Countdown Tips to Run your next half marathon | Best Foods and Supplements – My best advice and tips to help you run your best race!
Oh, boy… The best foods to eat to train and run your best half marathon (marathon or race in general) is very personal. It’s unique for each person. Additionally, there are many articles, even books, and cookbooks on the subject. I’m going to give you guidelines. If you’re serious about running and being the best you can be, I recommend trying a different combination of foods pre and post workout and keep a journal of how you felt. It’s a process because each run is different with the weather, etc, but you’ll begin to see a trend of what works for your body and what doesn’t.
Countdown Tips to Run Your Next Half Marathon | Best Foods and Supplements
First, forget the notion that you can carb-load the night before the race or a long run and that’s all you need to do. What you eat from when you start training to post-race recovery is important. That sounds drastic and it is a little dramatic, but nutrition is super important.
When training for a half marathon or marathon, it’s important to know how to fuel for training and how to fuel specifically for a short or long run. Believe me, food as fuel becomes very important. I began looking at food differently after training for my first half marathon. You may as well.
It’s important to understand how to keep your body fueled for running and training. It’s not just about carb loading or carb loading the day before the race.
Eating a balanced diet and giving our body the nutrients it needs it critical for your success. You need to take in food, or fuel, that your body can utilize as energy. Primarily, three macronutrients of carbohydrates, protein, and fats are what our bodies use for energy.
Carbohydrates are the main macronutrient your body will use as fuel for distance running.
What carbs you eat are important. These are the top 10 carbs for a runner.
- brown rice or quinoa
- sweet potato or beetroot
- energy bars made from real food, fruits, nuts, and whole grains with minimal added sugar. (recommended – PowerBar Performance)
- low-fat yogurt
- old-fashioned oatmeal
- sports drinks (Gatorade Endurance and Accelerade)
- tomato sauce
- whole grain bread
- whole wheat pasta
Protein is important for the recovery and strength of muscles. After a workout is when protein comes into play. The amino acids which make up proteins help rebuild the protein that has been broken down to fuel your muscles. Eating protein helps to rebuild them. In fact, it’s recommended to drink a protein shake within one hour of running.
Fats – Our bodies utilize fat stores as a secondary energy source for long runs. However, it cannot convert fat to fuel fast enough to be the primary energy source.
As well, there are micro-nutrients that are fundamental as well.
Water– Humans simply cannot function without water. The base amount of water to drink per day for Women is 2,700 milliliters daily, which is a little more than 90 ounces. Men need even more. They need 3,700 milliliters per day, or 125 ounces, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. If you are very active, you will need more. A good way to estimate how much more water you’ll need is to do this simple procedure. Weigh yourself before going out for a run, and drink frequent small amounts of water while you’re running. When you get back in, weigh yourself again. For each pound you lose, drink 2 to 3 cups of water to keep yourself properly hydrated.
Vitamins and minerals are essential as well and as long as you are eating a well-balanced healthy diet, you should be getting enough vitamins and minerals. B vitamins, such as riboflavin and niacin, are important in our energy production pathways. Endurance runners may benefit from taking these supplements. For women, getting enough iron is something to be aware of as it transports oxygen in our blood.
For distance running when you lose a lot of sodium and potassium through sweat, energy sports drink are necessary.
How exactly does all this, macronutrients and micro-nutrients, look on our plates?
Fruits and vegetables make up 1/3 of the plate and the bread group which is your main source of carbohydrates makes up another 1/3. The last third of the plate consists of meats, poultry, fish, fats, milk and dairy products.
Every time you eat a meal, visually break your plate up into these categories and fill accordingly. My husband jokes that I eat ‘twigs and berries’ and that’s somewhat true. I fill my plate first with fruits and vegetables, then carbs, and then, if any, meat.
Additionally, I recommend taking a multivitamin. And, that may be all you need. I’m a little older and feel I need supplements for my joints. Below is a list of what supplements I take and what they do.
Along with a multivitamin, I take (click name to purchase)
- Curamed has an indisputable history and evidence of anti-
- Baxyl helps alleviate joint discomfort.
- D-Ribose helps with muscle recovery and endurance. (I mix the powder in juice.)
- Potassium is a mineral that works with sodium to balance the fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. And since steady fluid levels help to regulate your heartbeat and prevent muscles from cramping, potassium is particularly important to runners.
- Magnesium is crucial for energy production, muscle function, protein synthesis and insulin metabolism.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin for relieving joint pain and restoring cartilage.
- I also drink a protein drink mixed with almond milk since I’m not a big meat eater.
Fueling for short and longer distance running
The general rule is if you have been fueling properly beforehand (at regular meals), you have enough fuel stored in your body to run 60 minutes without fueling during exercise. This may vary with people that have hypoglycemia, diabetes or other conditions. Therefore, you do not need to plan for a snack during exercise.
Make sure you eat a good meal two to three hours beforehand with carbohydrates. Or eat a power snack an hour or so beforehand for shorter runs an hour or less.
Longer distance runs
Please remember that everyone is different. As well, you can actually train your body to some degree. I did not fuel during long runs of less than two hours when I was training for St Jude Half Marathon recently. I did drink water during these runs.
However, some runners do better with consistent fuel. For this, I recommend gels, jelly beans, or chews. These are essential electrolytes with a jelly-type consistency in a small portable package. Please note, if you plan to use fuel during your run practice using them during training. Furthermore, train with using the exact brand. If you plan to use the fuel provided at the race, research what particular brand that will be provided. As well, if fueling stations are set at every two miles, train at those times and intervals. You may want to fuel once, twice, take only half the gel pack, the full pack, etc. Work on different methods to find what’s best for you.
Most notable, some runners have cramping or GI trouble taking supplements during a run. This is why you want to train using not only a supplement but a specific type and brand of supplement. Do not do anything on race day that you didn’t try beforehand. It takes experimentation and there are a lot of options out there so proceed wisely.
Favorite snack ideas:
Pre or post run fuel can be as simple as a banana and almond butter to something like a homemade energy bar. In addition, I like these snacks dry cereal, Ezekiel Bread with almond butter, cottage cheese with fresh fruit, almonds, or avocado with mango.
Be sure to read my other posts in this series.
- Countdown Tips to Run a Half Marathon | 3 – 6 Months
- How many miles should I wear my running shoes?
- My First Half Marathon