Foods To Eat To Prepare For A Marathon

Foods To Eat To Prepare For A Marathon

Yes, it’s that time of the year. Runners in Malaysia (and beyond) will be glad to hear that the annual Penang Bridge International Marathon is back! Marathoners will be given a t-shirt upon registration and medals if they complete the run within the allocated time. The full marathon is at a distance of 42.195 km while the half marathon is at a distance of 21 km.

For first-timers and even seasoned runners, training and warm-up before the actual race is recommended to avoid injury. Not only that, nutrition and diet are also essential to make sure you don’t run out of energy or “hit the wall” halfway through the event.

The Week of the Run

The golden rule of nutrition is to have nothing new during race week. In the training process and months leading up to the race, you should have a regular training diet that you are accustomed to. It is recommended that you stick with foods that you are familiar with as you know what sits well with your gut. Many runners usually increase their carb intake by “carb-loading,” which is to increase the carbohydrate intake while maintaining the total calorie intake. This means that instead of consuming large meals or stuffing yourself with carbs the night before, aim to increase the carbohydrates in your diet while reducing protein and fat intake.

Besides, marathoners should undergo moderate training and avoid intense and long periods of running. This is to prevent injury and avoid overworking yourself, resulting in sore muscles on the day of the run. Note that, runners should avoid big and heavy meals for at least 2 days before the race as this could lead to runners feeling bloated and lethargic.

Some suggestions for car-loading are:

  • Smoothies
  • Potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Turkey or salmon sandwich or sub
  • Sushi rolls
  • Pancakes with a side of egg whites
  • Homemade granola

24 Hours Prior to Run

As the Penang Bridge International Marathon begins at 1.30am, the last proper meal taken by runners should be dinner. Do keep in mind that food takes about 5-6 hours to be entirely digested so runners should take their dinners early. Runners should still be carb-loading but not take foods in high amounts. Avoid overeating as food will just sit in your stomach and may cause gastrointestinal distress while running. Avoid food with high fats as fats take longer to be digested. Foods that are high in fibre should likewise be avoided as fibre cannot be absorbed, and the exertion of running may cause a stomach upset. 

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbages should be avoided on the day of the run. This is because the sulphurous compounds in the aforementioned greens can cause gassiness and bloating. Raw vegetables and seafood should be eaten with caution, as some may find those foods irritating. On the day of the run itself, you may also choose to eat lighter meals for every couple of hours to consume plenty of carbs without overeating.

Runners should also remember to stay hydrated and fill up on your stores of electrolytes in your body. Water is the obvious choice for hydration. Still, numerous sports drinks such as Gatorade, 100 Plus and Pocari Sweat are great options for electrolytes. Adding some salt to your food will definitely help since sodium is an electrolyte as well.

Suggested foods:

  • A palm-sized portion of grilled fish or chicken with rice
  • Homemade stir-fry with lean meat, fish or veggie over white rice (Avoid cruciferous vegetables and use less oil)
  • Pasta (without the creamy sauce but with pesto or tomato sauce)
  • Oatmeal with honey
  • Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes

3-4 hours Prior to Run

Pick easily digestible foods. Remember to keep hydrated as it’s difficult to replenish fluids if your body is already running on empty at the start of the race.

  • Bagel with banana and peanut butter
  • Oatmeal with honey
  • Banana, protein bar and skim milk
  • 1 cup of berries with low-fat cottage cheese
  • Plain Greek yoghurt and peach
  • Waffles with maple syrup

15 minutes Before Race

Consuming a high-carb snack or energy bar will act as an immediate source of energy for the start of the race. At the beginning of the run, you mustn’t be hungry, but you should not be stuffed as well. Running on a full stomach will give you cramps and stitches, leaving you incapacitated right from the start. Besides, caffeine gives you an extra boost as well. Don’t go overboard with it, especially if you don’t usually drink caffeinated drinks.

  • Sports Drink
  • Raisins
  • Banana
  • Energy Bar

During the Event

Pack some energy gels or sports drinks to enhance your endurance and provide fuel for your body. It’s essential to drink at every aid station, but the amount varies depending on the individual and weather conditions.

Well, that it’s from me. But do remember that it’s important to train consistently and to warm up before any race. A delicate balance has to be achieved to ensure that your body is prepared to give its optimum performance during a workout.

It’s important to keep in mind; every athlete is different – ever their gut. So, you might have to go through some trial and error until you find what works for you.  Happy running!

Article Written By Marcovy

Marcovy is a passionate writer who thinks life is about living to eat and enjoying it to the fullest. He wanted to explore the restaurants around Malaysia and the idea of documenting those food experiences was what inspired him to start writing food blog.

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