Nutrition advice to support your next endurance event

Posted on: 24/07/2018

Committing to take part in an endurance event such as a marathon can result in a series of adjustments to your lifestyle, the most notable of which being that you may have to start running a whole lot more.

What you consume and how much food you eat should also change to support you. This doesn’t mean you’ll be shovelling down huge bowls of pasta every day – although there will certainly be times when you will be, it’s one of the perks of running a marathon or similar. You will need to start consuming a higher volume of certain foods on certain days, and you may even start experimenting with supplements to fuel your body for those longer training runs.

I have supported many people at different levels across the line and know how important the nutrition is to ensure you provide yourself the best chance of achieving your goal.
There is nutrition advice that never changes, regardless of the situation.

In my opinion, the general advice is no different than what is recommended for a regular healthy nutrition plan. Less alcohol, lots of greens, oily fish and quality protein foods evenly spaced through the day, with sufficient fluids.

Carbohydrates are a key component in fuelling your body for the training required, but don’t go overboard.

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy and what you rely on when running. Indeed, roughly 60 per cent of the food consumption should come from carbs, which when in training, this translates to about 5-7 grams of carbs per kg of bodyweight.

Carbohydrate-rich food like pasta, rice and oats should be regarded as fuel to support training sessions.
One mistake that regular runners often make is to eat the same high-carbohydrate breakfast day in, day out, whether they are fuelling for a gruelling training session or sitting in the office all day.

Carbohydrates that are not used as fuel for training are quickly stored as fat. If you are not training, think more along the lines of a boiled/poached egg than a huge pot of porridge. Just because you are training for an event such as a marathon doesn’t mean that every meal needs to be carbohydrate loaded.

Reducing the consumption of any junk calories is an obvious starting point for anyone in applying a set of rules. For example, consumption of alcohol which you don’t drink (that you normally would do) in the run-up to the event is likely to result in a reduction in race weight. This will have a significant effect on performance.
Protein in the diet to rebuild the muscles after a tough training session and some fat to provide energy when running at a lower intensity, as well as a sprinkle of vitamins and minerals to ensure we stay healthy.

What To Eat Before A Run:
Ideally a couple of hours before any long run, it is more desirable to eat a meal high in low GI carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat to give your body all the nutrients it needs for the next few hours to sustain the workload. Porridge with fruits, a chicken sandwich and fruit or a bagel and peanut butter are good options.

How quickly after training sessions do you need to eat:
There are studies that show that enzyme activity is most active within 20 minutes of finishing physical activity and this has led to an emphasis on refuelling within that 20-minute window to maximise recovery.
Research also shows that with adequate carbohydrate provision it is possible to replace carbohydrate stores within 24 hours if this window is missed.
When deciding when and what to eat after a run, it is important to consider not only the training you’ve just done but also what you plan to do next.
If your next session is a recovery run there is less necessity to consume carbohydrates as quickly than if you’re doing back-to-back intervals sessions with a short recovery period.
Remember, it is not just carbs you need to consider.

How should people use supplements to help their training:
Even if you have never used supplements to support your workouts before, the demands of the training on the body can make them invaluable.
Supplements do have their place. It is far more convenient to consume a protein gel containing cherry anthocyanin antioxidants just after a training session than a can of tuna and high consumption of fruit to aid recovery.
Different supplements have different uses, usually related to when you take them.
Before exercise a carbohydrate drink or gel or even a caffeine energy gel may help to provide the energy to complete a session if life has got in the way of optimal preparation.
During the training sessions, carbohydrate gels and drinks can be the best way to maintain energy levels. Using them during some training sessions serves as good practice for the event itself, and may improve the quality of the training overall.
After training protein-based recovery drinks and gels provide a convenient way of refuelling.
It is vital to plan what you are going to eat and drink, especially post-workout as the appropriate supplements can help you recover faster.

My top tip is, do not leave it to what is available in the vending machine or in the fridge at home. Plan it out accordingly.