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Essential marathon fueling tips for before during and after the big race.

Team GB have been advised by sports nutritionist James Collins on their Olympic nutrition and here he provides essential advice and tips for the day before, during and after the big race.

”Fuelling for training is vital for optimal performance” says James. ”The main fuel for training is carbohydrate, which is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which the body draws upon for energy. The body is only able to store a relatively small amount of carbohydrate, which is why keeping it topped up is so important.”

James Collins suggests on the morning of the Marathon to go for overall fuelling; “What you eat on the morning of your event should link into an overall fuelling strategy that you have developed during your training. Eat a meal two to four hours before the start of the race, and include a range of foods depending on your taste.”

Good breakfast options for the morning of your race may include:

  • Pancakes and mixed toppings, such as fruits and nuts
  • Porridge oats with milk or soy milk
  • Granola with milk or soy milk
  • Multigrain bread topped with eggs
  • Fruit salad and low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Bagels or breakfast muffins with low-fat cottage cheese
  • Fruit juice or a fruit smoothie

During the race, for energy-boosting,  and if you already regularly consume caffeine as part of your diet, can be a usual alternative to carbohydrates for an energy boost. Commercially available sports drinks and gels containing caffeine can be extremely useful, especially later in the race.

Refuel during the race to keep energy levels up suggest James “Don’t rely on hunger as a cue to refuel during the race. As a rule, practice and refine your fuelling during training and find a strategy you’re comfortable with. Taking on carbohydrate little and often, for a constant energy supply, is often the most efficient strategy.”

Approximately 30-60g of carbohydrate an hour, as a rough guide, will be your target during the marathon, as the body can absorb this amount and use it for energy on the move. Carbohydrate drinks are typically the most efficient alongside good hydration to meet these targets,. Small pieces of banana, cereal bars and jellied sweets also can help to offset hunger. readily available on race day, carbohydrate gels are also available and rapidly absorbed by the body.

See what works best for you and experiment with quantities during training. The following list will provide around 30g of carbohydrate –

  • 500ml bottle of commercially available sports drink
  • One and a half carbohydrate energy gels
  • A small handful of jellied sweets
  • One large banana
  • One large cereal bar or carbohydrate based energy bar (choose a low-fibre option)

Finally, that all important recovery post run, James suggests eating within 30 mins after running –  ”Your body needs essential nutrients to kick start the growth and repair process after a hard training session. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source, and are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. As the body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate, once depleted through exercise these reserves need to be replaced before your next training session”

Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue and as hard training depletes the body’s stores it is important to refuel with high-protein snacks as soon as possible. To reduce muscle soreness the next day its essential to replenish after each training. If you can’t face eating straight after a run, introduce fluids to your recovery strategy.

The magic number is 20g of protein this is what you need to optimise the recovery process after training. The following snacks will help you reach this target:

  • 500ml milkshake
  • Natural yogurt based fruit smoothie
  • Sandwich with lean meats, eggs, or low-fat cheese
  • Greek yogurt, granola and mixed berries

For further information, the BBC Good Food website offers a huge range of tips and suggestions for diet around exercise at its marathon hub containing all the information runners will need this weekend.