Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Whether it is a marathon, half marathon or 5k charity race, it's important to know how best to fuel your body when you're training.
You should be trying to consume a wide variety of healthy foods containing good carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats as this will provide the essential nutrients your body needs. Drinking plenty of water is also important for optimum athletic performance.
It's important to make sure the foods you have available to you at home are the right ones, try stocking your kitchen cupboards with real whole foods providing nutrients rather than empty calories. Basic nutrient-dense foods will help improve your health, fitness, and prepare you for half marathon training.
Carbs v Fat
Your body uses both carbohydrates and fat for energy. During aerobic exercises, such as running, wther your body carbohydrates or fat mainly depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise together with your fitness level and your pre-exercise diet
Generally speaking, the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more your muscles will be relying on carbs, whereas lower intensity, shorter runs can easily be fueled by fat. For example, if you were to go for a long walk or light jogs (under 30-45 minutes) you will mostly using fat for energy.
Mara Yamauchi is the UK’s second-fastest female marathon runner of all time and a two-time Olympian.Here are her tips on the best way to fuel yourself for the big day:
Fruit & vegetables: eat plenty of, and a variety of fruit and vegetables – many are full of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium, which are critical for the body to function normally
Breakfast: always eat breakfast. After a night asleep, your body will need energy. Eating a good breakfast sets you up for the day and helps to avoid cravings for sugar or caffeine later in the day.
Variety: this is fundamental in nutrition ie eating a wide variety of foods consistently. For example, have different things for breakfast each day, and try to eat a wide variety of food stuffs at each meal. Also do not restrict your diet (eg cutting out meat/dairy etc) unless you have a good reason to do so, but if you must, then make special effort to get the nutrients you are missing by restricting your diet from other sources.
A balanced diet: make sure you eat a balanced diet and everything in moderation. ‘Balanced’ means a variety of foods but also not too much of one particular food. It is easy to find your diet lacking balance if you have a restricted diet or allergies/intolerances, so ensure you target a variety of the foods which you can eat.
Nutritious foods: highly nutritious foods should be top of your list! These include oily fish, green leafy vegetables, colourful vegetables, nuts and seeds, berries, whole-grains and shellfish. These provide high nutritional value compared to other foods, and a lack of them could lead to deficiencies in important vitamins or minerals.
After training: always eat or drink something within 20 minutes of training – this is when your body is hungry for nutrients and absorbs them quickly. If it is not practical to eat a proper meal within 20 minutes, then eat a snack (eg banana, sandwich) or drink a protein-carbohydrate drink, followed later by a proper meal.
Water is always important, but even more so when you are exercising. You should aim to hydrate before you train and then top up with around 6-8 ounces of water every 20 minutes or so during the race.
Be careful not to over drink as well, just a few sips is fine whilst you are running as it will replace the fluids your body loses when sweating, but drinking too much can lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches, vomiting and worse.
Sports drinks provide carbohydrates and electrolytes such as sodium, which is lost through sweat so it is important to replace them on long runs. However, it's a good idea to test these out early on in your training and dilute them with water until you find a good level that works for you
On the day
On the morning of race day, have the same breakfast as you have had before and that you know helps you when running. Now is not the time to suddenly try a fancy breakfast you have read or heard about. This can cause no end of problems and totally ruin your race.
Your body will be running low on stored glycogen after about 75 minutes of running, so unless you’re extremely fast, you will definitely benefit from something like an energy gel within the first hour, especially if you're running a half marathon for instance.
Gels won't necessarily give your legs a boost but they will wake up your brain. It's quite common for runners to go into a kind of 'foggy haze' on a long run and using an energy gel will literally give you a wake up call and help you feel more energised.
Again, try experimenting with the different gels available during your training as some will work better than others and some will just taste awful! 6 miles in to a half marathon is not the time to realise you hate the taste of the energy gel you have chosen 😀
After your run
As soon as you can after finishing a long run you should try replenishing some energy with some simple carbs such as a banana or apple (which are quite often given out at the finish line). Then within the next hour try something rich in protein such as a drink of chocolate milk.
Later that day, don't be afraid to treat yourself. Once you have replenished the boys supply of carbs, protein and electrolytes, have something extra tasty - you deserve it!
Whatever distance you're planning to run, it's always further than everyone who is still on the sofa! If you've never taken part in a run, but have always fancied the idea there are lots out there for you to choose from.
We would LOVE for you to join us for a 5k charity walk/jog/run in November in aid of the Royal British Legion Remembrance Day. Get Fit Today are hosting this event in Abington Park and hope to attract hundreds of participants. Bring your children, your dog and your parents and raise some money for a great charity at the same time.
Drop us an email or message our Facebook page for more details on how to take part. 👍