Marathon nutrition 1 : How well do you eat?

It’s the beginning of the year and motivations are high (hopefully!). Many start the New years with new intentions and goals. As a runner, it is likely that you have your goals set out already, whether it’s to break your 10km PB, run your first 5km or a Spring marathon.

I get many emails from marathon runners far too close to their event wanting to work out their race nutrition or loose weight with the hope they will race better. For you to succeed in your sporting goals there are three pillars to your success, training, rest and nutrition. Far too many don’t consider the later and if they do, many consider it too late for it to make an impact on performance. Without correct nutrition, recovery will be slower and you won’t get the most out of your efforts.

Your plan needs to reflect you as an individual and your intended goal. Now is the time to start making changes for your Spring marathon.


Basics first

Sports nutrition is not about making things complicated. The first aim is to get your base line diet right. Too many of us lead very busy lives and it’s our diets that suffer. Missing meals, grabbing snacks on the go can be habits that become the norm. Getting a “well balanced diet” and keeping it simple is the first step.

Look at your everyday nutrition. It may sound dull but ensuring regular meals and snacks (if needed) consisting of a variety of nutrients will put you in good stead as training increases over the next few months. Ask yourself these questions :

  1. Am I eating 3 meals a day?

  2. Am I eating a balance of food groups at each meal, protein, carbohydrate & veg / salad?

  3. Am I drinking enough water during the day?

  4. Am I eating 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day?

Focus on one thing and one thing alone for a week. For example, drink more water, have breakfast everyday or increase fruit and veg. Focusing on one thing and being consistent with that change will eventually mean you have changed your habit and it will stick.


Keep a food diary

If you write down what you eat in the day you will become more aware of what your habits are. Maybe you have a snack mid morning that is too large and therefore means you miss your lunch as a result. Perhaps you are eating your dinner too late which has an impact on how hungry you are in the morning. Write down your food and drink and time of day you have it. After 5 days you can look at what and when you are eating and drinking and hopefully form a clearer idea of your dietary habits.


Food First

Supplements in sport is wide spread and can be considered by many as quick fix to help them improve. It is a huge industry but also unregulated so something that often sounds too good to be true, quite often is.

We should aim for a “food first” approach. This means, you should be getting the majority of your nutrition requirements through your daily food intake. For instance, there should be no need for protein shakes if you are managing to eat a protein portion at each meal during the day. There are of course exceptions if you have a proven deficient such as low iron then supplementing may be recommended. Additionally, taking Vit D in the winter months is recommended due to lack of sunlight and difficulty in meeting your requirements through food. Think food first and supplements as a last resort.


The key with this first step is not do anything extreme. Even just find one thing you may need to change and focus on that. Try and be immune to what other people are doing. You will know other people doing the marathon and more than likely they will do things differently to you. Don't be influenced by others. Focus on you and your goals.

As we move on through this series of blogs, you will learn more and hopefully make the needed changes as we go. I will be supporting your marathon fuelling needs for the next 14 weeks right up to race days itself.

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