With the London Marathon taking place this weekend, the approximate 38,000 runners who will be taking to the streets of the UK’s capital city are making their final preparations. With so many people taking part (and another 200,000+ people who applied), running a marathon seems like it could be an easy task, although rest assured it isn’t. Fuelling your body for a marathon is essential, and can make the difference between a dream marathon or a nightmare, so the following tips on how to prepare could come in handy.
Eating a balanced diet is key during your training, and it’s important to eat the right foods to ensure your body has the energy it needs to keep going. Whilst you train you’ll want to ensure that you eat plenty of protein to help your muscles recover, whilst carbohydrates and healthy fats will give you the energy you need to power through your run.
48 hours before the race
In order to give your body the energy (in the form of glycogen) it needs before the big race, you’ll need to increase your carbohydrate intake. You will have already stopped training to give your body a chance to rest up, which will help to ensure that you have a fair amount of glycogen ready for the race. Your body stores carbohydrates for fuel, and can keep you going for around 90 minutes, before relying on your fat stores for energy. Despite what you may have heard, you only need to increase your intake of carbohydrates by 10%.
However, increasing your carbohydrates doesn’t mean increasing your calories. Eating too much before your race can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated – not the condition of choice for a marathon. A plate of pasta with a tomato-based sauce and plenty of vegetables should help you to fuel up.
Other good options for ‘carb loading’ include wholemeal toast topped with your preferred choice of eggs for protein, porridge oats and fruit.
24 hours before the race
To avoid pre-race bloating, stick to small, regular meals throughout the day. Options could include small sandwiches and toast, small, plain pasta dishes and energy bars. It’s important that you drink plenty of water the day leading up to your race to ensure that your body is hydrated.
Keeping your meals plain will help keep your stomach calm, as nerves before your race are bound to be kicking in around now. Avoid roughage and foods which are high in fibre, as these won’t help an already jittery stomach and could leave you feeling a bit weak before your race.
Whilst you may be tempted to skip breakfast altogether, some sort of food will be essential to top up your energy levels in time for the race. Try to eat at least two hours before you’re due to start. Some porridge oats topped with some fruit and a piece of toast will be enough to give you that pre-race boost.
After the race
After months of training and hard work, you can have some fun with your post-race meal. All that sweating will leave you craving salty foods, so feel free to give into these cravings. Although try not to overdo it on the celebrations, and be prepared for some soreness over the next few days. Keep up your protein intake and foods containing amino acids such as lean beef, turkey, chicken and eggs which will help you to tackle those post-race aches and pains.
If you’re interested in running a marathon but don’t know where to start, the Couch to 5K is a great way to get started on long distance running and could help you to run 5k within 9 weeks. There are also some inspirational stories from people who have lost weight and completed marathons, showing that with a bit of hard work and determination, a great challenge such as a marathon is possible.
Good luck to all of the runners taking part in this year’s London Marathon!