Lora Mays is a marathon-obsessed runner and RRCA certified running coach. In this post, she shares what she’s learned over the years about fueling right during marathon training. Check out her blog, Crazy Running Girl, for more tips and advice, and to follow her everyday running adventures.
Marathon training amps up your workouts and as a result, you need to make sure your nutrition and eating habits match what your body needs. Over the past few years, I’ve learned what that means for my body… but it did take some trial and error.
For one, I’ve learned that you must eat before a run, especially if you are a morning runner. I never used to do this and would feel sluggish and slow during my runs, never really feeling like I could hit the paces I needed during tempo runs. Since then, I’ve started to eat a handful of Bolts before I run and it’s amazing to feel the difference.
Secondly, runners need iron and protein. Your body needs iron to make red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen to your muscles. Without iron, you’ll feel tired and even nauseous. Runners tend to lose more iron due to sweating and foot strike hemolysis. Eating foods rich in iron, including watermelon seeds, spinach, kidney beans, and of course red meat, will keep your iron levels high.
Protein is also just as important. When we run, we break down muscle protein and fibers, which we need to repair with protein in order to keep them strong. Eating protein within 30 minutes of a work out can make a huge difference in recovery. (P.S. One of my favorites? PROBAR Bite.)
Eating a treat here and there isn’t the end of the world. I’ve tried cutting out sugar from my diet and eliminating all sweets. Not a good idea. It’s okay to have a bowl of ice cream or a handful of candy. It probably isn’t the best idea to live on that stuff while training, but having it once in awhile as a treat can be rewarding.
Lastly, and perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about marathon nutrition, is that you need to listen to your body. For years, I’ve tried different types of diets that simply did not work for my body. I had read expert advice and heard from other runners that it worked for them, but it just didn’t for me.
And, that’s okay! Our bodies are all designed differently and will need different fueling strategies during marathon training. I’ve learned that the idea of eating every four hours (so your body doesn’t go into starvation mode) doesn’t work for me. This may work for you, or the next person, but it’s important to know what you need to do in order to ensure you are keeping your body happy during marathon training.
How do you get iron and protein in your diet during training?
Any advice in finding a fueling strategy that works for you?