Completing a marathon is a tremendous accomplishment that involves strength, endurance, and stamina, and the right hydration, nutrition, and training are crucial for your success. With the right training plan you are providing for yourself the greatest strategy to complete your marathon in your best time. Below are the tips that I think are the most important for planning for your marathon.
1. Know your calorie needs
As your training mileage increases, so do your calorie needs. Without consuming enough calories your performance will be compromised and you will lose many of the benefits of your training. The recommended calorie range is from 19 to 26 calories per pound of your body weight (1). To determine your calorie needs during different training periods you can visit: http://www.marathonguide.com/fitnesscalcs/Caloricneeds.cfm
2. Know your carbohydrate needs
Carbohydrates are especially important for marathon runners. Runners need between 6 and 10 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight during training and closer to the upper end of this range before long runs. Carbohydrates saturate your muscles with glycogen, which is the storage form of carbohydrate that fuels endurance exercise. (1).
3. Know your protein needs
In general Americans don’t have trouble getting enough protein – what they struggle with is getting the right amount of protein at the right time. And this problem can cause even more problems in a marathon training regimen. In training periods, your protein needs will increase. The recommended protein intake is from 1.2 to 1.4 g per kilogram of your body weight (1).
To get the most benefit from your protein consumption, space your protein intake throughout the day and consume with all meals and snacks.
4. Hydrate happily
One of the easiest ways to sabotage your training efforts is to forget to properly hydrate! Your fluid intake during running should match your loss, meaning for every pound that you lose during training you should replace with fluid.
The easiest way to determine how much fluid you have lost during training is to weigh yourself before and after your run. For every pound lost, you should take in between 2 – 3 cups (12 – 24 oz.) of fluid over the course of the next couple of hours (2).
5. Up with the antioxidants
As exercise and running produce free radicals from the extra oxygen intake, you may need to consume more antioxidants. Antioxidants from food help provide your natural body’s defense against oxidation. Runners should consume at least eight daily servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (1). Smoothies are a delicious and easy way to bump up your fruit and vegetable intake.
Check out this list from Eating Well to design your own smoothies: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_smoothie_recipes
6. Rehearsal run
One of the biggest tests some runners face when preparing for a marathon is training their stomach to accept food during exercise. For any continues endurance sport that lasts more than 45 minutes’ calories must be consumed.
Prior to your event, you should try out different snacks and gels to ensure the products can be comfortably digested in your system. If you cannot supply the fluid and fuel during your marathon, find out what products will be supplied to you during your event, and train with those.
This will help your body to adapt the more effectively and minimizes any variation on the day of your marathon. Sports beverages should contain 100 to 110 mg of sodium and 38 mg of potassium per 8 oz. and snacks should provide carbohydrates, with moderate protein and low fat.
7. Record your fuel
Now that you are training for a marathon, think of food and fluid as fuel. You don’t want to “overspend” on fuel, and you certainly don’t want to run out. The best way to ensure that you are sticking to your plan is to record what you eat and drink. Keeping a food journal is a great way to improve your diet, lose weight, and maintain weight loss.
When you keep track of your fuel during your training period, you may notice trends. This knowledge can help you after the race too. There are many apps that you can use to track your food and fluid, check out My Fitness Pal: www.myfitnesspal.com
8. Tips for vegetarians
Vegetarian athletes may be at risk for low intakes of energy, protein, fat, and key micronutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, zinc, and vitamin B12 (3).
Planning out a vegetarian regimen should include a variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, and more. For vegetarians, and even those with a meat based diet, vitamin supplements may be used if your food intake does not supply the recommend micronutrient levels.
9. Seek professional advice
Marathoner’s, especially first time goers, may need guidance from nutrition and sports professionals before attempting the 26.2-mile distance (1). You can find an expert on Watchfit that can help you develop a comprehensive marathon training program.
10. Believe in yourself
Taking on the challenge of a marathon is no easy goal, and there will be road blocks and setbacks along the way. There may even be times when you want to give up. A powerful motivation strategy is to engage in positive self-talk. Telling yourself that you believe if what you are doing, and know that you will succeed, will take you one step closer to accomplishing your goal.
1) Dada, Janice. “Marathon Fueling — Runners Need Proper Nutrition and Hydration for the 26.2-Mile Stretch.” Today’s Dietitian, March 2010. Web. November 2014. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030810p36.shtml
2) Mohr, Christopher. “Training for a Marathon? Tips to keep you going.” Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Public Paper, April 2013. Web. November 2014. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442470560&terms=marathon%20training
3) Marcason, Wendy. “Build Muscle, No Steak Required.” Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Public Paper, December 2012. Web. November 2014. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442463961&terms=vegetarian%20athlete