By Christina | August 21, 2009
Almost as important as a disciplined running program for successfully training for a marathon is a detailed food plan that works for your body. The best way to think about food when training for a marathon is viewing it as fuel for your body. What and when you eat can be the determining factor between completing a run and being sidelined on the side of the road.
Running experts over the years have been big proponents of incorporating carbohydrates into your diet as the optimal source of energy for your body. Some studies recommend as much as 200 calories per meal to be comprised of carbohydrates. This can be a slippery slope for most people because all carbohydrates are not considered equal. White flour, processed foods, white rice, and sugar are not going to make you stronger and faster as a runner. These foods have the opposite effect on your body. They will make you feel bloated, sluggish, and be a reason why you gain weight.
While training for a marathon, it is not the time to go on a low calorie diet or an Atkins type high protein, no carb diet either. Your body will not physically be able to run any long distance without the fuel it needs to sustain it. On the other hand, this is not the time to go hog wild and eat everything in sight because you are running and mistakenly believe you are burning off enough calories to justify binging.
The best nutrition advice to follow when training for a marathon is to eat small meals throughout the day. You never want to feel stuffed. Your diet should be comprised of lean proteins, whole grain carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. It is important to not run on an empty stomach, but it is just as important to not run on a full stomach.
It is ok to have something light up to 30 minutes before running, like a banana. Anything more than that, however, should be eaten 2-3 hours prior to running. Another important tip is to not eat anything that will make you extra thirsty right before running like sodium laden foods or peanut butter.
Listen to your body and pay attention to how it feels when you are running. If you are having a great run, think about what you ate prior to that run. Analyze the whole day’s food intake leading up to the run. Do the same analysis if you are running like you have lead in your shoes. The truth is you should eat what makes you feel great while you run.
If you are focusing all of your attention on the actual running when training for a marathon, you are missing an important component of your training. Properly fueling your body before you run will be a determining factor of whether you run successfully that day.