you are adequately fuelled before a race, without being too overloaded?
- Eat a bowl of oatmeal or a banana with waffles 3 hours before the race
- 30 mins before is the time to have something smaller that will boost energy, with water
- During the race use chews, jelly beans, gels, along with water to stay hydrated throughout and take advantage of extra electrolytes available at the hydration stations
- Recover with a glass of chocolate milk and a granola bar after you are done
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