It’s always important to eat healthy meals, but more so before a marathon. Your performance can be seriously affected by the food you choose, the quantity you consume and when you eat it.
The main purpose of a pre-marathon meal is to fill the liver with glycogen, especially if it’s a race that starts in the morning. Hepatic glycogen assures energy to the nervous system during the night, so after a night’s sleep, you’ll wake up with the liver half empty of glycogen. The muscle glycogen is only consumed in a small amount due to nocturnal inactivity.
A week before the marathonIt’s good to do ‘carboloading’ before a marathon. A week before the race, you should start raising the carbohydrate intake. The most common thing to do is eat pasta a lot, but if you don’t get along with them, you can try natural juices from fruits, sport drinks and special nutritional supplements. It’s important not to miss any meals and not to eat too much, as you may have stomach problems later on, just before the race, so also keep with foods that you already know agree with you.
You can eat meat, but be careful not to eat from fast-foods. Grilled or roasted meat, for example, will go very well. Also, if you’re on a Paleo diet, you’re going to need to make some adjustments.
48 hours before the marathonTwo days before the race, you should start thinking seriously about hydration, as you need to be fully hydrated, so isotonic beverages are recommended, as they do two things at the same time: ‘carboloading’ and hydration.
You shouldn’t drink alcohol just before the race, but before, studies have shown that if you drink moderately, it won’t influence your results. Still, 48 hours before the marathon, you shouldn’t get near it, as it will affect your chances at a good hydration and the assimilation of glycogen and carbohydrates (coffee isn’t good for hydration either).
As far as food goes, in the last 48 hours, you should avoid ones that are rich in fibers, likes beans, grains and broccoli, fried foods and other heavy foods, for they might cause certain discomforts due to extended effort. If you’re not sure about how your body will react to yoghurt and cheese while sustaining such an effort, you should give them up until after the race, as you don’t want to have cramps and pains.
The ideal moment for a mealThe ideal moment for a pre-marathon meal is approximately four hours before starting, as enough time will remain to digest and store a large amount of energy and there won’t be any risk of it being consumed before the it. Most races begin early in the morning, and as sleep is also important, it’s often impossible to eat breakfast four hours before leaving home. Still, this is not a problem – you can eat two hours before.
The quantity of food you will consume depends on three factors: the duration of the contest, your body size and the moment when you eat. The longer the race and the bigger your body, the more you’re going to have to intake more calories. The more you eat closer to the start, the more you’ll have to reduce the quantity. If you eat four hours before, you’ll be able to consume up to 1000 kcal, two hours before – 300-400 kcal.
What you have to eatAt least 80% of the calories you have to consume at breakfast before a race should come from glucides. The protein and fat intake is not so important now. The type of carbohydrates is also not important. Choose foods and drinks that are easy on the body. Here are some ideas:
- A bagel or a croissant is rich in carbohydrates and easy on the stomach. They can be eaten as they are or with something on top, like a jam or cheese cream.
- Bananas have in their composition almost only carbohydrates (more than 30 grams, a gram of protein and no fat).
- Energy bars like Isostar, Sponser of High5 – rich in carbohydrates, with few fibres, proteins and fat.
- Shakes give a lot of energy in a small volume (like 250 kcal in 40 grams).
- Oatmeal has the same advantage as bananas, having an almost exclusive intake of carbohydrates.
After the marathonIt’s also important to take care of your body after a marathon and give it what it needs to overcome the exhaustion and effort it was put to. Your metabolism needs a boost, but probably not an extra-large meal at a fast-food, but something lighter and healthy. Remember that hydration is also important afterwards, not only during or before!
This being said, take care of your body and have a good race everyone!