As Team Stonyfield begins to prepare for the Boston Marathon, we need to think about the fuel we feed our bodies during the race. We know that Stonyfield will be there at the finish and provides the best recovery fuel available, but how do we prepare for the race itself?
In the nutrition section of my book, See Mom Run-Every Mother’s Guide to Getting Fit and Running Her First 5K, I write:
“No matter what you do, you can’t outrun a bad diet..In truth, there is no secret eating methodology, no ancient potion, and certainly no pills that can ever supersede a simple, healthy lifestyle for you and your family.”
It’s true. We all wish that there was that magic pill that whisked away excess pounds or fortified us without the time it takes to eat correctly. The irony is that it really doesn’t take any longer or cost much more to bite into an apple than it does to open a squeeze pack of applesauce. It just isn’t always as accessible or as portable.
That thought however, goes away and convenience rules when it comes to fueling yourself during a run. As you begin to train for longer runs (especially those over 90 minutes), it’s necessary to replenish the calories and electrolytes lost so that you can continue to run strong and recover well. In this instance, convenience and digestibility wins. While some athletes can tolerate whole foods such as fig bars, PB&J sandwiches or bananas while running, most digestive systems prefer simpler foods that are easier to break down and absorb. Thankfully, sports nutrition companies have developed hundreds of products in every flavor, form and package to satisfy even the most discriminating palate or sensitive gut. There are even options that are organic, all-natural and vegan.
As you prepare your body to run long distance, you must also prepare your digestive system. Training your gut is as important as training your legs and cardio system. The most preventable mistake made in half-marathon and marathon training is not training to eat while running. You should begin to add your race day nutrition as soon as your run becomes longer than 75 minutes. Practice, practice, practice. Most athletes need between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour to run longer distances. This is equivalent to 120-240 calories/ hour; a big variable that is dependent on your size, how fast you are moving and how well your body processes the fuel. Don’t wait until race day to figure out which side of the spectrum you fall, experiment early and you will benefit on race day.
Personally, I like to start taking fuel in on my training runs within the first 45 minutes and then drink or eat something every 15-20 minutes until I have completed the workout. Here are a few tips that will help you train your gut so that your head stays in the race and your legs move forward on race day.
Practicing your race day nutrition during your weekly long run will help train your gut and taste buds to tolerate the fuel and just as the running becomes routine so will your food plan. If you have to eat out of a package, reserve it for race day!