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.
Now that you know what to eat before your long run (and have hopefully been practicing), it’s important to figure out your fueling plan for during the race. When exercising for more than 60-90 minutes, it’s important to consume quickly absorbing carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout your run. Here are some recommendations on what and when to consume during long runs and race day.
How much to consume?
The amount of carbohydrates needed will vary from person to person (body size, speed, intensity, and training will all effect this), but aim for between 150-250 calories of carbohydrates per hour. This can be from a mix of sports drinks like Gatorade and food like Gu, candy, or dried fruit.
What to consume?
The goal is to consume food that is primarily made up of carbohydrates. When running for many hours, such as during the marathon, you will want to vary your food choices to keep you from getting tired of eating the same thing for 4+ hours. It’s easy to get through a half marathon relying only on Gu, candy, or dried fruit, but it’s difficult to keep that up for twice the time. You’re likely to get “sugared out,” meaning your taste buds or stomach may not tolerate the same food for that many hours. Varying both flavor and texture can help you get through the race without feeling like you can’t eat as much as your body needs. So, try out a few different options during your longer training runs to see what your stomach and GI tract tolerate and what gives your body the most energy.
Engineered vs. Real Food
The big advantage to engineered food such as Gu, Chomps, Sport Beans, and the like, is convenience. Most come in pre-packaged 100-calorie servings, and they are easy to carry with you. However, real food can work just as well, particularly for slower marathoners who will be pounding the pavement for more than four hours. Here are some common choices among runners:
- Raisins,dates, dried cranberries—or any dried fruit
- Swedishfish, jelly beans, gummy bears, or other chewy candy
- Minipeanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwiches*
- Banana(with peanut butter or other nut butter)*
* If you choose foods that aren’t convenient to carry inyour pocket, ask friends or family to stand along your race-day route at pointswhen you know you will need fuel.
If you drink Gatorade or other sports drinks, remember that this contributes to your carbohydrate intake. Just pay attention to how much you are consuming so you can adjust your food intake. Diluted fruit juice can work well for some too.
When to consume?
Your breakfast will likely get you through the first hour to hour and a half of the race. So, most runners like to start consuming carbohydrates whether it’s from a sports drink or food beginning at 45 minutes to an hour into the race. But, pay attention to how you feel during your long training runs to figure out when is a good time for you to start fueling. Some runners choose to start slightly earlier or later. Earlier signs of hunger (or fuel needs) include thinking about food, reduced energy, or tired legs.
As noted above, plan to consumer 150-250 calories per hour.You can spread this out over 15-30 minute intervals, and mix it up between drinks and food.
Remember that it’s important to test this out during your long training runs to avoid any race-day surprises!
Here’s a recipe that’s sure to please the whole family. (Older kids might even enjoy helping you by filling the shells!) The recipe includes protein- and calcium-rich Greek yogurt. The yogurt adds a lighter texture to the ricotta filling, without any change in taste.
As with many pasta recipes, only one-third of the calories are from carbohydrates. Hence, if you are carbo-loading, be sure to round out the meal with crusty whole grain bread, steamed green beans, and fruit salad.
1 box (16 oz) jumbo pasta shells 2 C part-skim ricotta cheese 1 C Plain 0% fat Greek Yogurt 2 C shredded mozzarella 1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 1 to 1.5 26-ounce jars spaghetti sauce (depending on how much you like) 1-2 tsp dried oregano
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add shells and cook according to directions. Drain the shells and cool on a baking sheet (so the shells so not stick together).
2. Combine the ricotta, Greek yogurt, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and oregano in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Pour 1 cup sauce into bottom of shallow baking dish large enough to hold shells in single layer. Spoon cheese mixture into shells and arrange seam side up in baking dish.
4. Top shells with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce bubbles.
Here is Part II of this Marathon Prep series, written by guest blogger Sarah Gold.
What to eat before a long run can be a stressful decision. You need to figure out what foods will provide adequate fuel without upsetting your stomach or the rest of your gastrointestinal tract. As you read last week, training your gut to tolerate food is important, but knowing what foods to choose and which ones to avoid can improve the performance and enjoyment of your training runs. Remember to practice your race-day breakfast on your long training runs leading up to the big day!
