I am training for my first marathon and have some concerns about getting the right nutrition and calorie intake for my body during this time. I have noticed in while training for past half marathons that I tend to not eat enough the day of my long runs. I don't want to continue that practice. I have read a lot of differing information about what to eat and how much.
I am also concerned with the dreaded weight gain that can occur. Having lost 50 lbs over the last two years, I do not want to gain any back. I'd like to continue to lose a few pounds a month during the months leading up to my race but is that realistic? Should I just focus eating well and not the scale?
Any advice is much appreciated.
Good for you for putting a major focus on your nutrition while training for your first marathon as you can only get out of your body what you are putting into it, which includes your training, your nutrition and your rest. If you leave out even just one of these three you may not experience the results you were hoping for.
The dreaded weight gain is something that a lot of people fear, and suffer from, while training for a distance event but I will tell you this: the training won’t make you gain weight. The food that you put into your body will. Yes, you may see an increase in the overall muscle mass on your body which will cause the numbers on the scale to rise a little, but training will not cause an increase in body fat.
So why do some find that while training their clothes become tight and the scale continues to creep? Often they’ve overestimated how many calories they are actually burning in their workouts, they are eating the wrong foods to fuel and refuel, they are eating too much food and they are eating at the wrong time.
After finishing a 30km training run you probably think you could eat the world and you head right to the patio to meet friends for beer and nachos, right? (Heck, that’s what I would do!) What you don’t realize is that a 30km run really only burns around 2000 calories. Yes that is a lot but 2 pints of beer and a helping of nachos later and you are back at square one. And…your body is still starving because you didn’t give it an ounce of nutrition except for some carbohydrate replenishment from the beer.
This is how you make sure you get to the finish line the same weight, or maybe even a little less, than when you started.
1 – Eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast at least 2 hours before your run. This will give your body ample time to digest and get ready for a big workout. Try something like a healthy smoothie or some avocado on toast. Have your coffee but make sure you down a glass of water or two.
2 – Stay away from sugary energy drinks as you don’t need them. For any run less than two hours you should be fine on just water, but if it is hot out or you need some electrolytes find something that is sugar free. I have used Nuun electrolyte tablets since training for my first ironman 10 years ago.
3 – Limit the amount of sugar filled energy gels you consume. Running clubs and sport stores make a fortune selling these, which is a reason why I think they promote them so heavily. You do need to re-energize yourself in a long run and a race but you don’t need nearly as much as you think you do. In the beginning of your training when your runs are around 2-3 hours take a pre-workout drink before starting and then about halfway through take your gel. When you are nearing the peak of your training mileage take your pre-workout drink and then an hour later, and each hour following, take half to a full energy gel. You really shouldn’t need more than two.
3 – Skip the post run latte and muffin and refuel your body properly. If you are big on the social part of the running clubs then suggest going for breakfast afterwards, rather than just grabbing coffee, and have an egg or two with a piece of toast and fruit on the side. Just because you ran it does not mean you get the hollandaise sauce, bacon and potatoes too. If you are headed home to replenish in your own kitchen then have a post run snack waiting in your gym bag. A piece of fruit, water and some sort of protein is the best option.
4 – Switch the timing of your meals so they work with your running schedule which will prevent you from having to add extra meals into your day. As I already mentioned, start with a healthy breakfast and then plan your morning snack to follow your run. Your lunch then becomes your large recovery meal followed by another healthy snack and then a normal dinner. On the days you run long you will have to up your calories but they need to be good calories and you should be eating regularly throughout your day.
Here are some foods that you should include in your training diet:
- A variety of colourful fruits and vegetables and try and have at least 4 colours in all of your meals. For example, fruit salad as a side in your breakfast and a stir-fry for dinner.
- Dark green vegetables
- Lentils (these are great when made into soups)
- Yams and squash (try using spaghetti squash instead of flour based pasta)
- Lean proteins
- Nuts and nut butter
When training big miles there is no way of getting around being hungry and wanting to eat everything in sight so be prepared. Make sure you are choosing extremely nutrient rich foods, drinking lots of water, and staying away from foods high in sugar as your body will just burn through them, causing you to overeat. Have your reward be the fact that you just ran farther than you ever had and leave the nachos and beer for after you cross the finish line.
Attached: Demi Lovato leaves a workout in West Hollywood the other day.