Health: Preparing for the long haul: how to fuel and train for the Detroit marathon
The following is a guest post from Michael Korona, a dietetic intern who is spending a six-week rotation with Melissa Gerharter.
On Oct. 16, thousands will be participating in the Detroit Free Press Marathon and Half-Marathon, crossing between Detroit and Canada. Every one of those participants will get to the starting line with a different level of training under their belts.
While some people train for months to get ready for such an event, there are also those who do not train at all and expect to get the same results. An event of this magnitude is not one the average person can just show up to and expect a great performance; training along with nutritional preparation must be in place to ensure success.
When thinking about it now, just a few short weeks from the event, it is important to keep in mind that you want to get your body used to using nutrients during the run. Those of you who are not used to consuming fluids or solids during exercise may experience cramping and unpleasant effects.
When you train for such an event, take along drinks and possibly even some food options to get yourself used to having to consume fluids and solids during the race. Most importantly, find what works best for you; not everyone will have the same plan of hydration and refueling.
According to the Detroit Free Press Marathon website, drink stations for the race are provided every 1.5 miles and will offer both water and Gatorade, but that may not be enough for some people.
Experiment during training with food and drinks to see what works best for you. Drinking too much can lead to cramping and the urge to use the bathroom, which can hinder optimal performance. On the other hand, drinking too little fluid can lead to cramping and possible dehydration.
Carbohydrates should be consumed periodically throughout the race to ensure that you maintain stable blood sugar levels and keep refueling what you are burning off. Sports drinks (such as Gatorade and Powerade) offer a carbohydrate and electrolyte blend that will not only provide the hydration that your body needs, but also provide the carbohydrates and electrolytes that you need to replenish what youÊ¼re losing.
Fueling up for success
There are many strategies and resources out there that offer “the ultimate” nutrition guide to preparing you for the race. The day of the race, you want to make sure that you are providing your body ample nutrients to perform at your best.
Days before the event and again three to four hours before the beginning of the race (if possible), you want to consume a carbohydrate-dense meal with some lean protein as well, such as a bowl of oatmeal with berries, a piece of toast with peanut butter and a glass of juice. Limit your fat and fiber intake the meal before the race because these two nutrients can slow down digestion and can lead to cramping if you ingest them too close to the start of the race.
There is also evidence to show that you want to consumer a pre-race snack about one hour to 30 minutes from start time; a good example would be a piece of fruit or a granola bar.
It is important to get some nutrients after the race. Make sure you try and get adequate carbohydrate and protein intake within 30 minutes of the finish with a ratio of about 4:1 with a rough total of 100 grams of carbohydrates. Examples include a peanut butter sandwich and chocolate milk. Then enjoy a nice meal (i.e. some pasta with chicken breast) about two hours after the finish to help promote recovery.
Keep in mind that nutritional strategies will vary person to person, so it is up to you to find what works best for your body to support your performance. There may be some trial and error when designing a nutrition plan for the day of the event, but that is what training is for.
When you show up on race day, you want to have all phases of your plan in place to insure that you get the best performance out of your body.
Michael Korona is a senior in the dietetic program at Eastern Michigan University and will graduate in the spring. Melissa Gerharter MS, RD, CSSD is co-owner of Joust Strength and Fitness in Ann Arbor.