Now that racing season is upon us, I want to take a moment to remind all of our runners about the importance of developing a race nutrition plan, especially those of you running a marathon.
Running a marathon is no easy feat, but you can help yourself be as prepared as possible TO TACKLE those 26.2 miles by making sure you are fueling properly during the race.
For all those science nerds out there like me, here’s why:
Your liver can store about 2000 calories in the form of glycogen and your body burns approximately 100 calories per mile during the race. So if you take a second to consider all of this… you’ll realize quickly that if you don’t eat anything during the race, you’re not going to have enough energy in the tank to get you to the finish line (specifically, you’ll bonk at around mile 20)… and that’s assuming your body’s glycogen stores are fully topped off at the starting line (which is extremely unlikely).
You have to assume that during the course of the race you need to consume at least 600 calories, and probably closer to 900 calories to be safe, in order for your body to be sufficiently fueled to get to the finish line without bonking.
That may seem like a lot of calories to ingest while running, but figure that most gels, GUs, and other supplements are between 100 and 150 calories per packet – meaning you’ll only need to consume several of these over the course of the 26.2 miles.
Start fueling early in the race (a good rule of thumb is every 4-5 miles) because it takes a while for any nutritional supplement to be digested. In other words, there is a delay between when you eat and when that fuel can start being utilized by your hungry muscles. If you wait until you start to feel hungry before you start eating, it’s too late! Same thing with drinking. Drink early and often because if you wait until you’re thirsty before you start drinking, you’re probably already mildly dehydrated and your performance will suffer.
Be careful about drinking sports drinks right on top of a gel or other nutritional supplement. Many times, the sugars don’t mix well and you’ll be in for some gastrointestinal surprises a few miles later. Chase your gels and other energy supplements with water only. That makes it a good idea to eat just before you reach a water stop so that you can wash down your supplement. Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to get some water into your stomach after eating to facilitate moving your energy supplement out of your stomach and into your digestive tract, otherwise your nutritional supplement may just sit like a blob in your stomach.
Best of luck to all those racing this fall!