The Boston Marathon is one week away! The week leading up to the race can be exciting, yet nerve-wrecking. Tapering, an essential part of training, can be difficult for some runners. Figuring out what and how much to eat adds another challenge.
In the week leading up to the race, you need to build up your glycogen stores so you have as much available energy during the race as possible. This will help you avoid “hitting the wall” and will improve your race performance (and marathon enjoyment).
Building maximum glycogen stores is usually accomplished by training less (AKA the taper), and consuming a foundation of carbohydrate-rich foods at each meal. Aim for 60-65% of your calories to come from carbohydrates. This should include fruits, vegetables, grains (whole grains are preferred), and legumes. The best way to do this is to include carbohydrates at every meal and snack, rather than loading up only at dinner.
Here is a sample carbohydrate-rich menu (Notice it still includes a little protein at each meal.):
Breakfast: 2 pieces whole-wheat toast with 2 tbsp peanut butter & 1 medium banana
Morning snack: Medium apple & 1 serving pretzels (or crackers)
Lunch:Turkey & Swiss cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with 1-cup minestronesoup
Afternoon snack: 1-cup plain yogurt with 1-cup strawberries and ½ cup low-fat granola
Dinner: 11/2 cups whole-wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce and 2 turkey meatballs, aside salad & small whole-wheat dinner roll.
Evening snack: 1 Orange & 1 oatmeal raisin cookie
Note: Thisis an estimate based on a 2,500-2,600 calorie per day diet. Depending on your gender, body size, and training load, you may need more or less calories throughout the day.
The original “Ahlborg” method of carbo-loading included a depletion phase, in which the marathoner would increase training intensityabout 7 days from the race, while decreasing carbohydrate consumption, thereby depleting glycogen stores. Then, 3 days pre-race, the runner would increase carbohydrate consumption and decrease training to re-fuel. However, research has now shown that this period of depletion is not necessary.
In the week pre-marathon, you want to eat similarly to how you’ve been eating throughout your training. This is not a time to try new foods or new eating patterns. You also don’t need to eat more than you’ve been consuming throughout training because you will be exercising less. Your body will simply store more of the carbohydrates in your muscles (muscle glycogen) instead of burn them off.
It’s common to feel slightly bloated, and even to gain up to 3-4 pounds during the week before the marathon. Don’t worry! Carbohydrates are naturally stored with water. Therefore, as you store carbohydrates, you will add water weight and volume to your muscles.
Lastly, and most importantly, on the night before the marathon, eat what you’ve eaten the night before your long runs. This is not the time to try a new food; you don’t know how your stomach will react the next day.
Best of luck to all of you running the Boston Marathon!
What’s your favorite meal to eat the night before a big race?
Eat well, run hard, have fun. Welcome to Boston!!!
Nancy Clark & Sarah Gold, guest blogger
For more information, enjoy this "how to" easy reader:
What to eat or drink after a long run is a hot topic among runners. What you do or don’t consume can effect how you feel later in the day, as well as at your next workout.
After a long run, your biggest priority should be to replace fluids lost from sweat. Hopefully you drank some water or sports drink on your run, but you will still need to replace some fluid. The best way to determine how much to drink is to weigh yourself before and after your run (without clothes). For every pound lost, drink at least 16 oz of water; better yet, 24 ounces. At this point, there is little need for sports drinks, as long as you’re planning to eat something shortly. Your next meal or snack will replenish the lost sodium and glucose. However, sports drinks can be a good option if your stomach isn’t ready for food. Chicken broth, cola, or gingerale are other popular options that may help settle a queasy stomach.
Remember to continue to drink fluids throughout the day to continue to stay hydrated. You can monitor your hydration by the color and amount of your urine. When properly hydrated your urine will be a pale yellow (unless you take supplements, in which case, the color may be brighter), and you will urinate every 2-3 hours.
In addition to properly hydrating, you will want to eat shortly after a long run to replenish your glycogen stores. Make sure this meal or snack is a mix of carbohydrates (to refuel) with a little protein (to repair). While many runners strive for a ratio of 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 carbohydrates to protein, the exact ratio isn’t mandatory. Just be sure you fill-up with more carbs than protein. That is, don't have just a protein shake!
Some easy to prepare carb-protein recovery meals include:
- Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk
- Turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit
- Yogurt with berries and granola
- Bowl of beany soup such a minestrone, with whole grain crackers and low fat cheese
- Oatmeal with milk, raisins, and slivered almonds
- Peanut butter (or other nut butter) and banana sandwich
- Vegetable omelet with toast
If you aren’t ready for a meal after your run, make a small snack such as a glass of chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal with milk, or an apple with peanut butter.
Rapidly refueling by eating immediately after a run is most important for people who will be running again in the next 4 to 6 hours. Most of us can simply eat within an hour after running and will recover well. Yet, a benefit to eating shortly after your run is to keep the cookie monster from showing up!
Even if your stomach doesn’t feel hungry post-run, your muscles want fuel. Feed them! Signs of hunger include irritability and fatigue. Eating even just a small snack post-run and then your meal a few hours later can keep you from becoming ravenous and overeating later in the day. You will also likely feel more energized and recover faster.