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Fueling Up : Eating During Marathon Training

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Thank you so very much for your feedback on yesterday’s post! It seems that training burnout is something that affects so many of us, whether you are training for a marathon or tackling another big bad scary goal. Today, as is typical here on Suzlyfe, we talk about food, so with Marathon Training Prep Week in mind, today I am talking about eating during marathon training.

Marathon Training + Fueling

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Running the miles is only a part of the battle, as many of us know. After all, without sufficient and proper fuel, how can we even expect to accomplish the miles! As cliché as it might seem, cars really provide an excellent analogy for the human body when it comes to the general concept of fueling for marathons and other training: in essence, as I just said, you have to have fuel if you want to perform, and to take the concept further, your body/car will perform best on certain types of fuel. This is not a technical explanation of fuel, mind you, just a way to make it more accessible!

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante 2014. I would be a Bond girl for one

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante 2014. I would be a Bond girl for one

Now, to throw a monkey wrench into the situation, the human body is just a titch more complicated than a car. Bodies, unlike cars, have fuel level minimums and maximums for optimal performance, and you can’t just fuel and go. It takes a bit more planning than that! Here are some considerations, tips, and resources for you to get your body fueled up and ready to go, but most importantly, how to make marathon training and fueling work for you.

I want to be very clear that while a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not a Nutritionist, certified or otherwise. This is based purely on my own experience, research, and observations. For specific nutrition advice, please ask professional!

BALANCE

Let me say it again (in case you didn’t hear me). BALANCE. Not only am I a big believer in balance throughout life — and by that, I don’t mean that you never go to extremes! I just mean that equilibrium is a natural goal of the body and mind — I am a huge proponent of balance in fitness, food, and marathon training. This goes to show with my balanced approach to my marathon training planning and scheduling (helping me to avoid burnout) as well as with my diet.

#balance

#balance

Fueling plans should look at the macro as well as the micros (which are sometimes macros, or macronutrients). Eating one not so great meal? Not the be-all, end-all of your training, or your race. Often, “it all comes out in the wash,” as they say! That said, not paying attention, and putting that one “red garment” in when a load of whites and putting it on hot… aka eating a super high fiber, low calorie meal before setting out on a long run. Here are the key ways in which I seek balance with regards to food during marathon training:

Balance of Macros at Every Feeding (Meal, Snack)

I have discovered that, in my case, my body likes to have a bit of everything (just like my brain, and I’m sure that it is somewhat mental): carbs, protein, fats, fiber, and sugars, at every juncture, thereby helping me to stay satisfied and maintain my energy levels. My body uses the various components to process the other optimally, thereby allowing as well for better absorption of the micronutrients.

Balance of Meals and Macros throughout the Day

Sure, we love a good chow down, and runners know how to eat. I am just as guilty as anyone else of getting a bit out of control when presented the opportunity, as I have talked about. But going crazy after a long run isn’t as helpful as you might think. We should all know that the myth of “well, I’m training for a marathon, I can eat whatever I want” is just that: a myth. But deciding that not only can you eat anything you want but that you can do it allatonce?

I will always love this picture.

I will always love this picture.

Really not helpful! You can’t and shouldn’t attempt to replace 20 miles worth of calories at once! Think about it: you body’s processing power is like a person catching balls. There are only so many balls that you can catch at one time! So, if you need to catch a lot of balls, throw them over, wait a breath, let them get put away, throw again.

Or, as I said to a trainee this weekend: Why eat 3000 calories of tacos all at once when you can have TACOS ALL DAY??

Balance of Fun and Functional Food

Just like with your training plan, you should find incentives within what you are eating, as well as sometimes, just suck it up and eat it because you know you need to. Yes, carbs are great, (#carbloadingforlife) but you need your veggies! Don’t be a baby–put it in a protein smoothie or bake it into something delicious, like my Cornbread Zucchini Protein Muffins (Gluten Free), or my Chocolate Zucchini Oat Protein Bread (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)! But no, I’m sorry, Pizza is not a Vegetable and neither are fries. And butter, while it can be lovely, should not be a food group.

spencerwilson_icream_oclock_revisedBut fun food can also be functional, just as functional food can be fun! Look at my nightly ice cream–I get in extra fats (though lower than I would with a premium ice cream, because my stomach can’t handle that), sugars (at a time when it really doesn’t affect me either way, hey the sugar crash might come in handy!), a little bit of protein (yes, it does have some), extra carbs, and calorie density to help me get sufficient calories in for the day. I pair it with nut butter (good fats), high quality cereals, like Kashi (or my recent Power 0’s), low sugar protein bars, or whole wheat breads. And I am satisfied until morning! In the interest of full disclosure, I often do a serving of Greek Yogurt and then a serving of ice cream for extra protein and a little less sugar, if I feel I need to.

How to Achieve this Balance

Experimentation and Research.

Like with your training plan, document what you eat and how it makes you feel. You need to think of the fact that you also have to train your stomach for what it is about to undergo–create rituals (I have particular things that I eat on race day that get me ready to go physically as well as mentally). Alternatively, DON’T FREAK OUT if you can’t follow your ritual to a T. Do the best you can, and move on!

Make the right foods accessible.

Have healthy on the go snacks with you AT ALL TIMES. Don’t leave the house without them, just don’t! (and enter my giveaway to try some new ones!).

high protein low sugar snacks marathon training suzlyfe

Click!

Have healthy meals that you can make practically blindfolded and in no time at all (like the power bowls I make for Alex). Recipe Page

harvest quinoa protein bowl suzlyfe

Make it FUN. Don’t like to cook, or don’t know how? Take the opportunity to teach yourself! Or don’t, and go shopping for fun alternatives!

Check out my recipe page and my food  product reviews page for more ideas and specific examples!

I hope that this helps you feel a bit less anxious about the big bad marathon fueling game! And just relax. Training lasts a long time, just like I said before, one little mistake isn’t going to sink the ship. Unless it is a cannon straight through the hull. And then you might be in trouble.

Fuel up without getting Fed Up @Suzlyfe explains achieving #marathontraining #nutrition #runchat Click To Tweet

What is your biggest hurdle in fueling? Have you had to change your fueling in the past in a significant way? How did it/did it not help you? Adding more healthy fats and extra calories to my diet turned my training around last year!

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