• Helen Phillips

Marathon Nutrition Must-Do's


Training for a marathon is tough. Your running training plan is designed build body strength, running speed and endurance over the months of training. No longer is 'just going out for a run' enough, you need to train to get your body to adapt and be prepared for the task ahead.

Training for and running a marathon is not only a test of physical fitness, it also tests your organisation skills, your mental strength and your body's resilience towards the pressures you're putting it under training.

To give yourself the best chance of getting to the start line you need to make sure your diet, the food you feed your body, is the best it can be. Here are my Nutrition Must-Do's for Marathon Training.

1. Don't Diet

Training for a marathon is not the time to be on a crash diet to lose a couple of stone. OK, you're going to be burning though a ton of calories, but your body needs energy and balanced nutrition more than ever for you to complete your training programme. Now is not the time to 'fast' or go on an elimination diet. Training in a calorie deficit will leave you drained and susceptible to illness and at risk of injury. And diets which eliminate entire or specific food groups could leave you low on nutrients essential for your performance and recovery.

If you need to shift a bit of weight, the best time to be doing this is in the months before you start marathon training. So if you're planning on running a spring marathon, now is an ideal time to be dropping a few pounds.

2. Ditch the Junk

The perfect diet for marathon training is not that different from a regular balanced healthy diet. So, if you’re partial to ready meals, takeaways, crisps, chips, cake and sweets you will need to commit to making some changes, in a similar way you have committed to making changes to accommodate your running training. These types of foods are high in fat, salt and calories and nutrient poor. Running and training hard your body needs all the good nutrition it can get. So quit the junk and load up on whole foods instead.

3. Get Your 5 A Day As part of a balanced healthy diet, everyone should be eating at least 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables a day. As a marathoner your body will be craving nutrients, so you'll need to be eating more!

Fruit and vegetables contain vital vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrate, 'good fats', proteins and fibre and should make a core contribution to your diet. If you’re not getting your 5 a day, you need to start to do so now!

Nuts and seeds are great for vitamins and minerals too. Sprinkle on your breakfast cereal or on salads for extra crunch. Start out with what you like and try out new fruit and veg if your repertoire is limited. If you can't stand sprouts try broccoli, replace your regular mash with sweet potato, try bananas and berries with your breakfast.

4. Eat Starchy Carbs

When you’re running your body uses carbohydrate as fuel. So it’s really important that you eat plenty of starchy carbohydrates, such as root vegetables and whole grains in your diet. You should be aim for about 55% of your total calories to come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in themselves won’t make you fat, but eating too many will, so cut down on highly processed nutrient sparse sugary treats!

5. Eat Quality Protein

Every time you run you put your muscles under stress from exercise small tears are made to muscle fibres. So it’s important when you’re training for a marathon to eat plenty of good quality lower fat protein so your muscles can repair and recover from runs. As a runner you’re going to need slightly more quality protein than a sedentary person. However, a western diet is generally protein rich, so you don’t need to go overboard with eating more meat.

6. Ensure Your Diet is Iron Rich

The pounding action of running has the effect of destroying red blood cells so valuable iron is lost from the body. Runners, and especially female runners, need to be mindful of this and eat plenty of iron rich foods.

If you eat meat make sure you include eat lean red meat in your diet, and if you’re a vegetarian include lots of nuts, legumes, seeds and green leafy vegetables.

Iron is used in the body to make haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body, so it’s vitally important, as a marathon runner, you include iron in your diet. A diet lacking in iron can lead to anaemia, which will make you feel tired and lethargic and compromise your training.

7. Drink More Water

So many people go through the day dehydrated. Through the training period you need to get used to drinking more fluids. Running will increase your sweat rate, even in cold weather, so make sure that you are well hydrated at all times. Get into the habit of carrying a bottle of water with you, and taking small sips throughout the day.

8. Don’t Go Mad with Food

Whilst you’re going to be burning more calories training, that doesn’t mean you can go crazy with the amount of food you’re eating. Lots of people unintentionally put on weight during marathon training, through rewarding themselves with high calorie, high fat, high sugar treats after a workout.

You will be burning more calories, but not significantly more, a typical moderate paced 1 hour run might burn 600 calories, but that’s not much more than two chocolate muffins! Learn to listen to your appetite and eat nutritious food, rather than sugary treats empty in nutrition and you cant go wrong!

If you've a marathon in your sights why don't you come and join Marathon Club Hub to help with your training and preparation for your race. Marathon Club Hub will help you ramp up your running for your marathon, focusing on the right foods for fitness, strength and conditioning to fitness your form, as well as keeping you engaged and motivated along the way.

Click here to join now!