Sign In
  • ENG

Running a marathon? Follow these fuelling strategies

Stay energised with these expert-backed fuelling strategies as you race towards the finishing line. ©Shutterstock

If you have signed up for a marathon, here are expert-backed tips for you on what and how you should eat before, during and after your run.

Written by Saswati Sarkar |Updated : March 19, 2019 9:14 AM IST

March is the season of marathons with over 40 races scheduled through the month in different parts of the country. If you are planning to hit the running track this spring, then you must have started training for the big day already. However, your training plan is incomplete without dietary rules.

The nutritional choices that you make during the weeks and months before the run and also on the day of the race will play an important role in both your performance and post -run recovery. Stay energised with these expert-backed fuelling strategies as you race towards the finishing line.

Also Read

More News

Include carbohydrate in your diet

[caption id="attachment_640859" align="aligncenter" width="655"] Opt for complex carbs which you will get from your basics: Rotis, rice, dalia, oats, breads. Shutterstock[/caption]

Carbohydrate is the most integral part of diet while you prep up for running. "Your body needs carbohydrate while getting ready for an endurance sport like running. But remember, it has to be the good quality carbohydrate. So, you need to opt for complex carbs which you will get from your basics: Rotis, rice, dalia, oats, breads. Avoid simple carbohydrates like sugar, processed foods, and too much of juices, because they'll only give you the spikes and lows which won't be very beneficial on the day of the run," says Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head of Dietetics, Max Healthcare, Delhi.

Load up on protein

[caption id="attachment_578017" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Chicken is a good source of protein for non-vegetarians. Shutterstock[/caption]

Protein is an essential nutrient for runners. It strengthens your muscles, prevents injury and helps you recover quickly after the marathon. While you train, your mileage and intensity increase and your body needs bigger and stronger muscle fibres which can be built by protein. Protein is also responsible for generating mitochondria, the rod-shaped organelles that fuel your cell's metabolic activities. The more and harder you run, the higher is your body's requirement of mitochondria, to successfully burn the fuel.

It's a no brainer that a runner needs more protein than a couch potato. A runner who weighs 70 kg will need approximately 90g of protein every day while a sedentary person's requirement per day isn't more than 36g. Chicken is a good source of protein for non-vegetarians. Being rich in selenium, a nutrient, chicken guards your muscles from free-radical damage during workouts. It also contains niacin (vitamin B3), which is responsible for successful fat burning.

Proteins loaded with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are best for runners as they help your muscles to recover fast. A BCCA, named leucine, is very good at post-exercise protein building. Best sources of leucine: Eggs, chicken, fish and pork. Whey protein, found in protein found in dairy products can also help in rebuilding your muscles after running and working out. The best sources of protein for vegetarians include soya beans, tofu, lentils, broccoli, potatoes, black beans, peanut butter, etc. Make sure that your spread up your protein intake well instead of loading up on too much in just a few meals.

Don't forget the fats

[caption id="attachment_654994" align="aligncenter" width="655"]castor-oil Incorporate the basic fats in your diet that you get from your butter, oils, etc. Shutterstock[/caption]

Runners mostly avoid fats because they are afraid of putting on weight. But healthy fat is an integral part of a healthy diet. " The fat that is stored in your body will be used when your energy levels are depleted during running," explains Samaddar. Incorporate the basic fats in your diet that you get from your butter, oils, etc.

Focus on iron

[caption id="attachment_651237" align="aligncenter" width="655"] Iron enables red blood cells to supply oxygen to your muscles and transform carbohydrate into energy as you run or work out. Shutterstock[/caption]

Iron is especially important for female marathoners as in India most women suffer from the lack this nutrient. Iron enables red blood cells to supply oxygen to your muscles and transform carbohydrate into energy as you run or work out. "High levels of iron increase your oxygen carrying capacity, enhancing your endurance as well, which is required during a run," says Samaddar. Conversely, a depletion in the levels of this nutrient in your body may have an adverse effect on your performance and make you tired very easily. While you are on your periods, you need 18 mg of iron every day. However, if you are on oral contraceptive pills, then your requirement is not more than 11 mg per day as the blood flow during your menstruation is low. Also, make sure that you get your ferritin and haemoglobin levels checked by your doctor at regular intervals. Include red meat, spinach, beans and fortified foods in your meals for iron. Check with your doctor for supplementation. "One important tip: Load up on vitamin C. It facilitates iron absorption in your body," says Samaddar.

