Nutrition for the First-Time Runners

You have finally decided to run your first marathon. Your first run is an exciting event; however, because the race day is near, it is important that you are well prepared. Right nutrition from the start can help you finish the line feeling fit. Here are some tips that can help you get through your very first race.

Nutrition Before You Run

Fuel your body the right way

Maintain a healthy balanced diet including all varieties of foods in each meal.

  • Carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables should provide half of your daily calories
  • Protein-rich foods such as dairy products, lean meat, beans and legumes should provide quarter of your daily calories
  • The remaining calories can be obtained from healthy fats, which can be found in foods such as olive oil, peanut butter, walnuts and seeds1

Practice eating on the run

Refuel your body every 30 to 45 minutes during practice with different foods to know which one keeps your stomach comfortable. Never try to run on an empty stomach.1

Plan your meal

Plan your meal based on your workout period and intensity to eat quality food rather than dumping the food to fill your stomach. Maintain a food diary about the foods that you are eating. This helps you understand how the foods are affecting your body so that you can make changes to your diet accordingly.1

Keep hydrated

Develop a habit of drinking plenty of water to maintain water balance when you sweat. To know how much water to drink, weigh yourself before and after practice and try to replace 125% to 150% of this loss. For example, if you lose 1 kg sweat, drink 1.25 to 1.5 L of fluids to replace the loss.1

Recover right

Replenish your body with carbohydrates and a little amount of protein within 30 minutes after your preparation each time.1

Nutrition During The Race

Keep your hydration levels

Hydrate frequently with drinking water or electrolytes before you feel thirsty.2

Maintain energy levels

Consume carbohydrate-rich foods such as, raisins or energy gels and chews during run because they help ensure sustained performance by maintaining your energy levels.2,3

Nutrition After The Race

After completing the marathon, you need to regenerate your strength. Before getting rest, getting the right nutrition after the race is the key to recovery.1,4

Refuel within 30 minutes after race to restore muscle glycogen stores with carbohydrates such as low-fibre foods, sports drinks, milk shakes, fruit smoothies etc.1,4

Repair muscles with protein-rich foods that are easy to digest, such as liquid meal supplements or low-fat flavoured milk.1,4

Rehydrate with fluids and electrolyte-containing drinks.4

Focus on finishing the race rather than aiming for a particular finishing goal. You will have plenty of chances at future marathons to crush those time goals. Enjoy the experience as much as possible and take it all in.


References

Training guide [Internet]. [cited 2016 Apr 28]. Available from: http://www.parentprojectmd.org/site/docserver/firstmarathon_runnersworldtrainingguide.pdf?docid=12063

Marathon nutrition fact sheet. [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2016 Apr 27]. Available from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/marathon_fact_sheet_web-ready.pdf

Nutrition strategies: fueling your body for race day [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 Apr 27]. Available from: http://www.sanfordhealth.org/content/pdfs/medicalservices/sportsscience/sssi_nutrition_for_runner.pdf

Recovery strategies: nutrition for optimal recovery [Internet]. [cited 2016 April 27]. Available from: http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/media/791070/recovery-strategies-nutrition.pdf