When it comes to endurance sports such as running, cycling and triathlon; most people understand that, in order to complete such an event, one needs to have enough energy to get them there.
Energy or fuel as we know it is essential to completing the event and completing it well. Even a small drop in fuel at any point is likely to affect your performance and ultimately your end result.
When it comes to long distance running, making sure you are fuelled before, during and after the event is essential to maintain your blood glycogen levels.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
As you start to run your body uses glycogen to fuel the muscle to move. Glycogen being the body’s petrol, without which we would be unable to have the energy to perform such a task. Indeed, glycogen depletion as well as being dehydrated can both impair endurance performance.
So, making sure our bodies have enough to endure a long distance event, like a marathon, is essential; and it all starts with consuming the right foods.
The energy provided to the muscles comes from the conversion of carbohydrates, the body’s main source of fuel, into glycogen. Indeed, studies have shown that the carbohydrate intake during prolong exercise can improve performance.
Before the event:
Before running an event, like a marathon, it is important to fuel the body’s energy tank in order to boost its glycogen stores in the muscles, enabling them to work out for longer.
For example, consuming porridge with milk and a banana or a whole meal bagel with a banana and a sports drink would be your best bet. Indeed, these are low GI foods, which means that the digestion is slow, providing a slow release of energy in the blood stream, that can be stored in time for the start of the event.
However, remember to allow at least 2-3 hours between the meal and the start of the event, giving enough time for the body to digest the food properly as well as preventing any digestional distress at the start of the run.
Make sure to practice your pre-race meal when training too; it will allow for you and your body to be fully conditioned to that meal the day of the race; along with preventing any unwanted issues prior to the start.
As many marathons and other long distance races are in bigger cities, and can require you to stay in a hotel over night, I would recommend taking your own breakfast. Indeed, it could cause a few problems for you depending on what and when that hotel provides for breakfast (as some races begin at 10am, and breakfast may not be provided early enough). This solution would allow you to feel confident that you have everything to be fuelled correctly on your big day.
During events like a marathon or longer races, carbohydrates will act as the main fuel for the body and since the bodies fuel tank can only hold a limited amount of fuel; you should ensure that yours is full before starting in order to give yourself the best chance of finishing and finishing well.
During the event:
It is also essential to keep the tank topped up by consuming carbohydrates along the way and not only after the session. Indeed while studies have shown that eating after the race helps restore your glycogen levels that were depleted and helps the muscles recover better; other research suggests that one should consume around 30-60 grams of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates every hour because this generally improved performance.
During a marathon, for example, this can be achieved by fuelling every 10-30 minutes depending on the conditions of the event and how you have practiced in training. This will normally come in the form of electrolyte drinks and gels that are normally provided during the event and can be taken with you.
I would recommend consuming a gel every 6 miles (30-45 mins) during a marathon while, at the same time, having a sip of the electrolyte drink that is provided by the event. I personally, always bring my own gels, so that my body can be familiar with them, and drink what is provided.
However, remember to only sip the drink and not guzzle a large quantity down, as this can lead to some digestional issues later on.
The aim is to keep your fuel tank topped up by having little and often rather than consuming nothing, until you get to the point where your glycogen levels have nearly depleted and once that has occurred, it is very difficult to regain the energy to complete the event at the best of your ability.
After the event:
After the event is the time to celebrate, but while you may feel like you want to eat everything under the sun, it is essential to hydrate well and consume mixture of protein and carbohydrates. Both are critical for full recovery after the marathon.
As previously mentioned, carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source, which is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. As the body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate, once depleted through exercise these reserves need to be replaced before your next training session/ event.
Proteins are also vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue; so after a hard event like a marathon, it is important to refuel with high-protein snacks as soon as possible. Indeed, replenishing your stocks will significantly reduce muscle soreness the following day.
However, if you can’t face eating straight after a run, introduce fluids to your recovery startegy. Somme good options would be an electrolyte drink as well as a snack such as whole meal tuna sandwich. It will provide low fat protein along with slow releasing carbohydrates, helping to restore the body’s fuel sources.
20g of protein is the magic number that you need to hit to optimise the recovery process after the event. The following snacks will help you reach this target:
• 500ml milkshake
• Natural yogurt based fruit smoothie
• Sandwich with lean meats, eggs, or low-fat cheese
• Greek yogurt, granola and mixed berries
However, the most important is to make sure that you enjoy and celebrate such a great achievement; and definitely allow yourself to indulge in some naughty treats because when else can you say: “I have just completed a marathon!” ?
Having completed three marathons and two Ironman triathlons, Neil knows what it takes to fuel his training and complete such an event. If you would like any further help and assistance, he will be happy to lend his support.
Connect with WatchFit Expert Neil Damerell