Half Marathon and Nutrition
I recently started training for my very fist half marathon and have been getting a lot of questions about sports nutrition lately. So I thought it would be good to share the importance of nutrition with endurance sports/exercise. What you eat before, during, and after exercise can impact your performance depending on the type of exercise you're doing. Even if you eat properly outside of these times, but not before, during or after exercise, it still impacts your overall performance. So let's break these down in what is best to eat before, during and after endurance sports.
You want to avoid eating anything in the hour leading up to the race. It best to have a meal 2-3 hours before the race. The meal should be rich in carbohydrate, low in fat and low in protein and fibre to allow for a quick digestion. Carbohydrates will help fuel your muscles and make sure you can complete your race without depleting muscle tissues. Opt for a meal/snack that your body is used to. Definitely don't try something new right before the race as it might upset your stomach. Some examples are:
- Peanut butter and honey or jam on toast and glass of milk
- Fruit and yogurt smoothie and a muffin
- Oatmeal with almonds, milk and a banana
Also, it's important to have have a carb-rich dinner the night before the race to give yourself more energy. Pasta with meat/beans and vegetables is a great option. If you're doing the full marathon, it would be ideal to eat carb-rich meals starting two days before the race. Aim to have 8-10 g carbohydrate for every 1kg (or 2.2 lb) body weight.
For activities lasting longer than 1 hour, you want to rehydrate and refuel with carbohydrate to maintain normal blood sugar. You would need 30 to 60 g of carbs per hour to maintain energy stores. So if you're completing a half marathon in less than 90 minutes, I would suggest eating 1 sports gel/bar half way through to keep you going. If your run will go longer or if you're doing a full marathon, then have 2 gels, spaced out evenly throughout your run. Any sport energy bars or gels are great options.
So you're done the race! Yay!! Now it's important to store energy, repair muscles and re-hydrate. Within 30 minutes of completing your run, you want to supplement with mainly carbohydrate and some protein to help your muscles replenish and recover. For runs longer than 90 minutes, you would need 1.5g carbohydrate per 1 kg (2.2 lb) body weight. Shorter runs don't require as many carbs. Some post-run snacks include:
- One banana and 1 to 2 cups milk
- 2 cups of chocolate milk
- Smoothie with milk, fruit and yogurt
Within one hour after, choose a meal or snack rich in carbohydrate and protein. Here are some examples:
- Grilled salmon or chicken breast with rice and vegetables
- Pasta and meat sauce with salad
- Tofu and vegetable stir fry on rice
Finally, adequate hydration is very important! You want to rehydrate with 16-24 oz of fluids for every pound lost. So that's an average of 2 cups of fluids for every pound lost.
Good luck runners!