Article by: Dr Nilesh Gautam, Senior Interventional Cardiologist and Head of the Department of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.
Step 1 – Basic Nutrition Needs
Ensure the basic diet needs of the marathon runner are met – this is the foundation of any sports nutrition plan. Eat a variety of food from each of the four major food groups each day (breads and cereals; vegetables and fruits; milk, dairy products and milk substitutes, especially low-fat varieties; lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and meat substitutes like lentils, chickpeas, soy beans and other beans).
Step 2 – Training
Marathon runners need to plan for increased nutrition requirements during training. The training diet holds the most potential for improving your marathon performance.
- Vegetables and fruits (recommended serves – 2 fruit & 3 vegetables)
- Breads and cereal (recommended serves – 6)
- Milk, dairy products and milk substitutes (recommended serves – 2)
- Meat and meat substitutes (recommended serves – 1)
- Fluids (recommended serves – 8 cups)
Step 3 – Competition
Marathon runners need to develop their own diet strategy for competition. This is when you will implement the diet plan that you have practiced in training.
provides the most readily available superior source of fuel or “energy” for muscles to use. Athletes should consume 55-70% of their energy from carbohydrate (5-10 g per kg of body weight per day), depending on their sport.
provides the body’s building blocks. Athletes should consume 15% of their energy from protein (0.8-1.7 g per kg of body weight per day), depending on their sport.
provides the body’s most concentrated energy source. Athletes should try to keep their fat intake low.
are essential to regulate temperature and prevent dehydration. Athletes should drink fluid before, during and after exercise. There are many fluids athletes can choose. Sports drinks are specifically designed for efficient rehydration. The optimum composition for sports drinks is 4-8% carbohydrate and 500-700 mg/litre of sodium.
is an essential element. A well planned diet will provide sufficient iron.
intake is important to ensure peak bone mass and maintenance of strong bones.
Good nutrition will help you maximize your training and your competition performance. Your nutrition on competition day is just fine-tuning of your training nutrition.
On race day as well as on the previous night, make sure that you don’t have anything exotic in your stomach. Your pre-marathon breakfast should be identical to and should have the same amount of “lead time” as your breakfast during your training runs. That way you can concentrate completely on the race itself and not on your belly.
If you are running the full marathon make sure you replenish your sugar stores actively during the race as well.