This post is part of an on-going series on all things marathon training. You can catch up on previous Marathon Monday posts here.
Hi, everyone! How was your weekend?
Today I release my e-cookbook: Eat to Run: 50+ Recipes to Fuel Your Fitness Without Breaking the Bank! The cookbook features nutrition tips, cooking hacks, and healthy recipes ranging from lightened up butter chicken curry and bean-less veggie burgers to overnight yeasted whole grain waffles and cocoa pecan Greek yogurt brownies. It’s on sale this week for $15, so be sure to check it out! You can find a link to it in the Eat to Run tab on the top menu. (Also, thank you so much to everyone for all the support as I made and now sell this cookbook!)
Related to the release of Eat to Run, I want to focus today on that very topic: how to eat to run long distances, specifically the marathon and half marathon. Please note that I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician, and you should always consult a professional for individual concerns.
Optimizing your nutrition throughout marathon training need not be overly complicated, time-consuming, or expensive. Rather, by following a few simple guidelines, you can adapt your own diet preferences to fuel and recover optimally for your best running.
Eat Immediately After A Workout
No matter what time of day you run, refueling is a priority after a workout. Running relies on muscle glycogen for energy; after a run, you have depleted some or most of your glycogen stores and need to consume carbohydrates so your body can adequately replenish the stores. Your body is primed to do this in the hour window after a workout. By replenishing your glycogen stores regularly throughout training will prime you to be well fueled and run your best on race day.
A 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is ideal for replenishing glycogen and jumpstarting muscle recovery. If you run before breakfast, carb-rich breakfasts such as oatmeal or hashes will refuel you. If you run before dinner or lunch, meals with potatoes, rice, whole wheat bread, or other whole grains will provide you with all the good carbohydrates your body needs. In Eat to Run, you will find recipes for recovery meals such as overnight cinnamon chia oats or vegan brown rice pilaf.
Marathon nutrition is not just about eating enough calories and carbohydrates to fuel your body for all those miles. You need to make sure that you are eating the right types of carbs and calories. While, as I’ll talk about more in a moment, you do not want to completely deprive yourself, a majority of your diet should come from vegetables, fruits, lean protein, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals that your body needs for basic function and for best athletic performance. Magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, sodium, and omega-3s are only some of the nutrients that your body requires even more of during training. That said, healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring! Fruits and vegetables abound in variety, especially if you eat seasonally. There are numerous whole grains, from brown rice to teff to amaranth, and you can get protein from red meat, poultry, eggs, beans, and fish. There are endless options for eating a healthy diet full of a variety of nutrients.
A recent Runners Connect podcast touched on this issue, which is something I personally experienced during this marathon training cycle. As our bodies endure training stress from running high mileage and completing difficult workouts, our stomachs can become more sensitive to certain foods. These foods may not always irritate us during low volume training periods, but a heightened awareness of our bodies during training and the stress lots of running can place on our gut makes these sensitives more noticeable. An upset stomach or GI distress can make for an unpleasant run and a bad day overall, so you want to avoid the foods that can cause this upset.
Dairy is frequently one of these foods. I noticed about a month into marathon training that even the milk in my oatmeal would upset my stomach within an hour. Sure enough, cutting out milk and lowering my intake of cheese eliminated most of these problems. I found that I could still tolerate goat cheese, thanks to its lower lactose content. Since I know many other runners will cut back on dairy due to sensitivity, many recipes in Eat to Run, such as the chicken and mushroom stuffed acorn squash, include goat cheese instead of cheeses made from cow’s milk.
Focus on Gut Health
I have previously preached about the benefits of probiotics for runners, but it bears repeating. Probiotics are microorganisms that live in our guts and impact digestive health. The physical stress from marathon training can cause an imbalance of gut bacteria that can negatively affect your recovery, athletic performance, and overall health. Thankfully, it’s easy to incorporate probiotic-rich foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut, sourdough, and Greek yogurt. You can even make your own sauerkraut at home, as I share a recipe for it in Eat to Run! Prebiotics also aid in the growth and maintenance of good bacteria. Garlic, onions, mushrooms, and bananas are a few of the many foods that will supply you with prebiotics. One of the recipes in Eat to Run is what I call my “good gut pizza” because it features a probiotic-rich whole wheat sourdough crust and is topped with prebiotic-rich mushrooms, garlic, and caramelized onions and a low-lactose goat cheese.
Let Yourself Indulge Sometimes
Indulging from time to time is both mentally and physically beneficial. You don’t want to deprive yourself to the point where you break and go on an all-out binge, and you also want to reward yourself occasionally for your hard work. Even treats can offer nutritional benefits, as beer, wine, and cocoa all provide antioxidants. By letting yourself eat what you crave for 15-20% of your daily intake, you can better adhere to healthy eating for most of your diet.
There most certainly is nothing wrong with indulging in cookies or donuts (I know I do!), you can also adapt your favorite treats to lighter, healthier versions with just a few substitutions and tricks. Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and applesauce all make treats healthier (which means you can enjoy them daily!) by cutting calories, fat, and sugar without sacrificing taste or texture.
Portland Marathon Training Week 16
Monday: 10 miles: 1 mile warm up, 4 x 1.5 miles in 11:21, 11:09, 11:09, 11:08, 1 mile cool down.
Tuesday: 6 miles recovery on hills, 9:45/mile (last mile with Charlie), followed by foam rolling and 25 minutes of Pilates.
Wednesday: 12 miles: 1 mile warm up, 10 miles at marathon pace (7:53/mile), 1 mile cool down.
Thursday: 5 mile hilly run, 9:41/mile, followed by foam rolling and 20 minutes of recovery yoga.
Friday: 10 miles easy, 8:57/mile.
Saturday: AM: 10 miles on the treadmill, 8:40/mile, 0-2% incline. PM: 4 miles of hiking in the Issaquah Alps.
Sunday: rest day.
This week was the first week of taper, so I totaled 53 miles.
Questions of the Day:
How do you adjust your nutrition for marathon or half marathon training?
Did anyone race this weekend?
How did your running go this week?