Marathon Nutrition in 12 Easy Steps

When running a marathon you are not only faced with the challenge of covering a substantial distance, but also ensuring adequate intake of energy and fluids to offset the losses. The gains from getting your fueling strategy spot on are big, and the losses from getting it wrong, are devastating. The challenges faced by many marathoners, especially novice recreational runners are:

a) You don’t run a full marathon in training so there is this unknown territory

b) The market is swamped with products, each claiming to be the best

c) Our bodies all respond individually

This means a lot of experimentation is required in training to find what works for you.

The challenge though, especially for novices, is where to even start! I have therefore provided 12 tips that will help you navigate your way through the energy gel jungle and avoid the bonk:

  1. Practice, practice, practice (timing and amounts of fuel and water) during long training runs. Don’t only practice at slow paces, practice at or close to marathon pace as well as your body requires more fuel and your gut is under greater stress when going faster.
  2. Fundamental physiology shows that the most efficient fuel source is carbohydrate.
  3. Start the race with a full tank! If you have carbo loaded then your muscles will have up to 2 hours of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) available.
  4. Studies have shown that consuming a combination of glucose and fructose makes more energy available as your body is using two troops of transporters. So check the labels. Glucose will often be listed as maltodextrin, this is a complex glucose which releases slower so is more effective than pure glucose.
  5. The only “magic” ingredient is carbohydrate (and maybe a shot of caffeine). The shorter the ingredient list the better.
  6. If consuming caffeine, practice in training! It can lead to unplanned loo stops.
  7. It is best to stick to one product throughout the event.
  8. Aim to consume 150 to 200 calories per hour. This is best spread over 15 to 45 minute intervals.
  9. Start fuelling as early as 15 minutes in to preserve your glycogen stores. Once you hit the wall you will be doing the death march home.
  10. Start the race well hydrated. Prehydrate with both water and electrolytes. Cosume 500ml to 750ml of fluid, if possible with added electrolyte, per hour. Less in cooler conditions or when going slower. If you notice dry crusty salt on your skin or your ears seem blocked, then you are not drinking enough. Overhydration is more of a danger in well supported races. So if you finding you need to urinate a lot or your tummy feels bloated then cut back. Drinking small amounts continuously is the best.
  11. Save the sugary coke for the last 5km!
  12. Again…PRACTICE!!

All the best. Pop me a message if you have more questions.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen