Let's talk about preparing nutritionally for your long run. By establishing a good routine now, you will be prepared for marathon day. There are 3 parts to long run nutrition: Pre, during, and Post. This post will address pre-long run nutrition in three simple steps – hydration, pre-long run dinner, and morning fuel.
Hydration: The day before you should focus on staying well hydrated. Keep your water bottle at your desk and frequently drink. I have to admit, I am not a good water drinker. And in the winter months, I am even worse. I need some flavor! I need some substance! If you are like me, you might want to try my tricks of seltzer water, or infused water (such as orange, lemon, etc.) that turns plain boring water into a palatable beverage. Sports drinks are great, but there’s no need to down Gatorade all day. Instead, drink water, eat some fruit, drink milk, and you’ll be good to go. Avoid alcohol (or at least minimize intake) the day before your long run. Limit caffeine (not need to eliminate!) and prepare for
Pre-long run dinner: Your dinner should have a focus on quality carbohydrates with protein and healthy fats. I regret to inform you that there is no magic meal that is going to produce a great run. Instead, establish a consistent meal that works for you. The common runner's food is carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, gluten free pastas, potatoes, and quinoa. These foods provide complex carbohydrates (your main fuel source). Remember that protein and fats are critical as well. I am a proponent of 60% Carbs, 15% protein, and 20% fat the day before the long run. Combining with a lean protein (chicken, for example, or beans), will provide a satisfying yet filling meal with the nutrients the body needs for a good run.
During your training, play around with your pre-long run dinner to find what you like. This will help your body adjust and respond well to the food. Stick with this plan night before the marathon as well. While it might be fun and exciting to out to a big fancy dinner the night before the marathon, you should not experiment with new cuisine. The Buffalo Marathon has a pre-race Pasta Dinner on Saturday night. This will fit the bill perfectly for most runners. But a word of caution… do not over eat. Your body has been training to take in the calories, store them efficiently, and use them for the long run. If you suddenly take in 300-500 extra calories the night before the marathon (which is easy to do in a social setting), you will feel heavy and bloated. Stick with your planned dietary model, and you’ll feel great for marathon day!
Morning fuel: The morning of your long run, get in the habit of eating BEFORE you run. The Buffalo Marathon begins at 7:00am. Your training should include completing at least half of your long training runs starting at 7:00am. This means you need to get up early to eat! Practice getting up, eating, and starting your long run at 7:00am. Your body will adjust to this routine and be ready on marathon morning. What should you this early in the morning? Just as with your dinner the night before, it is very individual. My go-to is a PowerBar Performance Bar about 60minutes before running. It provides a quick and simply carbohydrate meal that delivers more energy to muscles more efficiently than other glucose bars. Some of you might be thinking, “I don’t eat before I run.” Change that thought. By eating prior to your long run you will “top of your tank” allowing your body to start your run at full energy levels. Even with a great meal the night before, your body will use some of that during the night (yes, sleeping uses some of your stored energy). You want to replenish the stores to start your long run at 100%. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t start a long road trip with your gas tank 60% filled. You would fill up that last 40% so you can go a long ways before stopping. Same theory applies to your body. Start with filled energy stores (the “tank”) and you’ll go father.
These 3 simple steps of focusing on hydration, pre-long run dinner, and morning fuel will help you be consistently prepared for your long runs and on marathon day. Remember, establish a routine that works for you. Be consistent, and your body will respond well.
In the next post, we’ll talk about how to fuel during your long run and marathon.