Do not ignore calcium and vitamin D

[caption id="attachment_589034" align="aligncenter" width="675"]Soybeans You can get your daily dose of calcium from milk, dairy products leafy greens, eggs and soyabeans. Shutterstock[/caption]

Calcium strengthens your bones and strong bones are essential for your performance in the marathon that you have signed up for. You can get your daily dose of calcium from milk, dairy products leafy greens, eggs and soyabeans. Consult with your doctor to figure out if you need supplementation. Vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption in your body. If your body is short of this vitamin, then you will always find yourself lacking in calcium even if your meals are loaded with this micronutrient. So make sure you load up on vitamin D as well. The best source is sunlight. However, you can get it from fish oil, egg yolks and mushrooms as well.

Keep yourself hydrated

[caption id="attachment_654361" align="aligncenter" width="655"]Dehydration-1 You need to have at least 6-8 glasses of water every day on the days you are training for your marathon. Shutterstock[/caption]

"When you are run, you sweat a lot and when you are sweating, you are not only losing water, you are losing electrolytes like potassium as well. You need to have at least 6-8 glasses of water every day on the days you are training for your marathon. Apart from water, load yourself up on electrolyte-based drinks. On the day of the run, you must have 250-300 ml of liquid for every 20-30 minutes of run," says Samaddar. Make sure that the food you have before the run is washed down with a lot of liquids. However, do not gulp down fluids immediately before the race starts. This can leave you feeling heavy and bloated. The moment you are through with your run, hydrating yourself is the first thing you need to do. "The ground rule is 500 ml of liquid," she says.

Fluids keep your joints sufficiently lubricated, which is essential for a high-intensity activity like running. They also control your body temperature and flush out the injured cells of your body.

Be cautious of what you eat before the run

[caption id="attachment_639514" align="aligncenter" width="655"]Legumes Go for something that is loaded with carbohydrates. A toast with jam or peanut butter and porridge work really well. Shutterstock[/caption]

"Eat something at least 2 hours before the run so that the food you have taken gets digested and provides you with the energy that you need for running," says Samaddar. "Go for something that is loaded with carbohydrates. A toast with jam or peanut butter and porridge work really well. However, sprouts and eggs are not advised," she adds. If your race is in the morning, it's ideal to look for a balance between protein and carbohydrate while going easy on fat and fibre. Your body will take longer to digest both these nutrients. Make sure that fibre is less than 10g per serving while the count for fat should be between 5g-10g. Avoid spicy food and remember that smaller snacks are easier on your stomach and they will give you the necessary energy boost. Do not experiment with a new food on the day of the run.

If your race is in the late afternoon or early evening, be very careful about your lunch as it will have a significant impact on your performance. Avoid fat and protein for lunch or else, you will feel too full.

What if you feel hungry on the way to the run? carry an energy bar high in carbohydrate and low in protein and fat. The calorie count should be between 150-200. A small banana could be another alternative.

Take care of your sore muscles

[caption id="attachment_550999" align="aligncenter" width="655"]Ingredients-you-should-not-addd-to-your-smoothies Hindi You can add ginger to your tea, soups and smoothies. Shutterstock[/caption]

Getting sore muscles or injured while training for your marathons is not uncommon. Ginger will help you tackle both, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. You can add ginger to your tea, soups and smoothies.

Fuel yourself up in the middle of your run

[caption id="attachment_639684" align="aligncenter" width="655"] So, keep fuelling yourself up after every 30-45 minutes. Shutterstock[/caption]

If you have signed up for a long distance marathon, then it's likely that you will feel tired in the middle of the run. So, keep fuelling yourself up after every 30-45 minutes. Target to load up 30g of carbs every hour. Make sure that you start the process even if you don't feel exhausted. This is because once your energy levels plummet, it will be too late to reap the benefits of calorie intake.

Snack on carbs and protein for recovery

[caption id="attachment_493734" align="aligncenter" width="675"]paneer sandwich in hindi A sandwich with a glass of juice works really well. Shutterstock[/caption]

Your body needs to recover after you touch the finishing line. During the first 30-45 minutes after your run your body is very fast to use up all the nutrients that you give it. this is very important in repairing your muscle fibres. "The snack that we generally suggest after a run includes proteins and some amount of carbohydrates. A sandwich with a glass of juice works really well. You can also have a couple of nuts with a glass of milk. However, do not have a very heavy meal immediately after the run. First hydrate yourself and then follow it up with a light snack. By the time you reach home, probably in 3-4 hours, you can have a proper meal," says Samaddar.

Total Wellness is now just a click away.

Follow us on