With a huge host of gels, energy blocks, isotonic drinks available it can be a little overwhelming and hard to know what’s right for you and what you actually need, especially for first time marathoners.
We caught up with LDN Brunch Club Founder and Captain Stephen Adjaidoo to get his thoughts on marathon nutrition from training, to pre race rituals and race day itself.
If you’re training for London, those long runs have probably started creeping up to around 13-15 miles. Breakfast is, especially for those really focusing on trying to build endurance in the lead up to a marathon, the most important meal of the day. For breakfast, you’ll want to start preparing your body (and mind) for what you’ll do on race day.
Personally, when the distances are short (less than 10miles) I usually stick to peanut butter on toast and maybe a banana, an hour to two hours before I run. As the runs get longer I’ll switch to porridge (with peanut butter too obviously), especially good for when training through winter for a spring marathon and it’s a little colder.
I’d never run a long run on an empty stomach. While there are benefits to doing some longer runs in the fasted state, doing this regularly or without proper planning and/or advice from a coach can impair performance, so you’ll actually limit the benefit of doing the run.
On the run
If you aren’t sure where to start here, I’d always suggest checking out what energy gels and/or isotonic drinks will be given out in the course of the marathon you are running. For the Virgin Money London Marathon it’s usually Lucozade Sport. If you can use these, then you’ll probably need to carry less (depending on where the hand out locations are) when you are running. If you decide these won’t work for you then you’ll need to carry everything you need.
It can be difficult to work out exactly how many gels you need for a specific run. Most come with clear guidance on how regularly you might need them. If you’re trying a new gel for the first time, I’d definitely recommend planning a route where you know where some accessible toilets are, just in case you find the gel doesn’t agree with you. Different gels work for everyone so there’s likely to be different ones suggested if you ask different people. Personally I really like the High5 gels, especially the isotonic ones, as I’ve suffered from muscle cramp towards the end of my last few marathons, I’ve found these have really helped.
It’s also probably worth thinking about how you’ll carry all your energy gels before the morning of the race itself, something I’ve definitely fallen fowl to a few times.
The longer long runs especially can be used to practice fuelling for the marathon. I’d also recommend getting a decent water bottle you can take with you on your longer runs. You might even want to run with this on marathon day so you don’t need to rely on the first few water stops on the course.
We (at LDN Brunch Club) also favour refuelling after the long run. Depending on how far we’ve ran we might go for some kind eggs, the revered avo toast, a full veggie breakfast, or if we’re feeling indulgent then buttermilk pancakes and blueberries are also a good shout to refuel.
Carb loading isn’t an excuse to overload on high sugar or high fat foods for a week or two before the marathon. Those types of foods won’t help you come race day and you’ll just end up with a little extra to carry around for 26.2 miles. In the few days before the marathon, complex carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice and wholemeal pasta will keep your energy levels (glycogen to be precise) topped up. Combine this with a healthy amount of vegetables and protein and you’ll give yourself a great head start.
You should have figured out anything you want to run with (gels, water etc) during your long runs. Make sure you have whatever you need ahead of time so you aren’t rushing around the evening before trying to find something last minute. This especially applies if you know you’ll be travelling for the marathon or travelling far on race day.
Hopefully by the time race day comes around, you’ll have an idea what breakfast works for you- stick to it and trust it will work for you. The “nothing new on race day” doesn’t just apply to what you’re wearing but your fuelling and hydration too.
It’s worth checking exactly where the water and energy stations are so you know where they are in case you need them.
I find there is always a little bit of a juggling act for hydration on race day, with variables like the weather to consider it’s hard to know exactly how much to drink, even for experienced marathons. Some say drink a little at every water station, and others say to drink a little more and grab water from every other. Really it is a personal thing.
For most, race day is all about celebrating all the training you’ve put in so sipping a little bit of water every water station seems a pretty sensible thing to go with unless it’s unusually hot or of course, you feel hydrated and feel like you need more to drink.