Nutrition Tips

Without being too technical, the easiest way to explain the ideal diet for endurance athletes is through the following formula:

Carbohydrate 65/70% + Protein 15/20% + Fat 15%

Add to this water, vitamins and minerals and you have the ideal mix that will refuel your body and provide you with energy stores that can easily be released when exercising.

Carbohydrates provide the main source of fuel for marathon runners and it is therefore vital that it makes up the lion’s share of your intake.
Complex slow release carbs are the best (brown rice, wholemeal pasta, jacket potatoes) and cooked with a little imagination can provide a very enjoyable meal that will do you more good than burgers and fries!

These foods are stored in the body in the form of glycogen which fuels your muscles. It is therefore vital that when training heavily these stores of glycogen are kept topped up and you should try to eat a carbo snack (such as a banana or a sandwich) as soon as possible after running until you can have a full meal. If you don’t refuel, you will start to feel increasingly fatigued and muscles will get sore, this is when you are at risk of injury or picking up an unwanted cold.

The next area to look at is vegetables. Try whenever possible to have fresh vegetables and never overcook them, this simply destroys the vitamins and minerals that you need.

Simple carbohydrates such as confectionary and sweet foods are also helpful in giving a quick boost of energy but they will not provide a lasting benefit so should be used sparingly.

A good breakfast of complex carbohydrates will give you a great start to the day and if you have had a morning run will restore your energy levels quickly, never neglect breakfast, when you are training for a long distance race it is important to eat regular meals.

Also important is keeping your body well hydrated, i.e. drinking the right types of fluid, water is always the best.
You should drink before, during and after exercise. Sports drinks are also useful for boosting energy reserves but read the labels before buying – some can be too artificial and have no real benefit.
If you feel dizzy, you have left it too late. It is better to drink slightly more water than you fancy than not enough, even in cold weather you will lose body fluids when training so be very careful.

Tea and coffee are ok in small quantities but are essentially diuretic, this means they will cause a degree of dehydration, so if you are partial to them make sure you also drink plenty of water during the day. Also try to drink water with meals. If you have a glass of alcohol, fine, but have a couple of glasses of water as well.

When using powdered sports drinks practice to get the right consistency and use them while running, some can cause slight stomach problems so better to learn now than halfway through the race!

Protein is not as vital as carbohydrates but still provides an important part of your overall requirements, it will kick in to aid energy stores when glycogen stores are depleted, usually after 2 hours + of exercise and helps your body burn fat supplies.

High protein foods include, white fish, white meats, cheese, lentils and beans. If you are keeping to a low fat diet these foods will help to reduce your levels of body fat. But be careful a (half) marathon build up is not the time for crash diets!

Generally fried and fatty foods should be avoided; they are not good even when not training so use this opportunity to clear some out of your diet. A treat every now and then won’t hurt, you deserve it!
It can be helpful to keep a record of your food intake alongside your training record it may identify trends that work well for you.

Key Points

  • Carbohydrate high diet 
  • Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable 
  • Drink loads of water 
  • Avoid fats where possible 
  • Odd treats are ok, you deserve them