The marathon is a race where the level of performance depends primarily on the runner's capacity to expend high levels of energy over a prolonged period of time. In order to finish with a good time during a marathon, runners must prepare their bodies so that they are at their peak on the day of the race. This can be achieved with a variety of complementary strategies: changes to training, recovery and diet.
The dietary strategy during a marathon is therefore of utmost importance. It must fulfil the runners' nutritional needs without imposing restrictions or disrupting the runners' digestion.
Preparing for a marathon
During this phase, you must monitor any fluctuation in weight, requiring a correction in the energy you expend as a result of the increase in training and the daily intake of calories. Having a balanced diet makes it easier to manage energy intake and thereby avoid changes in weight.
5 – 6 weeks before the marathon
Be sure to eat a balanced diet and lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Do not skip a meal and eat at regular times
- Meat, fish, eggs: Once or twice a day.
- Carbohydrates: With each meal
- Dairy products: 2 to 3 times per week
- Fruit and vegetables: At least 5 per day
- Fat: preferably eat vegetable-based fat while reducing the overall intake of fat;
- Sugar: reduce your consumption of sugar;
- Naturally, there is no restriction on how much water you drink.
D-7: final week before the marathon
- Increase your carb intake in order to increase energy reserves
- Drink as much as possible
- Reduce the quantity of fatty meat.
D-3 and D-2: final days before the marathon
- Increase the carb intake again with maltodextrin (1 a bottle of 500ml/day),
- Eat less fruit and raw vegetables because the high fiber content can speed up digestion.
D-1: the day before the marathon
- Increase maltodextrin intake with 2 x 500ml bottles during the day;
- Continue to hydrate yourself throughout the day.
The day of the marathon
The final meal must be effective, high in carbs and easy to digest (low fiber and fat content). It must be taken 3 hours before the start in order to ensure good digestion.
Its main objective is to maximize your energy reserves.
E.g.: A super cake is the ideal food.
During the marathon:
Do not get dehydrated
Avoid hypoglycemia and do not use up all your energy reserves
Compensate for losses in minerals and vitamins
Avoid digestive problems.
Most people who run half marathons start without a water bottle although it is recommended to drink regularly from the start of the race onwards! In any case, do not wait to feel thirsty before drinking. This is where the supply points play an important role as they provide fresh water. Don't skip them!
Several solutions for avoiding hyperglycemia:
- Drink energy drinks (although you'll need to carry a bottle with you during the race);
- Eat energy gels: easy to consume and practical to carry. They must be consumed with water. Ideally, they should be taken before each supply point and for the final ¼ of an hour of racing.
- Eat energy bars: Chewing can be difficult when racing, so take some products that are easy to chew.
After the marathon:
- Replace the water you have lost;
- Replace lost minerals and vitamins
- Reconstitute energy reserves.
You need to rehydrate as soon as you have passed the finishing line.
If possible, it is better to take a recovery drink that will provide carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to replace those lost during the race. Protein to improve muscle recovery.
Later on, eat carb-rich food (energy bars, dried fruit, fruit, gingerbread, dietary biscuits, etc.)
To prevent digestive problems, you need to test the products that you will use during the race when you train. Indeed, the choice of the type of food you eat during a marathon is up to you!