By Stellerie Noyons, RD
Registered Dietician, Health City Cayman Islands
With only a few weeks leading up to the Cayman Islands Marathon, your training plan is probably well underway. But what about the fuel powering that plan? Training for a marathon means more than just putting in the miles. Having your nutrition dialed in, pre, during, and post-race is equally important to increasing energy levels, preventing dehydration and optimizing your recovery time. The good news is that by following a few simple fuel rules, you can ensure a positive, successful running experience all the way from here to the finishing line.
The weeks before a race
As a runners’ training mileage increases, so do their protein needs. Upping your protein intake helps you do build muscle, recover quickly and avoid injury. Good sources of protein include chicken, fish or eggs, as well as tofu, tempeh, beans and lentils.
Additionally, since running (and exercise in general) produces free radicals from the extra oxygen intake, runners should increase their antioxidant intake to protect against free radical damage. Aim to consume at least eight servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables per day, such as green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, carrots, berries, red cabbage and beets.
Consuming at least 2-3 servings of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines per week adds the inflammation-fighting power of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to alleviate muscle soreness and boost immunity.
Although runners do require a higher carbohydrate intake to saturate the muscles with glycogen, it is not necessary to follow an extreme carbo-loading regime prior to a race. Simply aim to have a carbohydrate source as part of every balanced meal, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice or pasta. If you frequently suffer from gastro-intestinal problems, reduce your fiber intake to a minimum the day before the race.
Exactly what you eat for breakfast may depend on personal preferences. Some people run really well on a couple of bagels and a coffee, others prefer oatmeal, energy bars or a banana. Whatever you select, aim for at least 100 grams of easily digestible carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of protein (achieved by adding peanut butter to the bagel or milk to the oatmeal).
The best timing is about 3 to 4 hours before the start. If you don’t suffer from gastrointestinal distress, 2 to 3 hours before might still work. And don’t forget to hydrate! Consume at least 10oz of water or a sports drink, two hours before the race.
An hour before the start
While anxiously waiting for the race gun to fire, take a few sips of water or snack on an easily digestible carbohydrate source such as dates, jelly beans, gummy bears or energy gels. Remember that whatever you consume minutes before the race will take some time to absorb, so don’t overdo it.
During the race
A correct carbohydrate, fluid and electrolyte balance is vital to a successful run lasting more than 45 minutes. Since digestion slows during exercise, easily digestible carbohydrates, low in fat and protein are usually recommended. Some popular items include: sports drinks, sports bars, pretzels, gummy bears or energy gels. Ideally, you should use these items during your training, and get your body used to a specific product. Avoid trying something new on race day, in case you don’t tolerate it!
Fluid intake during race day should match losses. Aim for 5 to 7oz of fluid every 15 minutes during exercise. Replacing electrolytes can be done by drinking sports drinks or fruit juices, usually provided on the road during race day. Be careful not to drink too much water, as this can results in diluted sodium levels, which can be fatal.
You’ve crossed the finish line and it’s time to celebrate! But don’t forget to consume fluids containing electrolytes immediately post run, such as a sports drink, chocolate milk or fruit juice, as well as a recovery snack consisting of both carbohydrates and protein within 30-45 minutes of finishing.
Health City Dieticians Stellerie Noyons and Kay-lee Bright will be giving a presentation of “On Your Mark, Get Set, Eat” on Saturday, December 5th at 11:30am at the Westin Grand Cayman.