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Training Tips

Fuel your marathon! Tips on carbo-loading

21-04-2015

Everyone has probably heard of carbo-loading and its benefits for marathon running but it can still be an art to get this right!

WHY CARBO LOAD?

Your glycogen levels will stock up by reducing your training as you taper but it is also key to take in more carbohydrates closer to race day.

Your body will rely on its glycogen stores to keep going in the latter half of the race, without this fuel to burn, you’ll start to feel depleted and low on energy – you’ll hit the dreaded the wall!

IMG 20150413 203554Pic shows 'Ten Minute Tomato Pasta' made following the recipe in Deliciously Ella's cookbook

HOW TO DO IT...

You can eat relatively normally up to three days before the race. Then, begin increasing your carb intake at meal times, having slightly extra pasta for instance and having carb rich meals for both lunch and dinner, for example pasta salad for lunch and a chicken risotto for dinner.

You should also snack on carbohydrates between meals eg by eating bananas, rice cakes or an energy bar.

Keep meals healthy and nutritious and avoid rich sauces or foods that could irritate your stomach, particularly the night before the race (probably best to leave the curry until post-race!). You don’t need to stuff yourself until you feel uncomfortable each time you eat! The aim is to feel stocked up on race morning.

During your training, you should have got into the habit of having a carb-heavy meal the night before your long run. So the night before the race, stick to what you have eaten before. My pre-marathon meal is always spaghetti bolognese.

RACE DAY BREAKFAST

On the morning of the race, don’t experiment by doing anything new! Race day is all about keeping a routine and you will feel more in control by sticking to familiar habits that you know work for you.

Eat your usual marathon or race day breakfast as you have practised before training. This should be eaten at least three hours before the race starts. Under no circumstances should you miss breakfast as this final topping up of energy stores is vital for the race in a few hours. A breakfast should be substantial, but not too heavy, and needs to be eaten - even if nerves mean food is the last thing you feel like!

A suitable breakfast could be porridge (though I personally find this too heavy before a marathon), three or four slices of toast with jam (my preference), or cereal followed by toast. A fry up is probably too much!

You may wish to top up with something like a bit of a ripe banana or a bit of energy bar within this three hour time slot - this should be a small amount so it can digest in time. That said, to our amusement, Susan Partridge and myself saw an elite Japanese athlete guzzling cake on the bus to the start line at the London Marathon in 2013! I would never recommend this but it shows you should stick with what works for you!

Good luck to everyone running the London Marathon this weekend!