Wednesday Wisdom from Framar Health Marathon Countdown

01 May 2019

Wednesday Wisdom with Sarah Trimble Nutrition from Framar Health, providing expert nutritional advice & recipes to help support your marathon training.

The countdown to the marathon has begun and with race day only 4 days away it is time to start planning what to eat in the days before the race and how to make sure your body is prepared for covering those 26.2 miles.

Carb-Loading: the key dietary change to make in the days before the marathon is to significantly increase your carbohydrate intake. This is called carb-loading and it is an eating strategy to ensure that our stores of glucose (called glycogen) are topped up. Glycogen is converted to glucose as we exercise and provides the energy to sustain endurance events such as marathons. By consuming a high carbohydrate diet in the 2-3 days before a marathon you can be sure that your glycogen stores are at their best.

The main rule is to aim to consume 8-10g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight each day you are carb loading. So a 70kg runner should consume between 560g and 700g of carbohydrates. The main source of this intake should come from carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes and oats – aim to have a serving of these foods at every meal. Try and have a number of carbohydrate-rich snacks throughout the day as well, great snack ideas include: bananas, flapjacks, toast or bagels, dried fruit (e.g. dates) and dried fruit and nut bars (e.g. Nakd bars or Deliciously Ella energy balls).

Get more shut-eye: in the days before the marathon getting adequate sleep is essential to ensure your body is ready for race day. While nerves the night before the race can disturb sleep on that night try and ensure that you’ve had at least 7-8 hours sleep every night in the week prior - so don’t plan any nights out or binge on a Netflix series. Sleep is essential for muscle repair and numerous clinical trials have shown that improved sleep can support athletic performance as much as nutrition and training. If you are struggling to sleep or switch off a bath with Epsom salts or Magnesium bath salts and lavender oil can both promote relaxation and support muscle health. Active Edge Cherry Juice is a natural source of melatonin and has been shown to support sleep patterns.

Go alcohol-free: if you haven’t already cut back on alcohol consumption it is time to avoid it completely for the next few days. We store energy in the form of glycogen in the liver and avoiding alcohol prior to a race can ensure that our liver is in the best shape to deliver this energy. If you really feel you are missing out - a study at Munich University found that consumption of a non-alcoholic wheat beer actually improved performance in marathon runners – so you could treat yourself to an Erdinger Alkoholfrei – it is an isotonic drink and can be used for exercise recovery.

Race Day Breakfast: breakfast should be eaten about 3-4 hours before the race begins so set your alarm for an early breakfast. Have a carbohydrate based breakfast (oats or toast are ideal options) and mix it with some protein (eggs, milk or greek yoghurt) and some good fats (avocado, nuts, peanut butter) for a balanced breakfast that offers sustained energy release. Great options include: porridge with banana and mixed nuts, granola with berries and greek yoghurt or toast with poached eggs and avocado. If you can’t face a full breakfast a banana and berry based smoothie with added protein powder is a great option to get you started.

Don’t try anything new on Race Day: even with carb-loading you will need to use both energy gels and energy drinks to provide easily available energy and hydration to keep you going during the race (start refuelling about 60 minutes in). It is important to plan refuelling during the race so familiarise yourself with the route and where the energy stations are. Don’t introduce any new foods, gels or drinks that you have never tried before on race day, you don’t know if they will agree with you and you don’t want digestive symptoms impacting performance on race day. The Belfast City Marathon will be providing Powerade energy drinks and Hi5 energy gels, if you are planning on using these make sure you sample them beforehand.