Sunday 21st April, just another Sunday in the capital right? No! It’s the London Marathon and many of you reading this will no doubt be participating and those who are watching are very likely to be inspired for next year. The physical training and commitment to participate in any marathon is immense – those of you making it to the start line, we salute you!
As some of the upmysport team know firsthand, one of the big pre- marathon anxieties is how to fuel up before the race, and also how to manage nutrition and hydration along the 26 mile route and to help with recovery afterwards.
Naomi Mead, Nutritional Therapist & Co-Founder of Food First talks us through her top tips.
The big day is approaching. You have endured the COLD, dark, wet, winter evenings pounding the streets, with everyone telling you that you’re completely mad. There have been times where you have most certainly agreed with them. But now you’re less than 2 weeks away, and despite what looms ahead, you know that you’re going to feel pretty damn smug afterwards.
It’s the final push, and you want to get your body into tip top condition; ensuring you’re one of those (mildly irritating) people jumping up and down on the start line…sweatbands and all! And a big part to play in this is your nutrition leading up to race day. Your food and drink intake can strongly influence your performance, and now, just days before your big day, it must be optimal.
So to help you bound over the finish line, we have put together our top tips on how to fuel in the lead up to, and during, the race…
1) Change is not always good– do not try and introduce new foods into your diet in the days leading up to marathon day. You don’t want any risk of discovering something that doesn’t agree with you- the last thing you want on race day is a dodgy stomach! You know your body best, so stick to foods that you’ve eaten before and can easily digest.
2) We wary of your fibre intake – in the days leading up to the race, by avoiding gas-forming foods such as cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower cabbage), beans and pulses.
3) Hydration – In the days leading up to the marathon you want to stay hydrated — but don’t drink obsessively. The colour of your urine is really the best indicator of whether you’re getting this right. If it’s totally clear, you’re drinking too much. If it dark in colour, you’re definitely not drinking enough. Pale yellow is ideal!
4) The right carbs- try to increase your intake to around 8-10g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per day for the week leading up to the marathon to help maximize your glycogen stores. Don’t be tempted to choose sugary, refined foods but instead opt for natural wholefoods that are medium-low on the glycaemic index. Brown rice, fruit such as berries, apples, pears and stone fruits, green leafy vegetables, wholegrain bread and sweet potato are all great options.
5) The Last Supper- keep this simple and resist the urge to overeat. This meal should combine a good source of protein, ideally chicken or fish (avoid red meat which is difficult to digest), with some complex carbs and plenty of steamed veggies. Steer clear of creamy sauces, spices or garlic. Plain is best! Avoid caffeine post 3pm the day before the race to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
6) Marathon day breakfast- make sure you finish your breakfast at least 90 minutes before the start of the race. This should consist of something easily digestible (so nothing high in fat) combining carbohydrate and protein. Most importantly it should be something that you’ve tried and tested in training! Ideas include: a bagel with peanut butter, bowl of porridge with berries, banana with an energy bar.
7) Sports Gels– can be really beneficial for refueling during the race, but don’t wash down with sports drinks; chase with water instead. Putting too much sugar into your system at once can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea.
8) The importance of refueling– you have a window of around 45 minutes post-run when your body is primed to replenish its glycogen stores, and to soak up protein for muscle repair. The guidelines are: 1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight plus 10-20 g of protein. It is also crucial that you replace the fluids you have lost through sweat. Keep monitoring your urine to ensure that you are adequately hydrated in the hours following the race. Resist the temptation to switch straight over to the beers!
And finally GOOD LUCK! We will all be cheering you on very firmly from the sidelines!