Nutrition Do’s and Don’ts Before a Marathon

Published on Oct 12, 2022.

If you propagate a healthy lifestyle, it is necessary to take into account three aspects – getting enough sleep, being physically active, and following the principles of proper nutrition.

According to science and one of the most popular scientist David Sinclair’s exercise routine, high-intensity workouts are the best and a marathon is a good choice. Moreover, according to nutritionists and athletes, the thinking that “a marathon is going to be long, so you can order a large pizza before it”, does not apply here. You should know when and what to eat before a marathon to fully supply your body with nutrients, and achieve your desired results smoothly. Keeping that in mind, we will explore the main foods that you can and cannot eat before a marathon.

Timing is Everything: When Should You Eat Before Workout?

When considering how much time should be left without food in the mouth before training, nutritionists first suggest paying attention to how intensely you exercise. If we are talking about aerobic, high-intensity training, or even a marathon – you should do the 2.5-3 hours fasting period before sport. It is also recommended that if we do sports unprofessionally, less intensively, 1.5-2 hours should be dedicated to the fasting period. According to nutritionists, it is extreme to have a meal and then go for sports an hour later.

Three Most Important Elements Before a Marathon

Before a marathon or even each workout, three elements necessary for our body are water, minerals, and glucose (sugar). But why? Think about what we lose during training. We sweat during training, which means that water and minerals are removed from our skin. And when we exercise our muscles lose glycogen, which is replaced by glucose. Therefore, during training, you must restore these three components and not be afraid to consume a small amount of sugar, because it will go directly to muscles and not to fats. This is extremely important no matter when you exercise – in the morning or in the evening. During sports, the body uses glycogen reserves as fuel, which are gradually depleted, but properly chosen pre-workout products help maintain their balance in the cells. Do not forget to drink water before, during, and after the sport. A proper amount of minerals and vitamins also can be dissolved in the water and consumed before a workout. However, the consumption of too much water is also unhealthy for our bodies. Many questions and discussions arise about how much and when to drink water before and during sports. According to a nutritionist, you should drink 250 ml of water two hours before training, and 150 ml an hour before exercising. During the marathon, you should drink a little water regularly every 20 minutes.

Before Marathon: Polysaccharides and Proteins

Nutrition specialists remind us that the most important elements that athletes need in their diet are proteins and easily and slow-digesting polysaccharides. They should be added to your menu both before and after training. While monosaccharides such as glucose provide short-term energy, polysaccharides provide a longer-term energy release when broken down. Cells quickly use monosaccharides. However, starch, which plants and their seeds use for energy, releases energy gradually in our gastrointestinal tract during digestion. Often people are simply afraid of carbohydrates, but it is an energy substance that we use up from the liver and muscles (glycogen), so it is necessary to replenish the reserves of glycogen. Sweet potatoes, whole grains such as whole grain bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, and fruits like bananas are the best choice before a marathon. Also do not forget proteins. For example, buckwheat porridge and a couple of egg whites would be suitable before training. Also, 2-3 hours before a marathon eat eggs with toast and fresh vegetables like cucumber or tomato. After such a meal, we get polysaccharides and proteins, which our body breaks down, absorbs, and synthesizes proper compounds that are useful for muscle cells.

What You Should Avoid Before Marathon?

First of all, avoid high-fat food, for instance, red meat, fast food, or even avocado. It is difficult for our organisms to change such fats into energy. It can make you feel tired before you even get started. Secondly, avoid energy drinks and coffee. For instance, some people might think that additional energy can help achieve better results. However, caffeine and a high amount of glucose (monosaccharide) can make your blood pressure and heartbeat rise rapidly. When the pressure rises suddenly, a person can immediately feel dizziness, pain in the area of the heart, a strong heartbeat, shortness of breath, body tremors, numbness, and visual disturbances may occur. Moreover, you should avoid high-fiber vegetables like beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and some whole grains, lentils or flaxseeds, etc. High-fiber food is difficult to digest. What is fiber? Fiber is a plant-based nutrient or polysaccharide cellulose. We do not have an enzyme in our body that can digest cellulose. Fibers are important helpers of our intestines – they stimulate the intestines to work faster, help remove unnecessary fats obtained from food, and are a source of good intestinal bacteria. During the marathon, the blood must bring nutrients and oxygen to the muscles. Meanwhile, all your blood will flow to the digestive tract. During sports, your muscles will not be fulfilled with the necessary material and you will feel tired.

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