Pre/post race foods/drinks
The two/three days before your long run (and your marathon) should be high-carb days. You should make sure that you increase the percentage of carbs in your diet, not the overall calories. Carbo-loading does not mean that you should eat three plates of pasta for dinner! Aim for at least 65% of calories from carbs during those days. You can still have some protein but, for example, instead of having chicken with rice, have rice with chicken. Pasta, steamed or boiled rice, potatoes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and breads are good carb sources. Avoid gas-forming foods like beans and any type of food that may upset your stomach or can interfere with sleep.
When you run for under 90 minutes, most of your energy comes from stored muscle glycogen. If you’re running for longer than 90 minutes, the sugar in your blood and liver glycogen become more important because your stored muscle glycogen gets depleted. Fuelling with carbs during your longer runs will prevent you from running out of energy and help boost your performance.
One way to get carbs on the run is through sports drinks. Solid foods can be tolerated, but they need to be small and easy to digest. There are numerous products on the market, such as gels and bars designed for long-distance runners to eat on the run. Some runners prefer to eat pretzels or sugary candy such as gummy bears or jelly babies.
Start experimenting with different foods, gels, and bars on your long runs to see what you prefer.
So how much do you need to eat on the run? A basic rule of thumb is that you should be taking in about 100 calories after about an hour of running and then another 100 calories every 40-45 minutes after that. You may need more depending on your size and speed, so make sure you carry an extra one or two gels (or other food). If you feel hungry or low on energy, you can definitely consume calories “off-schedule”.
After a workout, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.
You’ll want to consume primarily carbs, but don’t ignore protein. A good rule of thumb for post-run food is a ratio of 1 gram of protein to 3 grams of carbs. Nutrition bars, such as Clif bars or Power bars, are healthy options. Other examples would be a bagel with peanut butter or a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt.