Simple Nutrition Tips for Marathon Runners

Jenna Hope Nutrition Tips

With many runners preparing for Spring marathons at the moment it’s likely that nutrition is on many of our minds. Nutrition to fuel those longer runs, to recover and to keep us healthy while we’re taxing our bodies with all the training. We thought that we’d take the opportunity to try to find out a few basic nutrition tips to follow, so we spoke to Jenna Hope, nutritionist for The Transformation Chef.

What are the main things runners should be considering with their nutrition while training for a marathon?

There are a few things runners should be considering during their marathon training. I’ve broken down the most important aspects below:

  1. Carbohydrate intake – aim for around 2g per kg of body weight at your main pre-run meals. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel so it’s extra important that you replace them after a run too. Aim for a carbohydrate rich snack such as a banana protein shake or for something a little more indulgent I recommend the chocolate caramel vegan protein brownie from The Transformation Chef.
  2. Protein intake – this is essential as a runner. Often runners can focus so much on their carbohydrate intake that they forget about maintaining adequate protein intakes. Protein is vital for muscle repair and recovery. I recommend eating around ¼ of your kg bodyweight in grams of protein in your main pre-run meal. For example a 70kg individual would require 17g of protein in your main pre-run meals. I’d also recommend ensuring that your post run snack is rich in protein too e.g. pitta and hummus or oatcakes and peanut butter are some more options too.
  3. Water intake – staying hydrated is essential for maintaining a healthy functioning body as well as performance. A mere 1-2% hypohydration (aka dehydration) can impact your overall running performance. To provide yourself with the best opportunities ensure you’re drinking at least 2L of water per day + 1.5x the amount of fluid lost during your run (that is a rough guide). Make sure you’re sipping this slowly throughout the day rather than drinking it all in one go as your body is much more likely to stay hydrated this way. It’s also important to ensure that you’re replenishing sodium (or salt) and potassium after your run too. Milk has been shown to be a beneficial post workout hydration method.
  4. Finally, being aware of your meal timing is essential to optimise your fuel and to help prevent stomach cramps. I recommend eating a main meal around 2-4 hours and then snacking on something lighter around 30-45 minutes before your run.

How important is your diet for your recovery from those long runs and hard sessions?

Fuelling your body through a healthy balanced diet is vital for ensuring recovery after long runs and hard sessions. Providing your body with the fuel it needs to recover can be the difference between a great next session and a lesser good session. Running puts extra strain on the body and utilises more nutrients and fuel than your body usually would. As a result, it’s vital to ensure you’re replacing the losses to maintain a healthy functioning body and to optimise your training.

Optimum nutrition can also help to reduce inflammation through obtaining enough antioxidants in the diet which in turn can help to improve recovery.

What are some good snacks/meals to give yourself a boost of energy before you go for a run?

Finding time to fit training into your busy schedules can be challenging enough let alone having to think about preparing your food from scratch too. I’m a big fan of making healthy eating easier. You can always grab a banana or a medjool date or two ahead of your run. The Transformation Chef is a great way to stay on top of your nutrition whilst you’re training without having to worry about making time to prep your food too.

I’d recommend the banana and hemp pancakes as a great pre-run breakfast or the five bean and tomato chilli or the Caribbean goat curry as a pre-run lunch/dinner. The almond and coconut vegan protein balls also make for a delicious pre-run snack too.

Any good tips to avoid stomach trouble on the run?

Stomach troubles can be a tricky one and we’re all so unique meaning everyone’s affected differently. Leave enough time between eating and going for your run, avoid trying out new meals or snacks on race day, avoid high fat meals before a run and opt for lower fibre foods if you’re one to struggle with stomach issues.

If you do suffer regularly with stomach troubles whilst running, I’d recommend keeping a food and symptom diary. Record your symptoms and then track back to what you’ve eaten that day and timings. This way you can identify common patterns.

Any good ideas for portable snacks to eat on those long runs?

It’s really important to maintain fuel on long runs. Energy gels can be really beneficial although they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’d recommend a few medjool dates or The Transformation Chef’s almond and coconut vegan protein balls for long lasting energy too.

Do we need to up our portion sizes when we’re training for a marathon?

This is down to the individual some people may prefer to snack more regularly whilst others may prefer to have bigger meals. It’s essential to listen to your body and honour your hunger levels though. You will likely need to increase your overall energy intake (depending on where you’re starting from) so it’s up to you whether you do this through larger main meals or more regular smaller snacks.

If you’re really pressed for time what are some good tips for staying on top of your nutrition?

If you’re really pressed for time then I’d suggest making your life easier by opting for a healthy meal delivery service such as The Transformation Chef. They’re delicious, nutritionist designed and perfect for your busy days. If you don’t end up eating all the meals you can always keep them in the freezer for days where you’re more pushed.

I’d also recommend keeping frozen vegetables in the freezer to add to soups, stews and curries and pre-chopped crudités in the fridge with hummus so you always have a snack to hand.