A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook page if they had any questions about training, racing, or any aspect of running. People asked several great questions and I thought I would answer them here as well and start a recurring post of “Ask a Running Coach.” Today’s questions focus on hydration during races, protein intake, and collagen supplements.
How should I hydrate during a marathon or half marathon?
Every runner is different, so the exact amount should be determined based on individual needs, weather, and level of exertion. While the claim that a 2% loss of body mass due to dehydration impairs performance has been contested in the past few years, dehydration will not help you race your best and can lead to problems during and after the race.
My advice to my athletes balances Tim Noakes’ suggestion to drink to thirst and the traditional guidelines: drink to thirst at each aid station and alternate water and electrolyte drinks (or take electrolyte supplements). You do not want to dig yourself into a hole of dehydration, especially in a marathon. However, you do not want to risk hyponatremia (dilution of the blood). By assessing your thirst at each aid station, you are staying in tune with your body’s signals, rather than possibly ignoring thirst during the first few miles of a race.
How much protein should long distance runners eat?
Carbohydrates (or for some runners, fat) is the popular macro nutrient for a majority of runners – and you certainly don’t want to skimp on either carbs or fat. Recent research indicates that long distance runners need more protein than previously thought – according to a 2016 study using runners, 1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight provides enough protein to support the level of activity.
Ideally, your protein intake should be spread equally throughout the day. Research indicates that the body can only synthesize 30 grams of protein in a single meal, so aim for 20-30 grams of protein at meals and 10-20 grams at snacks, depending on how much protein you need.
Should I take collagen supplements?
Collagen is a type of protein that supports bone, tendon, and ligament health. The theory behind collagen supplements is that they support repair and maintenance of your bones and tendons. However, your body does not take the protein and deliver it whole directly to your bones and tendons. Rather, your body breaks down the individual amino acids. Additionally, even if you did digest the collagen protein whole, injuries aren’t repaired by a simple copy-and-paste of a molecule.
By eating enough protein and prioritizing complete proteins (either meat sources or combinations such as grains and beans), your body will get the amino acids it needs to maintain and repair healthy bones and tendons. Collagen supplements are not harmful, just simply not the best use of your money.
What questions would you ask a running coach?