Marathon season is fast approaching and we, at Rawvelo, know that one of the most important aspects to consider for your race is nutrition. Fuelling your body with the right types and amounts of food is key to reaching your target time, or simply crossing the line.
Here are some nutrition tips that we hope will help you achieve your goals on race day:
When should I start thinking about how I'll eat during the race?
As you start your training programme, you’ll want to train with the nutrition you plan to use on race day. It’s a good idea to start thinking about this early on in the training process, as there will be a good amount of trial and error when refining your fuelling strategy and finding out what works best for your body.
Many people like to start using nutrition from the point in their training plan when they start their long runs, and often find that they don’t need to eat or drink anything for the first hour of their run as a good breakfast usually covers this. Though 30 grams of carbohydrate every 20 minutes is fairly standard, it’s good to check in with yourself after your first hour long run: if you feel like you can keep running, this is a good measure that your breakfast has done its job and you’ve fuelled correctly, if not - you can either eat more pre-run, or think about fuelling during
We recommend being mindful of peaking and troughing your energy levels, as this can be detrimental to performance. Ideally, energy starts high post breakfast and plateaus smoothly, being kept at a consistent level through regular fuelling. Sometimes this will mean reaching for an Energy Gel before you feel hungry, but it’s important to stick to your plan on the day.
If you're nearing your marathon day but are yet to sort your nutrition plan, don't worry! It's not too late. Ensure you start training with your race day nutrition as soon as possible to ensure you don't encounter any digestive issues on race day.
What’s a good breakfast on race day?
For race day, we recommend rinsing and repeating your breakfast from long training runs. Finding what works well early on in training will take out any uncertainty, unnecessary stress, and decision-making the morning of the race. Many runners favour foods that aren’t too starchy or heavy, and look to get the most fuel in as little an amount as possible.
Porridge can work well, as can toast with peanut butter and a banana - but again this is about personal preference. Hydration-wise, it’s a good idea to keep sipping the evening before and morning of the race. Carrying a bottle is advisable if you’ll be using carbohydrate drink as a fuel source, but there should be enough water out on the course to keep you hydrated otherwise.
How soon into my run should I start eating?
There’s a theme here: put the work in during training to figure out what works best for you, and replicate it on race day. For example, if you’ve started eating an hour into your run during training, do the same on the big day. Being attentive to what your body needs and how you begin to feel when it needs fuel will enable you to catch yourself before an energy crash (or bonk) and keep energy levels sustained with small amounts of fuel, consumed regularly.
It can be tempting to look at others eating or drinking at different times to you during the race and second-guess your fuelling strategy - but if you’ve done the work in training and have a plan, stick to it. You’ll know what works best for you.
Should I opt for Energy Gels or Energy Bars, and how many?
We’d recommend Energy Gels for an event such as the marathon: they’re easy to carry and lighter on the stomach than Energy Bars. If you’re unlikely to have a coffee or tea before the race due to an early start time, it might be an idea to take a caffeine Energy Gel soon after beginning your run if your body is used to an early caffeine hit.
We’re fans of training your body under the conditions you want to race in, so sticking to routine as much as possible can be a good way to achieve this. Energy from a gel should last around 25-35 minutes, so it’s a good idea to work out roughly how long your race is likely to be, and pack the number of Energy Gels accordingly. In the last hour of your race you may want a caffeine gel or two as a pick me up to get you over the line, and it’s also advisable to carry an emergency Energy Bar should you need a little more sustenance.
Are there any general rules I should be aware of?
We recommend choosing the nutrition brand you’re going to be using for the marathon as early as is reasonably possible, training with it, and sticking with your plan. If you’ve not accounted for picking up food at the aid stations dotted along the course, don’t deviate from your plan to do so. Try not to stress too much, you’ve done your training! There’s no doubt that race day will be challenging, but you should still be able to have some fun and enjoy it.
What can I do if it all goes wrong?
The good news is that this is unlikely to happen if you’ve hit all your training sessions and refined your fuelling strategy, but we understand that unexpected circumstances can arise. This doesn’t have to mean the end of your race - we’d advise slowing your run down and even walking, and getting water and fuel on board as soon as you can. Trying to eat an Energy Bar or something solid from an aid station or helper along the route should also help, as should giving yourself some time and patience to come back round.
As with so many things, consistency is key when it comes to learning how to fuel well throughout training and racing. It’s best to start trying different fuelling strategies out early, as figuring out what works best for you will take some tweaking and practice, but once you’ve got it dialled - stick to the plan you've trained with, and run your own race.