The cost of bad or malnutrition for runners and marathoners is poor performance. Each runner knows what “hitting the wall” feels like. Simply training harder and running longer will not give your body its natural ability to overcome and prolong that “wall.” Poor nutrition will give your body nothing to govern past that exhaustion point of no return. As a nutritionist and body-worker, I’ve seen many handicaps nutritionally that represent itself physically. When cramps, pulled muscles, and strains or sprains occur during the race, it is not always a physical limitation that your body reaches. Much of those moments can be contributed from a lack of micro/macro-nutrients that the body has on hand.
To help many of my fanatic runners, here are some guidelines and suggestions for diets and supplements that may give you that extra edge of performance.
Pre-race diets should usually consist of slow acting carbohydrate based diet (low-glycemic based). You need to assess the intensity of your own training. If you are looking to run a faster marathon and have high weekly mileage you need to have a fairly high carb intake. A good recommendation in terms of percentage of your calorie intake are as follows:
- 50 – 65 % calories from complex carbohydrates
- 15 – 25% calories from fat, unsaturated as much as possible
- 20 – 25% calories from protein. Use the higher percentage if you are weight training
Of course this could vary a lot, depending on serving sizes. Usually though some runners often end up eating too much animal protein, which can be hard on your system if you overdo it. Other considerations might be current medications that impede on digestion, overall metabolism, the cardiovascular or neuro-muscular systems.
Days before a Race
I’m a big advocate for the Zone diet, also known as 40-30-30. There are many books that have been written for athletes and non-athletes that incorporate the Zone diet into their training. Simply put, the diet consists of dividing our calories in the following proportions:
- 40% from carbohydrates
- 30% from protein
- 30% from fat (mostly unsaturated)
Another advantage of this diet in conjunction with endurance training is that your body will get some of its energy from fat on a regular basis. The body’s switchover from burning calories from carbohydrates to fat is going to happen in the marathon-type race anyway, and is one cause of “hitting the wall”. On the zone diet your body gets more used to this, and will reduce the impact when you are actually running the race.