What food is best to eat before a Marathon?
YOU’VE already put in all the long hard training runs for the marathon and are hopefully race fit and raring to go. All that’s left now is to give yourself the best chance of performing on the day by banking sleep, hydrating and fuelling up your body.
I’m going discuss my top five pre-marathon foods below but first lets talk about how to carb-load correctly in the days before.
There’s no set rule but I usually start increasing my carbs from lunch on the Thursday, so three days before the marathon. The important thing to remember here is to focus on eating carbohydrate-rich foods, such as wholemeal pasta, bread, potatoes, fruit, fruit juice and sports drinks. Things to avoid or reduce in the run-up include foods which are very high in fibre, or excessively fatty, spicy, and alcohol.
As I’ve said before carb-loading should be gradual. It’s important not to stuff your face with double portions of pasta the night before the run. The last thing you needs race day is to be uncomfortably bloated.
Should you be eating breakfast before a long training run / marathon?
The simple answer is yes, always. Your body requires a huge amount of fuel to complete the distance so even if you’ve been carb-loading never skip breakfast. If possible eat breakfast at least two-to-three hours before the race to allow your system to fully digest the meal. However smaller snacks like training bars and bananas can be consumed within 30 minutes. Word of warning though. Don’t eat anything you’ve not tried out before though.
1) PORRIDGE WITH SLICED BANANA / BLUEBERRIES
Porridge is a runners dream breakfast. It is quick and easy to make and is easy to digest. It is low in fat and has plenty of slow-releasing carbohydrates to aid your run and stop you from being hungry. Most people prefer semi-skimmed milk but dairy free milks such as almond milk or plain water are just as good. Adding bananas increases the carb-intake and bananas contain a healthy dose of potassium which is useful when it is hot and you are sweating. In addition, blueberries are rich in antioxidants and great for your increasing both performance and recovery. Don’t like bananas or blueberries? Then replace with your fruit of choice.
Like porridge, smoothies are easy for the body to digest and perfect for runners who don’t like eating before a race. You can add porridge oats, fruit and milk or coconut water to get the optimum running fuel. Other healthy foods which can be added are a protein powder such as whey protein, vegan protein powders, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, avocado, green powders like spirulina or vegetables like spinach.
3) GRANOLA, NATURAL YOGURT AND FRUIT:
Granola is basically oatmeal that’s been baked. If you prefer to chew breakfast this could be the one for you. Try finding granolas that are free from dried fruits as the sugar content is higher. You can also make your granola easily. Plain natural yogurt is the perfect combination of carbohydrates and proteins and add some berries to give it a sweet tasty nutritional boost.
4) TOAST & TOPPINGS
Your race day breakfast should be low in fat and fibre to help prevent gastrointestinal distress like the runners trots. So on that note today’s the day white toast may be best. You will get all the carbs you need with less fibre.
A perfect topping example is salmon. Studies show omega-3 fats can reduce muscle soreness and improve mood in athletes. Other topping options are nut butters like peanut butter, eggs or ideally sugar free jam, but then again it’s marathon day so feel free to live a little!
5) BEETROOT / BEETTROOT JUICE:
Beetroot is increasingly being touted as an athlete’s super-food. The jury is still out but studies show it could lead to increased performance and speed in runners by improving blood and oxygen flow to the muscles by stimulating nitric oxide in the blood vessels. Anti-inflammatory compounds mean it could also aid recovery. If you don’t want to eat it on it’s own or drink beetroot juice, it can also be added to your smoothie!
6) WILDCARD: BLACK COFFEE
I know I said five foods but my wild card is coffee. The health benefits of coffee continue to be debated but a large black coffee an hour before a long run will do nothing but aid your performance. Claims that it will dehydrate you have been disproved. Plus if you’re like me you will need caffeine to get you and your kit to the start line in once piece and on time. Plus it may help drop off the kids before the huge task ahead which always helps!
By James Ingham
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