One of the benefits of running is that you can eat. A lot. One of the downsides is that in the weeks approaching the marathon, you are also seemingly starving all the time. When I hit peak mileage, my friends call me “Sarah Crush” for the bottomless pit I become. Last Saturday, for example, after a 20 miler, I ate no less than eight slices of bacon, three eggs, five pieces of toast, hash and fruit salad. As Chris Farley said, lay off me, I’m starving…
So what’s a hungry runner to do? You don’t want to eat too much and although gaining weight during marathon training seems impossible, it’s actually quite common. On the other hand, you need fuel to get through long runs and to aid your body in recovery.
The easiest way to make sure you’re well fueled, but not over-fueled is to avail yourself of healthy snacks throughout your day. Also remember to check your hydration, as thirst can also mask itself as hunger. During training, your ratio of carbohydrate consumption should also go up; since it’s your major fuel for running and is generally easy on the stomach, simple carbs are always a great grab. The downside of carbs, however, is that they don’t “stick to the ribs.” That is, 100 calories of pretzels gets burned up pretty quickly. To help this, try to pair up all your snacks; add a string cheese to your pretzel snack or eat half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your morning coffee.
As for refueling, there are a few rules to optimize your recovery. You should aim to eat within the hour after your runs (and new research indicates that the window is closer to 30 minutes). If you have to drive home after running, be prepared and bring a snack to eat after. My all-time vote for a post-run food option is chocolate milk. It has simple carbohydrates, some sugar and the added benefit of rehydration. Add a banana and you’ve nailed post-run nutrition.
Want to learn more about nutrition during marathon training? In my opinion, your best starting resource is Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions. Not only is Nancy a great Registered Dietitian, she’s also an experienced marathoner and her book is full of usable, practical tips for regular people. If you need more nutrition support, look up a Registered Dietitian in your area.
Speaking of food, pasta dinner tickets for Saturday of Marathon weekend just went on sale! Enjoy a fabulous dinner that includes pasta, salad, dessert and beverages overlooking Lake Champlain. Vegetarian, vegan and even gluten-free options are available. Learn more. -LWJ