As we all know the Beirut marathon is coming up in November, and many of you are planning to participate in this event. How are you going to prepare yourself? Are you going to train for the event? Are you going to run every afternoon? I am sure that most of you have thought of training, but have any of you thought about what you should eat in preparation for the marathon, and during the marathon? And after it?
People often underestimate the importance of a person’s nutrition status in athletic performance. Food is the body’s fuel, and is stored in the body according to its needs. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the body and are the primary source of fuel, which is why marathon runners should do something called carbo-loading two to three days before the race. 60-65% of total calories should come from carbohydrates, proteins should make up 15-20% of total calories, and fat should make up 20-25% of total calories. Fat is also burned for fuel in long-distance runs, and it is essential for the body to keep going. Usually carbo-loading involves consuming carbohydrates and proteins in a ratio of 3:1 respectively. The key is to eat a healthy balanced diet with the correct proportions. Each person has to eat right according to his age, height, weight, gender, and medical status.
Good carbohydrate choices include: Potatoes, yams, beans, peas, wheat bread, bananas, macaroni, spaghetti, cereal, raisins, apples, bagels, syrup, brown rice, corn, apples, carrots and root vegetables. Some good proteins include: Low fat milk, beans, green peas, lean beef, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese, tofu and soy products. For some runners, and especially women who are prone to iron deficiency anemia, monitoring their status and consuming iron rich foods may be helpful.
Another very important issue for runners is to maintain hydration during the run. In the heat runners could use up to 6 liters of water. Make sure you sip on some water every 15 minutes or so. Energy drinks and gels are also effective in providing you with energy, minerals, and electrolytes. When the body becomes dehydrated it will not be able to perform well, and thus you might not be able to continue the race.
The day of the race is here, you wake up early and full of nerves, you open the fridge and you choose fat free milk and cereal? Good option! Remember to eat 2-3 hours before the race. Consume a meal rich in carbohydrates and proteins. During the race you should consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour to extend your exercise ability (Energy drinks, gels, jelly beans, sugar…etc).
Congratulations! You have finished the race! After the race, consume a meal high in carbohydrate and proteins and low in fat to ensure muscle repair, and to replenish glycogen stores, for example pasta and low fat cheese could be a good option.
Your body runs on food, so remember to eat your way to optimal performance!