Many runners who are getting prepared for their first marathon find it difficult to choose the right nutrition plan during the race. Some of them even lose sight of long-term nutrition planning and don’t think about it before the competition day.
Proper marathon nutrition should be thought-out in advance during your long preparatory workouts. It will take time: you will try, make mistakes, try again - and so on until you build your own nutrition strategy step-by-step.
Experiment with various products: gels, bars, chewing candies and ordinary foods too. When you find your perfect energy source, stick to it during the race. By the competition day, your body will be used to new foods and can work hard without annoying interruptions.
Create a useful habit: to write down your favorite energy sources in your training log. Specify: what you eat, how much, how you feel after, do you have enough energy for the rest of the race. This way you can easily visualize which products work best for you.
Why 45 grams (1.6 oz.)?
To run a marathon or other long distance successfully, you should pay attention to nutrition just as much as to your training.
Most experts recommend consuming about 30-60 g (1-2 oz.) of carbs per hour. A famous sports nutritionist Pamela Nisevich recommends athletes take 45 grams of carbs per hour. A lower level of carb supply (probably, the one you have now) builds the ‘wall’ at the very beginning of the race. To remove the ‘wall’, add sports gels, bars or chewing candies to your menu. Just don’t get carried away: it is important to have your stomach almost empty during the distance.
And one more important point: do not even try to eat all 45 grams of carbs at once! The body won’t be able to absorb them, so make sure you consume them gradually. It is necessary to eat fitness bars with water. This may seem obvious, but our task it to remind you: at long distance, water must be at hand. Do not wait until you are thirsty, drink in advance. Avoid dehydration during a long run at any cost.
Below you can find an example of a marathon nutrition plan to try. You can adjust it to your needs only by trying. Pay attention to details and regularly keep your training log. This way you can develop a plan that perfectly meets your needs.
Example of a marathon nutrition plan
Provided: 45 g (1.6 oz.) of carbs per hour during a 4-hour marathon.
Most gels provide about 25 grams of carbs. Part of the gel you can consume immediately, the rest you can eat in a few minutes or in a few kilometers. Gels should also be taken with water (the back of the package indicates how much water is needed per tube).
Most chewing candies contain about 4-8 g of carbs (0.15-0.3 oz.) per piece. In the example below, we take the average of 5 g/piece.
Almost all sports drinks provide about 15 g (0.5 oz.) of carbs for every 240 ml (8 oz.) of liquid. Do not mix high-carbohydrate gels, bars or chewing candies with a sports drink. Solid foods are better taken with water. Alternate water and your sports drink, depending on your condition.
During the marathon it may look like this:
- 15 minutes - 2 chewing candies (or 2 bites of a bar)
- 30 minutes - 1 gel tube
- 45 minutes - 1 chewing candy
- 1 hour - 1 chewing candy (total per hour: 45 g of carbs)
- 1 hour 15 minutes - 1 gel tube
- 1 hour 30 minutes - 1 chewing candy
- 1 hour 45 minutes - 120 ml (4 oz.) of sports drink
- 2 hours - 120 ml (4 oz) of sports drink (total per hour: 45 g of carbs)
- 2 hours 15 minutes - 1 gel tube
- 2 hours 30 minutes - 1 chewing candy
- 2 hours 45 minutes - 1 chewing candy
- 3 hours - 2 chewing candies (total per hour: 45 grams of carbohydrates)
- 3 hours 15 minutes - 120 ml (4 oz.) of sports drink
- 3 hours 30 minutes - 1 gel tube
- 3 hours 45 minutes - 120 ml (4 oz.) of sports drink
- 4 hours - finish!
Have a good run!