So you have a half marathon coming up in three months that you want to participate in and you do not have a clue as to what you should eat during training? No problem. In this article, we are going to show you what to eat to enable you train effectively. We will tell you the tips to healthy nutrition for half marathon training before, during and also after running.
When training for a half marathon, nutrition is critical. Your body is working extremely hard to cover all the distance involved in your training program and it needs fuel to keep going. You should eat a lot of carbohydrates because they are the foods that fuel your running. Load up!
Factors to consider
- If you are training 4-5 times every week and you realize that you are covering 20-30 miles during the training, this will put a lot of pressure on your energy levels. It means that you need to carefully choose the food that you eat as well as when you eat it.
- If you are running just to cut weight and become fit, you should not be overly concerned about your caloric intake. The most important thing is what you eat and not how many calories. This isn’t license to eat everything in sight, but remember that your body needs fuel. Don’t starve it when training for a half marathon!
- It is more difficult to stay hydrated when training over long distances. While it is important that you maintain a certain level of hydration, make sure you do not drink too much water as this can result in hyponatremia (water intoxication). This refers to a situation where there is an imbalance of electrolytes in the body.
Carbohydrates and proteins
Consuming carbohydrate ensures that gets enough supply of glycogen. Protein is also important because it helps repair muscle tissues. On average, men and women should consume between 2000-2500 calories every day. When training, you require an additional 100 calories for each mile you cover. It is important that at least 65% of your caloric intake comes from carbohydrates, especially the complex carbohydrates. Get 10% of your calorie needs from protein while 20-25% of your total caloric intake should be derived from unsaturated fats.
Sources of good carbs and proteins
Carbohydrates: potatoes, brown rice, yams, white bread, beans, macaroni, cereal, bananas, raisins, bagels, apples, corn, root vegetables and carrots.
Proteins: beans, low fat milk, green peas, chicken, eggs, fish, lean beef, yogurt, peanut, nuts, cheese, cottage cheese, soy products, tofu and butter.
Although vitamins aren’t required, it is a good idea to consider certain vitamins during your half marathon training. Vitamins supply your body with the minerals that it needs. You can take multi-vitamins on a daily basis as a supplement to a more comprehensive dietary plan.
Calcium and iron
You also require lots of iron and calcium during your half marathon preparation. It is advisable to have a look at the nutritional chart to ensure that you are always getting a sufficient amount of both nutrients. You can get high amounts of calcium from a variety of natural foods, including milk, yogurt, almonds, cheeses, broccoli, salmon and avocado. As much as you might be tempted by the cheese, however, foods like pizza need to be completely kept off your diet. Iron can be found in several food sources, including red meats, fish, poultry, beans, and spinach. For a complete list, check out this WebMD guide to iron rich foods.
Timing is everything
Other than just getting daily nutrition requirements, it is important also to eat the right food and also ensure that you eat it at the right time. This will go a long way in ensuring that you maintain energy for maximum post-run recovery and when running.
When you are running, your body gets its fuel from fat sources and glycogen. Therefore, to increase the glycogen storage, and thus add fuel to your body, you need to increase your daily intake of carbohydrates. As you start running, your glycogen storage starts to get depleted. The more you continue to run, the more your glycogen reserves get depleted. Eventually, it will need to be replenished otherwise it can run out.
When your glycogen reserves get completely depleted, the body starts to burn fats. Therefore, to maintain adequate glycogen, you need to ensure that you eat before, during as well as after the run.
Before a running session
Before you start running, it is advisable to eat light snacks. These include things like wheat bagel and snack and it should be consumed roughly one hour before you start running. Make sure that whatever you have decided to eat, it should be something that your body can easily digest.
You should experiment with various foods to determine the foods that work best for you. While it is best to eat just before a run in order to maintain glycogen reserves, you need to understand that different people digest foods differently. Therefore, test some foods to see how you fare with them before shorter runs. After that, you can try something new prior to going out for a longer run.
During the run
It is important that you eat snacks as you run. This is more so when covering distances of 10-20 miles and more. This helps replenish what your body burns and at the same time provides you with more energy. Anything you eat in the course of the running ought to be quickly and easily digestible. These include things like fruits and energy gel. You may want to consider eating energy bars because they are small, light and also easy to carry as you run, not to mention that they are packed with complex carbs. Experts recommend that you take one energy bar after every 30-45 minutes.
But how can you carry snacks and run at the same time? Lately, manufacturers of running gears having been making things a little easier for athletes by producing certain belts or fanny packs which are specifically meant to carry nutritious snacks and fluids to be consumed when running. Use them to carry enough snacks to keep you fueled up during your long runs.
After the run
After you have completed running, your body is literally begging for restocking. Mostly, it begs for more carbohydrates which it needs to store as glycogen. Also, it needs proteins to help the muscles in recovering. Since the human body cannot possible understand when they do not get what they want, you could be made to pay dearly if you overlook these needs. This is why it is very important that 30 minutes after each running session, make sure that you eat proteins and carbohydrates. These not only help your body to recover but also make it strong for the next phase of running.
Training and running for a half marathon can heap a lot of nutritional demand on your body. It is important that you know the foods you need to eat before, during and after you have finished running. This ensures that your body has recovered well even after grueling sessions of running.