By the number of runners I'm seeing on the roads and trails, and on high school tracks after hours, training for fall races is in high gear! If you’re training for a half or full marathon, you’re in great company as your ramp up the miles in preparation for your big race. But this is also the time to finalize a strong game plan for fueling, because all that training won’t serve you if there’s no gas in your tank.
Your training runs serve as your testing lab for nutrition, so now is the time to test (and test and test!) your options and to answer these questions in the final weeks of your training…
WHAT WILL YOU EAT FOR BREAKFAST ON RACE MORNING?
Classic runners’ breakfasts include toast or a bagel with a smear of peanut butter and a banana, or oatmeal and fruit, but what breakfast feels best to you in terms of fueling AND digestion? On race day, you’re looking for a breakfast with easy to digest carbs and not too much in the way of protein, fiber or fat, and you’ll aim to eat that breakfast close to three hours before the start to allow for digestion. A big factor to consider is where you’ll be on race morning—you may make a very different choice if you’re sleeping in your own bed vs staying in a hotel. More on this topic HERE.
WHAT WILL YOU EAT ON THE COURSE?
Carbohydrates are our most efficient source of fuel, but fully carb-loaded, we can only store enough to power 60-90 minutes of hard effort. It’s easy to see how runners can become depleted and hit the proverbial wall! Thankfully, there’s an huge variety of highly portable, easily digestible carb supplements in the form of drinks, gels, gummies and chews.
If you’re running a half marathon, you may be able to complete the 13.1 miles without eating carbohydrates on the course, but if you’re trying to achieve a personal best, or aiming to prevent feeling totally wrung out at the finish, carb supplements can be a great tool.
Eating or drinking carbs is non-negotiable for the full marathon unless you plan on doing a good bit of walking. Depending on a marathoner’s size (a larger runner needs more fuel) and how hard you’re pushing on the course (walk/run needs less fuel, running at hard effort requires more), full marathoners need to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Consider this math problem of carbs needed per hour, and put together a plan for hitting your number.
More on the variety of sports nutrition and average carb content HERE.
WHAT'S FOR DINNER RACE EVE?
The dinner you eat on the eve of your race should leave you feeling well-fueled and light the next morning, not bloated or heavy. While you’re looking for a good source of carbs, race eve is not the time to pile your plate to the ceiling. You’re looking for a reasonably portioned meal with a decent source of carbs and some protein, but not too much in the way of fat and fiber that could cause GI distress. Again, it's important to consider where you'll be (at home vs away) and what's available.
As you complete the remaining weeks of your training, ask and answer these questions, too:
· Are you eating carbs right after your long runs to speed your recovery and prevent cravings? More on this topic HERE.
· Is your diet full of nourishing foods to rebuild your muscles, including vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, plenty of lean protein (preferably from whole foods, not powders, shakes or bars) and whole grains?
· Are you getting enough sleep?
If your training plan and diet are absolutely perfect, but you’re regularly getting less than 7 hours of sleep, you may be missing out on the training effect. Much of the adaptation from all your work happens in your sleep, so plan your rest the same way you plan your runs—and be consistent!
Here’s to a great training season leading to a fun and successful race day! if you need support in fine tuning your diet to support your goals, talk to a professional like myself to ensure you’re performing at your best.