For those of you who run marathons, you push yourself through many hard workouts, give up time with friends and family and prioritize training over other activities. Hopefully you also pay attention to your daily and long run fueling, and are feeling confident as we approach the NYC marathon race this Sunday. Now that you are tapering, you are likely both excited to see your long training runs come to an end, and looking for final ways to help you successfully make it through 26.2 miles. All of the hours of training have ensured that you are prepared for the marathon. Now is the time to trust in the training you have done, and count on rest, recovery and nutrition to help you push your performance even further. What you eat and drink over the next several days can help you maximize your energy and performance on Sunday. We will guide you through the process of optimally fueling up for race day now.
Three days prior (Thursday-Saturday)
Carbohydrates are needed to help fuel your body during your long 5-borough run ahead. Carbohydrate loading is a technique used by athletes to maximize glycogen stores by eating carbohydrate-rich foods. The glycogen stores within your body will be depleted within 90 minutes unless you fuel up before and during your marathon. And despite that fact that the 2 hour marathon barrier has recently been challenged, running a marathon will always take longer than 90 minutes...and a lot longer for many of us.
As you continue to taper your training over these final days, increasing your carbohydrate intake will help you increase your glycogen stores thus increase your available energy and performance on Nov 3rd. In these final few days before your event, you should decrease your overall intake of protein and fiber and increase your carbohydrate intake in their place. In order to gradually increase your glycogen stores.
This is the time where we want you to give yourself the go ahead to skip the vegetables with lunch and/or dinner and decrease your intake of protein in favor of more carbohydrates. Since the long strenuous training is behind you, your protein needs are greatly decreased this week. Swap out some of your usual protein and vegetables for more pasta, bagels, rice and/or potatoes. Again, your mantra this week; Think (and eat!) more carbohydrate heavy meals to help increase your glycogen stores.
Fueling The Night before
You will want to avoid high fat and spicy foods the night (or two) before your marathon, in order to minimize any risk of GI distress they might cause. In addition, avoid introducing any new foods or unfamiliar foods into your eating plan (for the same and hopefully obviously reason). Stick with foods you have been eating over the past weeks and months of training, as you know that you respond well to those foods and that eating them will leave you feeling comfortable when you toe the line on Sunday morning. Again, focus on eating high carbohydrate foods you know that you like AND that sit well in your stomach.
Sodium needs vary widely among athletes because of our widely varied sweat rates as well as a wide range of sodium content in our sweat. Most marathoners will want to increase their sodium intake the night before, to help ensure you are adequately hydrated and ready to sweat on Sunday. Great ways to do this are to include a soup in your meal and lunch or dinner, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on your pasta, drink some tomato/V8 juice or just add some salt to your food.
We all know that fiber is an essential part of our normal diet and long-term health. While this is true as an overall health premise, eating fiber the night before a marathon (or long run) can prove to be problematic for runners. High fiber foods should be avoided in the 2-3 days prior to any endurance event in order to minimize your risk of GI distress and bloating. We know your love your beans and veggies-and we love them too, just give them a pass for a few days and welcome then back into your life on Sunday night. You will be glad you did when your gut is happy on race day.
Pre-marathon breakfast can be especially tricky when running late starting races such as the NYC marathon. Your start time may be as early as 8:30 am or as late as 11:00 am. Since most of you will be up by 5 am, it is important to fuel your body more than once before the race. The good news is that you will be up early enough to eat breakfast with plenty of time to digest it before the gun goes off. For those of you starting at 8:30 am, you will want to focus on eating a carbohydrate rich breakfast by 6-6:30. For everyone else, who is going to be up for more than 3 hours, you'll benefit from eating twice; likely around 5-6am and again 1-2 hours before YOUR start time.
In case you need a reminder, a carbohydrate rich breakfast will help replenish your glycogen stores and ensure you are ready to run your best. Although each athlete is different in terms of which specific foods and amounts they are comfortable eating the morning of a marathon, there are some general guidelines most everyone should follow; nothing new on race day for starters, and choose plenty of low-fat, low-fiber, carbohydrate rich foods. Popular and easy to digest carbohydrate breakfast items include oatmeal, toast, bagels, fruit, crackers and energy bar, or even rice or baked potatoes.
Fueling During 26.2!
Most marathoners should aim for 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Adequate carbohydrate intake will help delay fatigue during your run. Sports drinks generally contain 14 grams of carbohydrates per 8 oz (as is the case for Gatorade Endurance which will be served alone the NYC marathon course). The cups offered at the aid stations will often have only 2-4 oz of Gatorade, providing about 3-7 grams of carbohydrates. The Honey Stinger organic energy gels which will be provided to you at miles 11 & 18 contain 24 grams/pouch. Think through your nutrition plan before race day to ensure you know how much sports drink you plan to drink and where you are going to get all of those much needed carbs. You'll want to fuel early and often-start before you think you "need" to.
Fluid intake for Marathon Day
As you know, It is important to focus on fluids both before and during your race, however this does not mean you need to be chugging countless bottles of water for all 4 hours you are awake on race morning. About 4 hours before your start time, drink 2-4 ml/lb (~10-24 ounces) of fluid. Drink another 8-16 ounces of fluid 2 hours out from your race start.
Once you begin your run, unless you have done sweat testing in training and know you sweat either much more or much less than "average", most marathoners should aim to drink 6-7 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes, which comes out to about 24-28 ounces per hour.
The NYC marathon will have aid stations every mile beginning at mile 4, where you can choose to take and drink either water or Gatorade Endurance. While you are resting your legs on Saturday, you may want to take a few minutes to look at the course map and see where the aid stations are, so you can plan your fueling strategy by mile and landmarks along the course
While most marathoners are more inclined to fall behind their fluid needs during an endurance event such as a marathon, and MOST of you will want to make an effort to stay on top of your hydration, drinking too much, especially too much plain water too early will result in earlier and more frequent bathroom breaks along the course and not better hydration. Do drink sports drinks or take other products containing salt as you practice in training, to ensure you are well hydrated.
We, at Nutrition Energy, are excited for this weekend, and hope that this has helped you in your final preparation before the marathon. If this has brought up any questions or last minute nutrition and hydration concerns, feel free to contact us ASAP so that we can respond to you before Sunday morning.
Remember-Nothing New On Race Day...and Please Listen to your Gut !