Many of us wonder what to eat for a Marathon. Do I have to follow a specific diet? My piece of advice, illustrated below, address non professional runners like me, than are not looking looking to achieve any specific performance. Too many amateur runners focus on training, not taking enough care of nutrition, which, in my view, is the most important (you will find here my tips to run your first marathon – clic), having to stop running on D Day because of terribel cramps… If you do not wish thsi to happen , then follow my recommendations, tested avery year when I run the Médoc Marathon – clic !
I try tostabilize my weight. And yes, for every additional kilo you will need 10 more minutes to run your marathon! !
I drink lots of Magnesium-Rich Mineral Waters. This will help you feel 100% (Magnésium) and store all the micronutrients that will limit the risk of cramps on D Day.
I start my Carbo-Loading. No need to have carbs 3 times a day, just for dinner, carbs being also good for tha quality of your sleep (in opposition to proteines). To avoid getting bored, do not hesitate to try different types of carbs: quinoa, rcie (white, brown…), sweet potatoes, spelt, etc. Even coeliac people have plenty of choice. I can also take some Probiotics (yogurts, actimel, etc.) to boost my Intestinal Flora that will be damaged during the marathon (see détails below).
To make my Caro Loading more efficient, I can take some Maltodextrin Drink during every meal to enhance glycogen storage. I stop eating raw Fruit & Veg and I prefer white Rice & Pasta rather than brown to limit fibres (in opposition to what I should do in normal time!). I limit spices that will affect my stomach. As a matter of fact, a very intense effort such as a marathon affects eases digestion too much… I will not go further into details but I am sure you can see what I mean… I also limit fats, that are difficult to digest and I stop eating red meat (lactic acids in meat provocate cramps).
If like me you have a sensitive digestive sysyem, and if you would like to be able to sleep 2 or 3 more hours n the morning, then I recommend avoiding a classic breakfast. A Sports Cake, homemade or not, is the best option. It contains all the energy you will need, is very digestable and can be eaten only 1 to 2 hours before tha race (against 4 hours for a classic breakfast!).
During the race
Do not wait for refuelling stations to drink water! Take a water bottle with you and have 1 or 2 sips every 15 minutes. Your intestine has a limited capacity to assimilate water, so for it to be able to assimilate what you drink, you need to drink small quantities at regular times. Otherwise, everything that comes in goes out right away… I avoid cakes, abananes and any other type of food offered at refuelling stations because they are difficult to digest. Energy gels contain all the salt, sugar and micronutrients you will need to compensate your losses during a marathon. Some even contain some cafein that will have a boosting effect when you feel tired. I recommend about 1 gel every hour. If you do not have a fragile intestine, you can look for sweet & savoury stuff (biscuits, cakes…) with very little fat because fat slows down sugar assimilation, sugar that your really need to finish your marathon…
AFTER THE RACE
Once they have passed the finish line, most runners do not pay any attention anymore, and this can lead to some serious issues in the long run…
Right after the race
Within 30 minutes after the race, even if I really do not feel like eating, I take a Recovery Drink and I eat 1 or 2 Energy Bars. Otherwise be careful with Hypoglycemia! This does not happen during the race only! Your body is very low on suagr after the race.
The following days
I keep drinking loads of water and diuretic drinks (tea, tisanes, etc.). This will help you eliminate toxins, hence reducing aches, and will rehydrate your organism. As a matter of fact, during a marathon you will loose 3 to 5 kg of water that your body will only manage to recover after several days. I gradually integrate fibers again in my diet, starting with cooked/mashed fruit & veg (stewed apple, carrot mash, etc.). I keep eating carbs (Even if I am fed up with it!) because your body needs to refill with glycogen. I eat loads of red meat to help muscle reconstruction. If I really do not like meat, I can use some Spiruline. On average, your body will need 42 days to rebuil muscule fibres and up to 6 months to refill with iron & blood cells… SEE? Now you know why I say that it is very important NOT TO UNDERESTIMATE AFTER-MARATHON NUTRITION….