What to Eat when You are Training for a Marathon

We kicked off running season with the Pittsburgh Marathon Training Kick-Off Run on Saturday! It was a beautiful day of weather and I led the runners in their dynamic warmup! What you eat before your run is included in this warm up. When you eat right, you run right!

Even long time runners don’t always know what to eat to maximize their run. The food that you eat it and drink is vital to you achieving your best run. It’s not only what you eat, but also how much and when you consume your food. Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, advises that we think of food as part of our warm up and cool down process. She also reminds us that less is more. Overdoing our fuel intake can have negative affects on our system.

How to Fuel Up before You Run

Hydration is key for runners.  Dehydration negatively affects your ability to meet aerobic demands.  To stay hydrated, drink 20 ounces of water about an hour before your run. This will give your body time to process the fluid and it won’t be sloshing around in your stomach while you run.

Pay attention to your body when you run, especially when running in the warmer months. Keep in mind Bonci’s tip that less is more. Don’t gulp down your fluids. Sometimes a sip is all you need. Runner’s World has some great sipping points to help you hydrate correctly.

Your body needs fuel, but it doesn’t need to feel weighed down. Opt for half of a bagel with peanut butter or a cup of jello before your run. Again, you don’t need anything sloshing around while you’re training.

Don’t forget that after your run, you will also need to refuel. Believe it or not, 8 ounces of low fat chocolate milk is a great thing to have during your cool down. It has the protein and carbs to help you restock and repair your system.

What to Put on Your Plate

Do not let fad diets fool you. When you are training, both carbs and fats are the best foods for running your best run. Yes, we know that goes against what you hear in the media!  But you want to achieve your best run, not give into trends. Ideally, these elements need to be integrated into every meal.

Whether it is rice, bread, cereal or pasta, carbohydrates provide excellent fuel for your body. You also need fat. Of course, we aren’t advocating eating giant hot fudge sundaes! We’re talking healthy fats, like olive oils, nuts, almond butter, etc…

Your body also needs protein. Bonci reminds us that “running is a breakdown activity.” Your body needs to rebuild, as well as refuel. Lean proteins will help you rebuild.

Watch Bonci “breakdown” exactly what to put on your plate:

Eat Your Way out of Pain

A lot of runners want to take a more holistic approach to pain prevention and treatment. They don’t want to take a pain pill. In addition to providing energy for your run, some foods and drinks can provide pain relief.

We’ve all heard about the weight loss benefits of green tea, but it also has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Plus, it’s great hydration for your body. To amp up your green tea, add some ginger, which may help with the next day aches and pains. Turmeric is another spice that as immense anti-inflammatory properties.  It might not taste great in your green tea, but it is one of the best foods for running and pain relief.  You can add it to other foods to help boost your system.

Don’t forget the tried and true “apple a day.” The skin of an apple can help reduce pain, as well. Apple slices with peanut butter aren’t just for your kids’ afternoon snack! They make a great running snack for you, too!

You can also add tart cherries or tart cherry juice to your diet, which has great pain suppressing properties.

And if you’re willing to go the supplement route, taking fish oil is helpful in reducing pain.

Whether you are training for the Pittsburgh Marathon or another great race, we hope these tips will help keep you pain free so that you can move you to your best life. Remember: Eat Right. Run Right.