Marathon Diet Plan For Training

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Marathon diet plan for training can be a challenging task for all runners especially for a beginner. 1st time runner need extended time and endurance to prepare themselves for the marathon event as well as have a stronger body to survive the run. They should have enough energy, stamina and strength in order to perform well in their running events but at times it doesn’t always happen.

How to Fuel Your Body Best During Marathon Training

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A marathon is a running event with a distance of 42.195 km, or about 26.2 miles. That is a long distance for your body to run in a single race. In order to optimize your marathon performance, you need to train well in advance — and training doesn’t just involve weeks of running. Nutrition is an important part of training for a marathon, too. 

The food you consume in the weeks — and more importantly, days — leading up to race day can make or break your performance. If you’re training for a marathon, you want to follow a proper nutrition plan. 

Don’t know where to start? Keep reading to learn how to fuel your body best during marathon training. 

What should I eat while training for a marathon or a half marathon?

First things first: you need to make sure your diet includes enough calories to support increased activity. If you participate in moderate to intense activity each day (which you should be if you’re training for a marathon), then you need to consume at the very least 2,000 calories per day. This is on the low end of the spectrum — according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), a 110-220-pound athlete could need up to 7,000 calories per day in order to support the amount of activity required for marathon training. It’s often recommended that runners training for a marathon should consume 19-21 calories per pound of bodyweight for 1–1.5 hours of strenuous activity per day. If your training schedule calls for 2-3 hours of strenuous activity, then this amount may need to be bumped up to 22-24 calories per pound of bodyweight. If you’re up to 3+ hours of running per day, caloric intake for marathon training should increase to around 25-30 calories (or more) per pound of bodyweight.

Your calories shouldn’t just come from anywhere — you need to eat a well-balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Though unhealthy drinks and snacks may make it easy to meet your calorie goals, a diet of soda and sugar will not lead to optimum performance. 

In general, Gainful suggests aiming to stay around the range of 45-60% of calories from carbohydrates, 15-30% from fat and 10-25% from protein, but for marathon runners, an ideal macronutrient breakdown might be closer to 55-60% carbohydrate, 20% fat and  20-25% protein. If you’re an endurance athlete, your body is burning through a lot of fuel during your workouts, so this means you’ll need higher stores of carbohydrates than you would if you were mainly strength training or doing HIIT workouts. 

Using these caloric and macronutrient guidelines, create a meal plan filled with healthy whole foods. To ensure your body is properly fueled throughout the entire day, you should have at least three meals and two snacks per day. Breakfast might look like oatmeal made with low-fat milk or nut milk with a sprinkle of protein powder and a side of fruit, or a piece of whole wheat toast topped with natural peanut butter, avocado or eggs and a side of berries. Your morning and afternoon snacks might be an apple and pretzels with peanut butter or Greek yogurt topped with granola. Then for lunch, you could have beans, salmon, chicken, lean beef — any form of healthy protein. Make sure you get in some veggies and fats. (A salad with olive oil and shredded cheese could do the trick.) Then for dinner, you could have more healthy protein with brown rice, sweet potatoes or quinoa and veggies with butter. 

You can get creative with your training meal plan, so long as you meet your caloric and nutrient needs. 

Carbohydrate recommendations for marathoners

Carbohydrates play an especially important role in marathon training. (Just ask any marathoner who has taken part in a pasta dinner the night before race day!) 

Carbs are a great source of energy, and you need a lot of energy to cover 26.2 miles. According to the ISSN, athletes following intense running schedules need to eat between 5-8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per day (5-8/kg/d) during training. 

Many marathon runners partake in “carb loading.” That’s because most carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is your body’s most easily-accessible form of energy, and it’s what helps keep your body going during long runs.  

