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Nutrition strategy for spring marathon training

by Editor
Friday 6th February 2015
Tags  Emma Barraclough   |   Sports Nutrition   |   SiS   |   Science in Sport

Nutrition feature: Emma Barraclough, sports nutritionist at SiS (www.scienceinsport.com), explains how having a considered approach to your nutrition will help to give you the confidence that you can tackle the marathon

With a Spring marathon on the horizon it’s time to really get focused on the training volume and be steadily building your mileage up. As well as getting your kit in order you need to think about your training and nutrition schedules too.

With an increase in training volume your demand for carbohydrate will increase. To make sure that you are well fuelled for your sessions, you should always try to have a carbohydrate snack two hours before your session to make sure that your glycogen stores are topped up. This could be breakfast if it’s a morning run, or you may need to think about an appropriate snack at work in the afternoon if you are training in the evening. Cereal bars, a slice of toast or some fruit and yogurt work well for this.

Staying well hydrated throughout this time is very important too. Keeping a bottle of water and some electrolyte tabs on your desk at work is a good practice to get into so that you can continually drink all day.

Your demand for protein will also increase as your training load increases. We turn protein over in the body naturally everyday, and this turnover increases with increased training volume. As your runs extend in length, you also run the risk of breaking down your lean muscle mass for energy if you end up in a large energy deficit. Taking some high quality protein immediately after your training runs helps you to avoid this, and provides a pool of amino acids to help rebuild any damaged muscles.

Recovery shakes such as SiS REGO Rapid Recovery contain rapidly digested carbohydrates and proteins to assist you in recovery from your longer runs in a convenient format that you can take easily within the 30 minute window post-training.

Extra mileage does increase the training stress on your body. In small amounts, this is good as some stress is needed as a stimulus for your body to adapt to; this is how your fitness develops. However, too much stress can increase the likelihood of you getting sick. Long distance runners are known to be susceptible to suffering more coughs and colds, so consider increasing your fruit and vegetable intake so that you have a natural source of antioxidants. With a good diet, you shouldn’t need to supplement. Excessive vitamin intake via supplements can blunt your response to training, making it much less effective.

As your long runs extend to two hours plus, you really need to start practicing the nutrition that you are going to use on race day. Think about whether you’ll wear a fuel belt or waist pack, and consider if you’ll want to carry your gels or other nutritional options with you. 

You don’t want to be relying on what may be available at the aid stations on the day if you’ve never tried it before in training; the likelihood of you upsetting your stomach is all the more greater.   Think of your 20 mile runs as dress rehearsals for the main race day. You want to be confident that you are happy with the gels and the practicalities of eating them as you run so that you have as little to worry about on the day as possible! 

Having a considered approach to your training and nutrition in this period right through until April will help to give you the confidence that you can tackle the marathon and be as comfortable as possible so that you can enjoy the day and reap the rewards of your hard training efforts. Best of luck! 

Emma Barraclough is a Sports Nutritionist at SiS (www.scienceinsport.com). She has worked with Great Britain Ice Hockey since 2006 and provided nutritional consultancy support to athletes in a range of sports including running, triathlon and rugby. She regularly represents Great Britain as an age group triathlete and has completed six Ironmans.


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