Spring marathons are on the horizon. One of my favorite races, the Grandma’s Marathon, is quickly approaching and you may be one of the thousands of people gearing up for the big race. Whether you are training for 26.2 milers or helping at the toddler trot, wholesome pre-race fuel is essential.
Good pre-race fuel doesn’t mean a large plateful of spaghetti the night before the race. “When you eat a bowl of spaghetti, most of the carbs are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is your body’s most easily accessible form of energy, but it’s not the only source. During a half or full marathon you burn both glycogen and fat. But the latter is not as efficient, which means your body has to work harder to convert it into fuel.” (McDowell, Dimity. “Fill ‘Er Up.” Runner’s World Nov. 2011)
Hitting “the wall”
Your body will naturally burn the easiest form of fuel first, glycogen. But when you run out of glycogen during a race you hit “the wall”. This happens because your body has to redirect its energy, away from supplying energy to your muscles, to turning fat into energy.
Nutrition ideas to avoid the wall
- Increase, not load, your carbohydrate consumption two to three days before the race. Doing so will build up a supply of glycogen in your muscles.
- Select easy-to-digest, high carb, low fiber foods such as white bread, baked potatoes without the skin, bagels, rice, tortillas, and yogurt. If you consume too many fibrous foods, you might experience “undesirable reactions” during the race.
- Avoid high-fat foods as they take longer to digest.
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid sugary drinks (that could include some sports performance drinks). Sugar is going to give you a “false” energy rush, and then cause your running-metabolism to drop as the quick burning energy of sugar is gone. Also, some of these sports drinks can cause an adverse reaction in your body.