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Fueling for a Marathon

15:30 January 23, 2015
By: 2Fik

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint...

With the Rock and Roll Marathon just around the corner, now is the time to think about strategies for race day.  If you are running the full or half marathon you have undoubtedly put in countless hours training and preparing your body to conquer this rigorous task and the last thing you want is to not be able to perform at your best on race day.  With a few simple strategies, good nutrition, and listening to your body, you will be ready to hit those PR’s on race day!

1. Train your body to use glycogen efficiently
Roughly three out of every four marathon participants run the second half of the race at least two minutes slower than the first. Many runners slow down even more dramatically after the 20-mile mark, where the wall typically hits. The most common reason is muscle glycogen depletion. Glycogen is the fuel your body uses for energy and is derived from dietary carbohydrates. If you run the first half of the race even one percent too fast, you risk depleting your glycogen levels. Finishing a marathon without hitting the wall requires storing and conserving enough glycogen fuel to avoid running out of it somewhere between 20 and 26 miles.  You won’t burn through glycogen stores as quickly if you train adequately and maintain a consistent pace. 

2. Stay hydrated before and during the race.
In the days leading up to the marathon you want to stay hydrated — but overdue it.  If your urine is totally clear, you’re drinking too much. If it looks like iced tea, you’re not drinking enough. Pale yellow is ideal.

The morning of the marathon drink about 8 to 16 ounces of fluid to remain hydrated — but stop drinking one hour before the start to avoid pit stops early in the race.

Plan to drink 3 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes which averages out to a cup every other mile.  If it is very hot on race day increase your fluid intake by sipping sports drinks in addition to water to help restock energy stores replace the electrolytes you lose in sweat.

Develop a plan ahead of time so you know what and when you’ll eat and drink including drinking and consuming calories within 45 minutes to an hour after the start. If you wait too long, you might become dehydrated or run out of steam early in the race.

Most marathoners run the second half at least 2 minutes slower. The most common reason is glycogen depletion.

3. Chase your energy gels with water.
Gels are a great way to get an easy source of fuel during the race without slowing you down.  If you take gels with a sports drink you risk putting too much sugar in your gastrointestinal tract at once, which can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea.  

4. Don’t eat anything new.
You know your body best, so in the days leading up to the marathon stick to foods you’ve eaten before and that you know your stomach can easily digest. Eating high-carb foods, such as pasta, rice, and potatoes will ensure your glycogen stores are stocked for race day, but don’t consume more calories than you normally would.

Start your recovery early.
Refueling after the marathon is essential to help your body recover quickly. Eat or drink about 200 or 300 calories of carbohydrates and some protein within an hour of finishing the marathon, such as a banana with peanut butter.   The carbs refuel your muscles with glycogen, and the protein will help repair your muscles. Eat a full meal as soon as you are able to continue the recovery process. And remember to slowly drink fluids to rehydrate after you cross the finish line



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