Getting your fuelling and nutrition right for your next marathon is a key part of achieving your goals.
Why do I need to fuel during a marathon?
Our bodies have roughly enough energy in the form of glycogen stored in the muscles and liver for 2 hours of running. Therefore for runs over 2 hrs, we need to replenish the glycogen stores in order to avoid hitting ‘the wall’.
How much fuel do you need?
During a marathon, you need to aim to consume 200-250 calories per hour ro 50-60g of carbohydrate per hour. Depending on your choice of fuel, it can take up to 40 minutes for the carbohydrayes to be absorbed and utilised by the body.
For this reason, it’s important to start taking on fuel early on in the race to keep your energy stores topped up. Ideally this would be 30-40 mins from the start of the race.
What should I fuel with?
Some of this will come down to personal preference but specially formulated sports drinks and gels are usually the easiest and quickest way to get carbohydrates into your system. If using gels, typically 2 per hour is what you should aim for.
How do I avoid stomach problems?
Many people struggle to stomach fuel during a marathon but it is possible to train your stomach. Early preparation is key. Start testing out fuelling early on in your marathon preparation and gradually build up the amount that you can tolerate over the weeks and months. Make sure that you practice your exact fuelling strategy that you plan to use on marathon day.
Should I carb load?
In the days before the marathon, you want to make sure that your glycogen stores are topped up. You don’t need to eat more in quantity but it’s advisable to aim for more of your daily calories to come from carbohydrates.
What should I eat for breakfast?
Your pre race breakfast should be carbohydrate based and usually consumed 2-3 hours before the start of the race. Exactly what your breakfast consists of is personal preference but ideally aim for 100g of carbohydrates. This could be a couple of bagels, porridge or even energy bars. Again, it is important that you practice this well in advance of race day and use the same breakfast on race day that you’ve successfully used in training.
Should I use caffeine?
Caffiene can be used to boost performance but everybody has a different tolerance and sensitivity to it and it can cause stomach issues for some people. Studies suggest that around 3mg/kg of bodyweight is optimal. The use of caffeine should be experimented with in training.
How much should I drink?
Fluid intake will vary depending on the conditions of the race and individual sweat rate. Generally its recommended to drink to thirst of take a fews sips everytime you take a gel.
Marathon nutrition checklist
In the weeks before, practice different fuelling options to find out what works best for you. Gradually build up your tolerance unitl you can stomach the required amount of carbohydrate. Practice different breakfast options and pre race evening meals.
In the days before, increase your carbohydrate intake by eating a higher percentage of catbohydrate rich foods. Reduce your intake of fibre if you’re prone to stomach issues.
On the day, stick to you tried and tested fuelling strategy. Don’t be tempted to try anything new.