What should I eat?
Before a long run, your meal should include carbohydrates that digest easily and are low in fiber. Aim for approximately 2 calories of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (0.5g carbs per lb). A 150lb runner would want approximately 300 calories in carbohydrates. This will add to your glycogen stores and play a role in keeping your blood sugar constant. It will also keep hunger down during your run.
Don’t go crazy counting carbohydrate grams; this is just a guide. Adding a little fat or protein can help with satiety and flavor, but the carbohydrates are the most important factor here. Also, too much protein or fat can sit in the stomach, making for an unpleasant run. Some good pre-run choices include:
o Toast (or a bagel) with jam & a medium banana
o Cereal with milk and a banana
o Oatmeal with berries or raisins
o Pancakes (1-2) with fruit
o Granola bar that is low in fiber
o Fruit smoothie: 1 large banana, ½ cup berries, ½ cuplow-fat milk (or yogurt for extra creaminess), ice cubes.
o Trail mix with dried fruit, cereal, and pretzels
o Crackers with hummus and fruit
When should I eat?
While you want to allow 1 to 2 hours after a substantial pre-run breakfast to allow enough time for digestion and absorption, you can likely tolerate a smaller (200 to 300 calorie) snack within an hour pre-run. If you don’t have any trouble with running with food in your stomach, you can shorten this window. However some runners with digestive concerns get up early, eat breakfast, and then go back to bed. Others eat an extra snack before they go to bed, and then eat something smaller in the morning only 30 minutes before a run.
What if I get an upset stomach or GI tract when I eat before a run?
By starting with small amounts of food, most runners can train their GI tract to accept some food. Even a little fuel can improve energy and performance. Some people like sports drinks because they may feel less heavy in the stomach. If you really struggle, try to eat your breakfast the night before. Before you go to bed, enjoy a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as a bowl of cereal or a bagel . However, I would not recommend running the full marathon without eating the morning of the race, so it’s best to try to train your gut to tolerate food.
In preparation for the Boston Marathon on April 16th, this new weekly series will provide you with tips and strategies for eating while training for a marathon. I have invited guest blogger Sarah Gold to write this series. Please check back each week for a new topic!
Week 1: The Importance of Training Your Gut
Most runners prepare for a race with a fairly detailed training plan, with a specific number of runs and miles per week, perhaps including some speed work and usually culminating in a long run on the weekends. What many runners forget to include in their training plan is a fueling strategy. A well-practiced fueling plan can enhance performance and minimize stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) upset during runs, and most importantly on race day. While there are many foods that runners tend to gravitate towards, each runner has a different tolerance for foods before and during runs. Finding a fueling strategy that works well for you during your training will make race day less stressful, and more enjoyable. There are a lot of unknowns and things you cannot control about race day, but what you will eat and drink shouldn’t be one of them!
The night before
Your fueling strategy should start with dinner the night before your long run. Your meal should include carbohydrates, some protein, and a little fat. Examples:
--pasta with tomato sauce and turkey meatballs,
--baked chicken with rice, vegetables, bread, and cranberry sauce.
Meals that are high in fat such as a burger may lead to GI upset the next day. As you try different meals, pay attention to how you feel when you wake up the next morning and during your long run. Did you feel energized or did you feel like your meal was still sitting in your stomach the next day? Make note and adjust on your next run if necessary until you find a meal that works well for you.
The morning of
The morning of the long run is often the toughest meal for runners. However, if you eat something before a long run, you will likely feel more energized and be able to run for longer. The best option is a carbohydrate-based meal or snack. Each runner will need a different amount of fuel, but a good estimate is about 0.5g carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Therefore,if you weigh 150 lbs, you would eat 75g of carbohydrates (about 300 calories). Examples:
--a piece of toast (or half of a bagel) with jam and a large banana,
--a bowl of cereal with fruit and milk.
If you are prone to stomach upsetduring runs, start with smaller amounts of food (a banana or a few crackers) and add a little more each week.
