So you’ve made the decision to train for a marathon! Congratulations! While training requires its own specific planning process, so does making sure you know what to eat. It may sound simple, but planning your diet as much as you plan what days to work out can help you reach and exceed your goals.
Over Easy wants to help you surpass your expectations by giving you a healthy source of nutrition to power your workouts. We believe in you, and with the right diet and exercise routine, you’ll basically be a superhuman.
How Long Is A Marathon, Exactly?
The term marathon gets thrown around a lot, but do you know exactly how long that is?
When you run a marathon, you’ll be running 26 miles, 385 yards. Jeez.
For most people, training for a marathon takes between 12 and 20 weeks in total. The reason it takes so long is that there is a significantly higher risk of injury when training for and running a marathon, far more than a simple jog around the block. Often, the injuries stem from pushing yourself too hard too quickly.
The Four Steps Of Marathon Training
When it comes to actually training for the marathon, most experts recommend that it be done in four steps to help minimize the potential for damage, all while accompanied by the right kind of diet (especially one that includes Over Easy bars—hint, hint, wink, wink).
Step One: Base Mileage
Start out by running between three and five times a week at a relaxed pace. This should be a pace where you are able to hold a conversation as you run.
Step Two: The Long Run
Once you feel comfortable running a few times a week, start to build up to a single, weekly long run. You’ll want to slow your pace for these, though, and scale them back occasionally to give your body time to rest.
Step Three: Speed Work
Speed isn’t important to every marathon runner, depending on the reasons they are training. If you are trying to zoom down the course, though, you’ll want to add some speed work into your plan. Try intervals or tempo runs.
Intervals are shorter distances where you push yourself faster than usual. Tempo runs are similar, only slightly longer. Either way, you want them to be challenging to push yourself while also building your cardio.
Step Four: Rest And Recovery
Rest is just as important as all of the actually running. When you rest, your muscles are able to recover, which can prevent injury. If you want to do something active on your rest days, stretching and yoga are great options.
The Importance Of Food For Marathon Training
As hard as you train, as far as you push yourself, all of that work can be undone when you eat an unhealthy diet as you train.
Because marathon training can take up the majority of a year, making sure that you build yourself back up with healthy foods after you tear your muscle tissue down on those long runs is essential. What you eat makes up your very cells, so healthy food makes for a healthy body—and we’re pretty sure that it takes a pretty healthy body to run 26 frickin’ miles.
The two most important things to focus on when planning your diet while you train are protein and carbohydrates.
Protein is an essential part of the way that the body functions under normal conditions, helping it to perform the regular functions of life. Most important for the marathon runner is the way that protein helps the growth, regrowth, and repair of muscle tissue.
Ultimately, muscles are made out of protein (specifically, amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of the muscle). When you train, your muscles are being essentially torn apart. Without protein, your body won’t be able to repair them. Aim for eating lean meats, nut butters, and eggs.
Carbs are even more well-known for their importance in marathon training and running in general. Carbs are the fuel that we give our body to replenish its energy sources, known as glycogen. It’s the gas that we fill our tank up with so that we can perform the way that we want to.
This food group is even more tricky than protein to really figure out, as there are plenty of sources of carbs that may appear healthy but don’t provide the body with what it needs.
So now you know that you need both protein and carbs to fuel your body during training. And do you know what convenient, tasty, colorful food has high values of both? Yeah, that’s right. We’re talking about Over Easy breakfast bars.
Fueling Before A Race Or Long Run
Your marathon training starts with the way you fuel your body before a race or a long run.
The morning of your run, eat a high carb breakfast or snack a few hours before you begin. Focus on eating healthy carbs, like a protein-heavy breakfast bar (have you met us?), so that you give your body a healthy source of fuel that won’t run out just as soon as it kicks in. If you choose a sugar-laden toaster pastry or a sports drink full of sodium, your body will blow through it in no time flat. Remember, you want a source of energy that can last you for over 26 miles.
You’ll also want to try to eat as organic and natural as possible. Instead of filling your body up with heavy, processed foods that will sit in your stomach and weigh you down, organic, natural foods help give you that energy without all the after-effects. Do you want to take a wild guess as to where you can get organic, natural foods? Yup, Over Easy.
Ok… Let’s Talk Carb Loading
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about carb loading. Most people don’t really understand how to do it appropriately and when it is actually beneficial to a training and race program.
Proper carb loading starts about a week before the marathon. For most people training for a marathon, experts recommend that they eat between five and seven grams of carbs for every kilogram of body weight (to get your weight in kilograms, just divide your weight by 2.2). When carb loading, that amount should be increased to between eight and twelve grams per kilogram.
The benefits of carb loading is an increase in energy level and performance and a decrease in fatigue (especially mid-race). However, for some, the risks involve some serious GI discomfort and potential blood sugar changes (especially for people who are diabetic).
Fueling During A Marathon?
People who have run a marathon will tell you about a phenomenon specific to the race, known as “bonking” or “hitting the wall,” which usually happens around the 20 mile mark.
This happens because the human body is only able to store a certain amount of glycogen, which is the main source of energy that it needs to power your run. With every mile that goes by, your glycogen stores are depleted further and further. The lower the glycogen level gets, the more fatigued and heavy your muscles will be.
While you’re unable to completely restore your glycogen levels with a mid-marathon snack, eating a snack as you run, especially before you hit the wall, can help you. For many people, energy bars (like the ones we sell here at Over Easy) are the best option. They’re easy to eat, full of protein and carbs, and provide a healthy source of fuel to keep you going until the finish line.
While hydration is always an important factor, it’s especially important in the days leading up to a marathon or longer run. Make sure that you’re properly hydrated, drinking a large glass of water before you go to bed every night as well. You’ll also want to make sure that you drink at least 16 ounces of water an hour or so before your run.
When your body gets dehydrated, which can happen especially through sweat loss when you’re working out or training for a marathon, your performance suffers (and it can straight up be dangerous, so no thanks). It also affects how quickly and easily your body is able to recover from your workout, and how sore your muscles get. And, most importantly, when you are dehydrated your body doesn’t have the right tools to make sure that your blood volume stays where it needs to be.
Our bodies are 70% water, so we need to make sure we give them enough to do their jobs properly. Even a small reduction in your hydration (around a 2% loss of your body weight) can lead to a much larger reduction in your performance (up to 6%). Why take chances?
What you should eat when you’re training for a marathon, as well as what you should eat while you’re running one, is much different than what you should eat during any other form of exercise. Powering your body right, to push you through those 26.2 miles, can help you reach your goals. Over Easy breakfast bars aren’t just for breakfast, they’re a great way to fuel yourself through that wall and beyond.