Fuel Requirements for Running a Marathon
– by Renee Mcgregor
Regardless of whether you are training for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or longer, your training plan will include a variety of training sessions spanning low-, medium- and high-intensity training. The number of each of these sessions will depend a little on the distance you are doing and how many days a week you want to train. When training for a marathon it is beneficial to do intervals, but they need to be longer, around 3–5 minutes. Short intervals work the anaerobic system whereas longer intervals use the aerobic system and it is this system that needs to be pushed so that you can start to improve your lactate threshold. By improving your lactate threshold you will be able to run at a faster pace for a longer period of time before the build-up of lactate becomes limiting to your performance.
For a marathon you will include ‘steady state runs’. Marathon runners have a race pace set 20–30 seconds below their threshold pace. Remember your lactate threshold is the pace you can hold for 30–60 minutes (the better trained you are, the longer you will be able to hold this lactate threshold) before the acidity levels become too high in the muscle and you need to stop or slow down. A marathon is going to take longer than an hour, which is why the race pace for a marathon is set slightly slower than your lactate threshold. These ‘steady state’ moderate-intensity runs will be 30–40 seconds below your race pace and 60 seconds slower than your threshold pace. This pace will feel controlled with some effort but should not feel hard.
This session is harder than an easy run but you are still running within your comfort zone. Your daily carbohydrate requirement will be a maximum of 5g/kg BW and your protein requirement will be 0.25g/kg BW four times a day. The moderate-intensity sample menu plans in Chapter 2 demonstrate what these requirements look like practically and also take into account the time of day you do your run.
If you are an experienced runner, you may feel confident doing this moderate-intensity session early in the morning in a fasted state but do ensure you are hydrated and keep the session to a maximum of 60 minutes. If, however, this session is going to be 60–90 minutes or is scheduled for the day after a hard training session, you will need to have some fuel before your run. Some good examples include:
1–2 pieces of malt loaf
1 piece of toast
Small pot of fat-free Greek yogurt with 1–2 tsp honey
Take time to think about your recovery needs after your run . Aim for 1g/kg BW carbohydrate and 0.25g/kg BW protein and also bear in mind the time frame.
If this is your only training session for the day, aim to eat your recovery meal or snack within two hours of completing your run. For most of you this will fall at your next meal. For example, you go out for a steady state run before breakfast at 6.30am and return at 7.30am. You are not planning to do any further training today. The key is to have a good recovery breakfast option, such as Blueberry Bircher Muesli or Scrambled Egg Pitta by 9.30am.
It’s your choice if you want to have this as you walk back through the door or if you would prefer to have a shower first! If you are planning to do a second training session within the next 12 hours and your next meal is not imminent after this run, you will need a recovery choice within 30 minutes followed by a meal two hours later.
Blueberry Bircher Muesli
This is one of my all-time favourite breakfasts, especially in the summer months after an easy early morning run with my spaniel, Bailey. The complex carbohydrate from the oats combined with the high protein from the Greek yogurt mean that this breakfast provides me with slow-release energy all the way through to lunch.
Preparation time: 5 minutes, plus overnight soaking
For the Blueberry Compôte:
350g/12oz/2½ cups blueberries
For the Bircher Muesli:
85g/3oz Blueberry Compôte
30g /1oz/heaped ¼ cup rolled oats
170g/6oz/heaped ⅔ cup fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tsp clear honey
1 Put the blueberries in a saucepan with 4 tablespoons water over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 10 minutes until the blueberries are soft and slightly thickened.
2 Leave the compôte to cool, then transfer to a screw-topped jar and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
3 To make the Muesli, put a quarter of the Blueberry Compôte (85g/30z) in a bowl, stir in the oats, cover and leave to soak in the fridge overnight.
4 Stir in the yogurt and honey and enjoy.
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