Whatever you’re training for this Autumn this a reminder of the importance of eating well. If you are increasing your mileage every week then it’s important to increase the calories you take in to reflect the additional energy you’re using. You can follow the eat anything diet as a guide. For energy you need carbohydrates but this doesn’t mean mountains of pasta! Go for wholegrains: rice, fruit and veg, oats, rice, quinoa or starchy veg like potatoes and squash. Up your intake of other types of fruit and veg for all round good health and try to eat some form of protein with every meal such as fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds and pulses depending on your dietary preference. Finally don’t forget about healthy fats such as oily fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds which provide a range of nutrients to support energy production, immunity and heart health.
Practice eating well to fuel your long training runs. This is very important so on race day you aren’t nervous about what to eat because you’ve practiced it all. Never eat something unfamiliar on race day – this can have spectacularly bad results! Personally I like oats first thing to fuel a long run so I go for porridge or granola. This doesn’t suit everyone but you need something that is fairly high in carbohydrate, with some protein but not too high in fiber. Toast with nut butter would be an alternative.
During the run you need some carbs to keep you going roughly every hour. Some people need more – every 40 minutes or so and others can go for longer. It is important to practise on your long runs. The scientific advice says between 30-60g of carbs per hour for a sub 2 hour half marathon and up to 90g of carbs per hour for anything longer. This is about 1 to 2 sports gels. Personally, I find the sports gels difficult to take (for all sorts of reasons). One of our Speedworkers recommended diluting sports gels into his drink, which seemed like a great suggestion. If commercial sports gels don’t agree with you (I repeat you need to practise, please, please don’t discover this on race day) then you can try jelly babies or a mix of dried fruit and nuts or pretzels. Something salty is a great help if you sweat a lot. I have recommended that through half marathon training runners practise carrying water / fuel with them. You may not need to carry water on race day but research where the water stations are going to be. Remember it’s important to stay dehydrated and this means drinking plenty in the days leading up to your run – if you feel thirsty on the run it’s too late you are already dehydrated.
After the run it’s important to refuel as soon as you can. I must stress this is very important and can be surprisingly difficult as running often suppresses appetite so find something palatable to you. Jack Braniff (Box Nutrition) recommended Greek Yoghurt with a few berries and personally I swear by this. I add some honey for sweetness and it’s become my post run go to! The yoghurt provides the protein needed for muscle repair and the berries help combat inflammation. Banana with nuts or a smoothie are also good post run alternatives.
In summary to get the most out of training and save you (and your family) from mood swings and tiredness think about how you eat when you are training for a long event. Practise eating well generally and learn what suits you for fuelling your longer before, during and after the run. Practise makes perfect so use those long training runs to see what suits you, remember nothing new on race day itself! Good luck everyone.