When it comes to carb loading, remember: Timing is everything. You don’t need to load up on carbs if you’re still in the short distances phase of your training. As you start building up to longer runs (around six weeks before race day), you can begin to practice carb loading. Start eating more carbs and less fat and protein. This will help you get a sense of which carb-heavy meals agree with your stomach during a run — incredibly useful information on race day. The last thing you want to do is scarf down your pasta dinner the night before your race only to discover your stomach disagrees with the sauce. 

One week before the race, start stocking up on the carbs you’ll need before your race, during the race and after. Think easy-to-digest carbs like energy bars, energy gels, energy chews, sports drinks, electrolyte drinks or crackers. When you’re two or three days away from the race, you’ll want to switch to a super carb-heavy diet. Getting 70% of your total calories from carbohydrates three days leading up to your marathon will help maximize your stored carbohydrate in muscles (glycogen) and help boost your performance. The night before the race, you can indulge in your pre-race pasta, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to wake up on race day with a heavy, full stomach. Then three hours before the start of your race, eat around 150 grams of carbs — you can get your carbohydrates through toast, a bagel, oatmeal or a smoothie. 

By strategically eating carbs leading up to the race, your body will be primed to store and use glycogen to get you through your marathon. 

Foods and drinks to avoid during marathon training

As you know from above, it’s important to make sure you’re eating more calories while training, but eating more of the wrong foods can slow you down. When your fuel is cleaner, less processed and overall healthier, you’ll find improvements in your performance. 

When training for a marathon, you should avoid sugary sodas, energy drinks that contain stimulants and caffeine as the primary source of energy, spicy foods, deep fried foods and highly processed foods. ?Because the body requires more energy to digest fatty foods, consuming excess fats on race day could cause your performance to suffer. The key is to consume foods that are easy on your stomach and give your energy levels a boost (but you want natural energy — sugary energy drinks don’t count). Swap water or a hydration formula for sodas and energy drinks; swap easy-to-digest carbs for extra creamy or spicy foods; swap whole foods for fried foods or processed foods. If you have a history of gastrointestinal problems or gastrointestinal distress, you may also want to avoid dairy on the day of the race and the days leading up to the race. Many marathoners also skip their morning coffee on race day, as it is diuretic. 

Cutting out high-fat, fried foods will make all the difference in your marathon training. 

What should I eat on race day morning?

After eating a carb-heavy meal the night before running a marathon, you’ll want to keep up the carb loading on race day morning. Make sure you have easy-on-the-stomach carbohydrates at least an hour before the race. Some suggestions include a smoothie, a banana with peanut butter, toast and jam, a bagel with nut butter, a granola bar, or a bowl of fruit. 

Do not introduce new or unfamiliar foods into your diet on race day, as you don’t want to take the chance of having to deal with unexpected stomach issues as you run your marathon.

What should I eat and drink during a marathon? 

You might be tempted to skip the snacks during the marathon and power through your run. According to data from the research center at RunRepeat, an athletic footwear review site that analyzed 107.9 million race results from over 70 thousand events in 209 countries between 1986 and 2018, the average marathon race finish time is currently 4:32:49. Whether your time falls before or after that, 4+ hours of nonstop running is a lot of time for your body to keep moving. You’ll want to properly fuel your body with food during the marathon. Aim to have 30-60 grams of simple carbohydrates per hour. These carbs can come from sports drinks, energy bars, energy gels, energy chews and bananas. You don’t have to stop and eat — just take small bites as you continue your run. A good rule of thumb is to take in a dose of carb fuel every 20-30 minutes and follow that with three swigs of your water bottle or hydration pack beginning 15 minutes before the start of the race. If you are taking this fuel in from sports drinks containing carbs, you get two-for-one fuel and hydration; if you take a gel, follow that with water.

Also make sure you’re properly hydrating during the race. To prevent dehydration during a race, drink 1.5-2.5 cups of fluid 15 minutes before the race begins and then drink 1 cup of fluid at regular intervals to replace fluid loss — approximately 3 swigs every 15 minutes. Fluids include plain water, sports drinks or isotonic drinks. (Avoid soda and fruit juices as these are highly concentrated fructose and may upset your stomach.)