Another option is to test out different foods before a shorter weekday run, so you’re less likely to stress about what willhappen on a long run. Just as you train your legs to run further each week, you can train your GI tract to tolerate food before and during a run.
Most runners prefer to eat at least 30 minutes to an hour before they run to lessen the chance of cramps and stomach upset during the run. But, food eaten even five minutes beforehand can still get digested while you run, as long as you are running at a pace you can maintain for more than 30 minutes.
During the run
Each runner tolerates different foods and drinks during arun, and each runner will need a different amount of fuel. Consuming between 100-250 calories of carbohydrates per hour after the first hour of exercise will help you to maintain a normal blood sugar level, and enhance performance.There are a variety of engineered foods such as GUs, and sports beans to choose from. But real food works just as well, and it can be less expensive. Examples:
--dried fruit such as dates or raisins,
--candy like jellybeans or Swedish fish.
Also, as your runs get longer, you may find you need a few different options because it can be difficult to consume GU gels for 3 hours. Again, testing out different combinations and seeing how your stomach tolerates it is an important part of training.
The most important thing to remember is that training is the time for trial and error and you want to have if figured out by race day to avoid any surprises!
What is your favorite way to fuel your runs? Have you found that certain foods work better for you than others?
Nancy, I am training for a marathon. I know I should drink on my long runs but where I run, no water is available. Is there any way I can super-hydrate so I don't have to drink on the long runs?
No, you cannot super-hydrate. Your body is like a sponge and can absorb just so much fluid at one time. Then, it starts to seep. You can start your long runs fully hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids the day before. Drink enough so your urine is pale colored and you have to urinate at least every two to four hours.
On the day of the long run, drink plenty of fluids (water, juice, even coffee or tea are OK) up to 1.5 to 2 hours before the start of the run. Then stop drinking, so you’ll have plenty of time to eliminate the excess and hopefully avoid the need for an unwanted pit stop. Within 15 minutes before you start the long run, drink again to get water into your system.
To enhance fluid retention on the day of the long run, eat something salty with your pre-run breakfast. This will help keep water in your body.
--Add some salt to your oatmeal.
--Enjoy some chicken noodle soup.
--Eat a bagel with peanut butter.
--Have salted rice or potato.
These foods offer far more sodium than you will get from any sports drink. (Compare labels and you’ll discover 8 ounces of Gatorade has only 110 mg sodium, whereas a Thomas’s bagel has 400 to 500 milligrams sodium.)
I also suggest you hide bottles of sports drinks or water along the running route. Part of training is to train your intestinal tract. For you to go from drinking nothing during training to consuming fluid every 20 minutes during the marathon might be asking for transit trouble. Be wise and practice drinking during the long runs. You'll not only run better but will also recover better.
Q. I am using an app that tells me I need to lose weight by eating 1,400 calories. I am having a really hard time eating that little bit of food. What should I do?
A. Without knowing your height and weight, I can only take an educated guess at answering your question. My guess is: If you are having a hard time following the diet, don't even try! A 1,400-calorie reducing diet is lower than I would recommend for even a sedentary couch potato.
For many of my dieting female fitness exercisers, I recommend 1800 to 2,000 calories to lose weight and 2,000 to 2,400 for athletes who are doing hard training. While that may sound like “too much”, it is not! In order to lose weight, you only need to chip off 100 to 200 calories (from your weight-maintenance calories) at the end of the day. Theoretically, this will contribute to a loss of 10 to 20 pounds over the course of the year.
Slow weight loss, with a small calorie deficit, allows you to still have energy to exercise and function effectively in your daily life. Semi-starvation diets tend to backfire. While you may lose weight quickly by sheer will power and white- knuckling the hunger pangs, research suggests you will gain it back —plus more — in a short amount of time. Weight loss is far more complex than any app can figure out, and not as simple as eating less and exercising more. After all, if weight loss were simple, than everyone who has ever been on a diet would be thin. Not the case! Rather than rely on an app, I highly recommend you get personalized help by meeting with a sports dietitian. To find this local nutrition professional, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.
I recently received a rave review for these muffins. (“Yummy!!!) They are remarkably sweet and moist, despite having no added fat. The 3 grams of fat per muffin are from the health-protective fats in the ground flaxseed meal.
