• Helen Phillips

Want more energy to train? Here's how to eat to train for your marathon, without putting on wei


If you’re using a plan to train for your next 10k, half or marathon, or whether you’re just exercising for fun, some days you’re hard at it and other days it’s a day of complete rest.

But do you ever, even on complete rest days, get the uncontrollable munchies?

You try to ignore the growling signals … but around at 9pm can’t take it any more and succumb to eating “the entire fridge”! Good, I’m not alone.

Then read on my friend, because I'm going to show you how to eat to train, without putting on unnecessary weight.

For me it was always Mondays. I’d start the week with good intentions, taking a homemade packed lunch and a bunch of bananas into work to snack on. But around about 9:30 on a Monday morning my daily banana was quaffed, I'd nibbled away at my sandwiches and I was heading to the nearest Pret for coffee and cake! You see my body was craving calories as I’d burned through a heap the previous day on my marathon training long run.

If you’re burning up calories super fast … you need to replenish them … to get back on it for your next hard training session.

I had that crazy dieter mindset. Food was bad. I was in control. I could do this ... and I was a super goddess with power over my cravings. So once my long run was done, and my appetite had disappeared (this is more common than you might think folks) I just settled into Sunday, proud that I'd burned through a ton of body fat and was in control with my skinny salad for supper.

Only I was in marathon training. I wasn’t a dieter any longer … I was an 'athlete' in training (yer, right ... who you kiddin').

And athletes need to fuel and feed their bodies for better performance and recovery.

Sound familiar? If you want to lose a bit of weight of course you need to cut down on calories. But if you’re exercising hard, you also need to makes sure that you fuel your body with the right nutrition.

In my experience denying myself 'replenishment carbs' usually only led to 'cake splurges' the next day, with cakes and treats which were much more calorific than the carbs I'd denied myself after my run!

And that my friends, is why it’s so easy to put on weight when you up your training!

There is a solution. Matching your diet to your training schedule. Sounds simple. It is. Let me explain.

What and how much you eat each day should be different depending upon the type and intensity of training you’re doing that day.

Think of having different types of daily meal plan like you have different types of training and running workout.

It doesn’t mean that you have to go crazy and have completely different foods on a heavy training day. Rather, you need to include more higher carbohydrate and protein based meals and snacks into your diet on those days.

To train effectively, especially for a long run or bike ride, your body needs to be well fuelled with carbohydrate before you head out. Just like your car needs a full tank of petrol to complete a long journey. So before your hard workout make sure you’re fuelled up by eating a carbohydrate snack, such as a banana or bagel, about 1 – 2 hours before you head out the door. Then once you’re done, you need to refuel and help your body recover.

Exercise, such as running, makes small tears to your muscles, so make sure your main meal that day includes good quality protein, as well as carbohydrate and loads of veggies for free radical mopping up antioxidants.

But what about meals on rest days or an easy training day?

Well those days you don't need to as many calories, as your energy expenditure will be lower.

Rather than having a special diet for those days, look to see how you can eat less, especially less carbohydrate and fat dense foods which would provide extra calories, which would ultimately be stored as fat.

So on these days I usually avoid carbohydrate snacks (so long bagel … it was nice knowing you!), increase the amount of protein I eat as well as loading up on fruit and my favorite vegetables.

It’s taken me a while, but I find listening to my bodys hunger signals, rather than reaching for food out of habit, is the best way to work out whether I’m under or over eating during training.

Whilst I sometimes don’t want to eat a big meal after a long run I make sure that I do eat

Instead of a plate brimming over with food, that I won’t have the appetite for, I’ll have a normal sized Sunday dinner, but then have a guilty free top up snack later.

That way Long Run Sunday doesn’t become Eat Cake Monday!

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!