5 Rules Of Marathon Training Nutrition

1. Understand Your Metabolic Needs

Every marathon training plan involves running a high volume of miles to increase your aerobic capacity, but how many calories does this require?

During these training sessions – and on race day – runners can burn up to 100 calories per mile.

That’s 1,500 calories for a 15-mile training session.

These calories must be replaced as part of your marathon training nutrition plan.

A runner eating in a calorie deficit will begin to break down muscle to compensate.

This is bad news; our muscles are a storage container for vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, which we don’t want to lose too much of. Pairing this with the protein structure of muscle makes them the primary target for fuel when you don’t consume enough food.

Therefore, step one in marathon training nutrition is to make sure you are eating enough calories.

Also understand your calorie consumption varies slightly from day to day depending on the intensity and length of the training sessions, but overall training for a marathon means eating more food to ensure that your calorie intake is sufficient.

2. Keep Macros In Balance

Carbohydrates

A spread of different carbohydrates viewed from above
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The primary fuel for marathon runners without a doubt is the carbohydrate.

This macronutrient should be make up the majority of what you are consuming, due to the fact that it is required to replenish the glycogen stores in your body that fuel your muscles.

During intense training phases (where mileage and tempo increase) the body will need more carbohydrates to fuel workouts and replenish stores.

Aim to eat between 3.5 – 4.5g per pound of body weight each day on these intense days. For a 120lb runner, this equates to 420-540g of carbs per day.

On lighter training days and rest days the goal for carb consumption should be between 3.0 – 3.2g per pound of body weight.

Try fueling with complex carbs such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables for a healthier carbohydrate option.

Protein

Protein is the next most important macronutrient to help replenish muscle breakdown. Adequate protein intake is necessary to help your muscles recover.

On training days, aim for 0.7 – 1.0g of protein per pound of body weight while non-training days should be between 0.5 – 0.7g per pound of body weight.

A spread of high protein foods including meat, fish, nuts, cheese, eggs, milk, avocado, and pulses.
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Fat

Fat is the final macronutrient and is needed to help with vitamin storage and hormone production, but should be kept around 0.5g per pound of bodyweight on training and non-training days.

Whilst many people associate fat as something to avoid as part of any diet, it is undeniably important when training for a marathon. You can cook with foods high in unsaturated, healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish in order to get the fats you need when training for a marathon and keep your diet healthy.

fat sources including avocado, nuts, oil, and fish
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3. Obey The Eating Window

Long endurance runs will deplete carbohydrate storage in the body.

To help mitigate this, eat an easily digested carb-based snack 30-45 minutes prior to a run. A sports gel or piece of fruit is perfect. This also ensures that you’re not running on an empty stomach.

Within an hour of finishing your training session, replenish your carb stores by eating a full meal using the macronutrient quantities discussed above; roughly aim for 1 gram of protein for every 3-4 grams of carbs.

This rule is the key to keeping you fueled between training sessions and should be at the top of your list when considering marathon training nutrition.

4. Eat Clean Foods

Whole foods are the easiest for a body to digest and pull nutrients from.

Eating the cleanest sources of foods that are available to you will ease digestion and increase nutrient absorption, aiding in the recovery process of your marathon training.

When shopping for foods to eat during your marathon training go with organic, natural, and as close to whole foods as you can, and try to avoid processed foods.

a spread of whole foods viewed from above
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5. Minimize Added Sugars

Almost all marathon runners-in-training turn to high-energy sports fuel such as energy gels and sports drinks. Whilst these can be a good source of race-day nutrition to help give you an energy boost, you shouldn’t rely on them during training, as your body needs more than this.

When picking these products keep an eye out for unnecessary added sugars. You want a quick source of carbohydrates but not all of the calories should come directly from sugar.

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