Flax is a source of anti-inflammatory fats that have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. Flax has a very mild taste and tastes good when mixed into muffins and breads, as well as sprinkled on cereal. This muffin recipe is one way to add the recommended daily one tablespoon of flaxseed to your breakfast and snacks.
Women aren’t the only ones who complain about their body. Men also fret about body image. Like women, men want to look good. Negative body image is a serious issue among men and women alike. Negative body image is also a key risk factor in development of eating disorders. Men searching for the “perfect body” often find themselves sliding down the slippery slope into an eating disorder.
According to a recent study done by the Centre for AppearanceResearch at the University of the West of England, four out of five men confess to being unhappy about their body. The study involved 384 British men with an average age of 40. The biggest body issue was the “beer belly” followed by "lack of muscles." About 60% said that their arms, chests, and stomachs were not muscular enough.
Their solution? To eat a high protein diet! Sorry guys. Eating a steak for dinner will not create bigger biceps by breakfast. Hard exercise builds muscles. You need to go to the gym and lift weights. And in order to have the energy to lift weights, you need to fuel your muscles with carbs.
Eating a high protein diet will not lead to fat loss (unless you knock off calories when you knock off carbs). To get rid of the beer belly, you need to get rid of the beer – or at least some of it—and consume fewer calories each day (or most days of the week). By cutting out two beers a day (300 calories), you can theoretically lose 30 pounds a year. Cutting out just one beer a day (150 calories) theoretically contributes to 15 pounds of fat loss a year – assuming everything else if your diet stays the same.
Sounds simple? Yes. Fat loss should not be hard. But if you want professional help with sculpting your body, I suggest you consult with a sports nutritionist for personalized advice. To find a local sports nutritionist, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.
Save the dates: March 10 (NYC) and March 31 (Boston)
Please come join me at Multisport World NYC and Boston. These annual events bring together everyone in the triathlon and running communities to learn, have fun, and meet each other. I am participating in both events and would love for you to come be a part of it too!
These are some of the highlights:
1) More than 25 lectures and panel discussions on all aspects of running and triathlon health and fitness
2) Local and national experts speaking on injury prevention, performance enhancement, and nutrition
3) A huge expo with more than 60 vendors with cool stuff to try out
4) An indoor bike time trial and indoor triathlon with awesome prizes
5) A really fun day
Entry to the expo is free, as are the general sessions. There are more specialized workshops that can be purchased (including running and swimming technique sessions and video analysis). Check out the website:
What’s the right ratio of carbs and protein? I was on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet to try to lose weight but my workouts sucked. I know carbs are important for athletes -- but what’s the right balance?
The good news is carbohydrates are NOT fattening so you have no need to cut back on them as a part of a weight reduction plan. Excess calories are fattening, in particular,excess calories of fat. People lose weight when they give up carbs because they actually give up the dietary fat that accompanies the carbs:
--butter on the potato,
--mayo on the sandwich,
--cheesesauce on thepasta.
Initially,the dieters also lose water-weight, because for each one ounce of carb stored in your muscles as glycogen, your body stores about three ounces of water. When you deplete the carbs by exercising, you lose the water (weight).
The carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables and grain-foods are important for athletes because only carbs convert into muscle glycogen, the fuel that keeps you from “hitting the wall.” Glycogen depletion is associated with fatigue. You'll have trouble doing hard exercise with a low carb diet.
You should plan a sports diet that includes quality carbs as the foundation of each meal, such as
--cereal for breakfast,
--sandwich bread with lunch, and
--starch(rice, noodles, pasta, potato) with dinner.
Round out the meal with more carbs from fruits and veggies.
You want more grams of carbs than grams of protein. Include at least 200 to 300 calories of grain-food per meal—about 1/3 of your plate. Protein should take up about ¼-1/3 of the plate and be the accompaniment to the carbs, but not the main focus of the meal. Choose additional “quality carbs” from fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads to round out the meal. These are preferable to the sugary carbs (sweets and treats) that can also fuel your muscles but fail to invest in optimal health.