The basics of sports nutrition

As well as keeping you healthy, nutrition plays an important role in performance. Getting your nutrition habits right can help you run faster for longer, recover quicker and avoid stomach issues. Whilst the basic nutritional principles here are a great foundation for your marathon nutrition plan, let’s turn your attention to how you can take these principles further and adapt them to your training.

We believe the three areas to consider are:

Energy

Any run is going to put an extra demand on your energy requirements and therefore on training days you are going to require more energy. Whilst carbohydrates have had a bad press in the past, and people are divided as to whether you should consume a high or low carbohydrate diet, they are the body’s preferred source of energy. We believe if you choose the right carbohydrates, at the right time, then you can help keep your energy stores topped up allowing you to run faster for longer. Following these tips can help you do so:

Decide what time of day you plan to train:

  1. Work back 2-4 hours, depending on how long it takes you to digest food and eat a carbohydrate-based meal. For early runs, eat a carbohydrate-based meal before bed and definitely consider step 3!
  2. If your run is between meals, it may help to consume a small carbohydrate snack around an hour before, to boost energy levels and reduce feelings of hunger
  3. Be carbohydrate smart! Check out our top five here

Recovery

After a run, the right nutrition can help you feel better quicker and ready to run again sooner. Meals and snacks after training sessions should focus on protein to help rebuild damaged muscles. As your runs get longer it may also be beneficial to think about replacing your energy stores by consuming carbohydrates alongside protein. The tips below are useful to start establishing post-run, protein rich habits!

  • Eat soon after your run, consuming a protein based meal or snack within an couple of hours of finishing
  • Be prepared. If you don’t have time to have a meal within a couple of hours, have a healthy protein snack available to help kick start recovery until you have time
  • Base your next meal around a healthy protein source such as chicken, eggs or beans
  • On rest days, ensure you are maintaining a protein-rich diet to help continue recovery

Hydration

Drinking enough each day, especially on training days is important to keep you hydrated. Dehydration can reduce your performance amongst other health issues. Try and set some habits to maintain hydration, such as:

  • Having a water bottle with you and sipping regularly throughout the day. Keep it somewhere you can see as a visual reminder
  • Having a glass of water with every caffeinated drink you consume as caffeinated drinks can be dehydrating if consumed in excess
  • Drinking 2-3 glasses of water in the hours leading up to your run, leaving enough time for it to pass through you to avoid any unnecessary pit stops!
  • Practicing running with a water bottle now, (even though it is not necessary for shorter runs) so that when you do start going further, you are used to it
  • Practice drinking from cups in your training too, as water will be provided in cups on the course – remember you don’t have to throw it back, you can slow down and sip

By sticking to the tips above, as well as the basic principles outlined in September, you can help form habits which will not only help your training runs now, but will prove to be highly beneficial in the months. It is important you also listen to your body. On good days, take note of what you did and repeat it, and similarly, on bad days take note and avoid it for future runs.


Article by Nick Morgan, Official Nutritionist for Brighton Marathon Weekend

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