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The Last Minute Marathon Guide

by Ross Edgley
Thursday 15th March 2012
Tags  Ross Edgley   |   Myprotein   |   Lactic Acid   |   Iron   |   Carbohydrates   |   Caffeine   |   Cramp   |   Electrolytes   |   Spirulina

Whilst conventional marathon training advice generally advocates 16 to 22 weeks of heavy running, 6 times a week, to increase your lung capacity (VO2), improve muscular endurance and iron out any ‘kinks’ in the biomechanics of your running technique, the reality is the London Marathon is now only 4 weeks away

So if you’re one of those has left it till the last minute and need all the help you can get or one of those fully prepared but looking to make those final tweaks to your training, here is the ‘Last Minute Marathon Guide’ detailing all the tips and tricks you can incorporate to improve your marathon time. Make sure that you test anything new well before race day though!

Tip # 1: Reduce Lactic Acid

At Florida Atlanta University it was found that Beta Alanine and creatine improved the endurance and aerobic capacity of athletes after only 4 weeks of supplementation. Researchers believe its Beta Alanine’s ability to positively affect a substance called carnosine in the muscles which produced this improved performance since a similar study at the University of Tsukuba found that high levels of carnosine could help to reduce lactic acid build up in the muscle (the burning sensation you get in the muscles when you’re running hard.)

(250g of Beta Alanine is available from Myprotein.com for £9.99 http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/beta_alanine )


180 capsules of Desiccated Liver is £8.49 from Myprotein.com http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/desiccated-liver

Tip # 2: Get Some Iron

At the University of Missouri it was found that iron supplementation significantly improved the endurance capacity of trained athletes since iron is an essential component of haemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.) Without it you simply cannot efficiently produce ATP, the body’s primary energy source, and you certainly can’t run a marathon in any decent sort of time. Now whilst you can get iron from certain foods such as beef, liver, spinach and lentils - you can equally supplement your diet with desiccated liver capsules

(180 capsules of Desiccated Liver is £8.49 from Myprotein.com http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/desiccated-liver)


Tip # 3: Carb Up

A study conducted at Loughborough University in England found that runners who consumed a high carbohydrate diet 7 days before a 30km treadmill time trial were 10% quicker than those who didn’t ‘carb load.’ Put simply carbohydrates are an athlete’s primary source of fuel so having a sufficient supply before a race is absolutely essential to reducing fatigue and improving sports performance. An idea echoed by A. Bean et al, 2003 who in ‘The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition’ states marathon runners need 5-7g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight or 60 per cent of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. This usually works out at around 1,500kcal from carbohydrate per day for most women and 1,800kcal for men or for a 75kg runner that works out at between 600g and 750g of carbohydrates per day.


Tip # 4: Get A Cup Of Coffee

As strange as it sounds a cup of coffee could hold the key to a better marathon time since researchers at Yale University found that caffeine (found in coffee) actually helped increase your resistance to fatigue by stimulating the production of the neuro transmitter beta-endorphin, which studies show can reduce pain and perceived fatigue. Furthermore, caffeine has also been shown to spare your muscle glycogen stores by encouraging your body to burn stored fat as fuel, essentially saving your muscle glycogen for later on in the marathon. This all takes place early in the exercise, according to Dr. Mark Jenkins of SportsMed Web, you may use as much as 50 percent less glycogen during the first 15 minutes. But this leaves larger stores intact for the rest of the event, delaying the point of exhaustion.


Tip # 5: Reduce Cramps

With only a few weeks left to train you can’t do too much to prevent muscle cramping because of poor muscular endurance and lack of training. But you can ensure you maintain the correct electrolyte balance in the body to prevent any unwanted cramping mid-marathon according to a study conducted at Sanford USD Medical Center. Primary ions of electrolytes such as potassium (K+), sodium (Na+) and magnesium (Mg2+) are all needed to regulate your body's fluids, help to maintain a healthy blood pH balance and ultimately reduce the likelihood of getting cramp. Plus according to the Human Performance Laboratory in New Delhi ‘an electrolyte drink can increase endurance performance as well as enhance lactate removal and thereby delaying the onset of fatigue.’ (G.L. Khanna and I. Manna, 2005.)


Tip # 6: Eat Your Greens

For those looking for something a bit different to boost performance, a recent study at the University of Thessaly in Trikala in Greece discovered that the green algae known as spirulina could improve an athlete’s resistance to fatigue by as much as 25%. The new research published in the journal 'Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise' theorised that the chlorophyll content in the Spirulina improved the oxygen carrying capabilities of the blood therefore allowing the participants to exercise longer, so try adding 5g of spirulina to your water bottle before race day.

(500g of Organic Spirulina is available from Myprotein.com for £28.99 http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/organic_spirulina_powder)


About The Author

Ross Edgley

Sports Scientist with a BSc Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough University Ross Edgley was a Strength and Conditioning Coach at The English Institute of Sport working alongside Britain’s Olympic Physicians, Nutritionists and S&C coaches and is currently fitness and nutrition advisor to a range of celebrities, athletes and what is considered the UK’s most innovative sports nutrition company http://www.theproteinworks.com


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