Don’t even think about dieting when you’re marathon training. Here’s why…
Have you entered a marathon focused on what an amazing achievement it will be… or have you secretly got it down as part of a focused weight-loss plan? Many female runners will be thinking of multiple outcomes to motivate themselves to complete the distance, and fitting into slightly smaller clothes is often appealing! However, during this intense training period, dieting is definitely not the best idea.
ENERGY, RECOVERY AND IMMUNITY
If you’re increasing your running mileage, this will also lift your daily calorie expenditure, which may seem like the perfect opportunity to lose weight. However, this may be at the expense of muscle loss, lethargy and a weakened immune system, so eating to more closely match your energy output is important.
In the immediate period after a training session, your body is more receptive to carbohydrate intake, to efficiently refill your muscle stores. The presence of just 10-15g protein can also aid muscle repair, making recovery a little easier and injury less likely. As your runs extend in preparation for the marathon, taking advantage of this refuelling window becomes even more important, as long runs will virtually empty your carbohydrate stores, which can leave your immune system vulnerable and will impair recovery and performance in your next training session if they’re not replaced.
In short, supplying adequate calories to support training across your general diet and at key times, such as in the recovery window, will give you the energy you need to aid recovery and support energy. What you eat prior to and during your runs will also have an impact.
Timing a meal or snack for two hours prior to your planned run can pay dividends in performance progression. It’s easy to drift from lunchtime and eat nothing until your planned run after a long day, which is likely to leave you running hungry and tired.
Simply spreading your calories evenly across the day, so you are only ever two hours away from running strong, will help you to get through the majority of your marathon training sessions. Put simply, eating breakfast will help to fuel you for a mid-morning run; a mid-morning snack for a lunchtime run; and a mid-afternoon snack for an evening run. This doesn’t mean eating more calories than you need, it simply means having more frequent meals with fewer calories each time, throughout the day.
Research supports the use of carbohydrate during even short runs under 45 minutes, showing an improvement in performance and a reduction in effort perception. But over longer distances, such as the marathon, carbohydrate becomes even more important, as your store is usually almost depleted during this event. A good marathon should be supported with regular intake of carbohydrate and fluid. Fuelling requires some practice in training. Fuelling all of your runs with 30-60g of carbohydrate from energy drinks or gels will help you train harder and get your gut used to taking on fuel, so don’t even think about running without fuel to accelerate weight loss.