Thursday, October 24, 2013

Before the marathon: Top 4 Nutrition Tips!

While many big marathons are over, a few still remain, including my city's inaugural Naperville Marathon on November 10th! For those of you with a race still in sight, here are the top 4 things you should be doing before race day...

1. Train your stomach, not just your muscles
A big mistake distance runners often make is forgetting to train their stomachs. Along with putting in those miles, it is important to practice fueling for race day. Race day is not a time to introduce new products (even sports drink), as your stomach may not be used to digesting during running. As soon as your runs become longer than 60 minutes, start adding in quick sources of carbohydrate such as sports drinks, gels, chomps, beans, dried fruit, or pretzels. Experiment with different products so you know what you prefer and what you tolerate both at the beginning and end of those long runs.

2. Know the course
While it is important to know the running course, you also need to educate yourself about the aid stations. Most (and by that I mean 99%) marathon races have the course map on the website. That course map will either include the aid stations or provide a different map of just aid stations. Know which product will be handed out where. Most marathons offer water and sports drink every 1.5 miles or so, but may add bananas or gu's/gels in the second half. Know what is available so you can train appropriately. Are they handing out a sports drink or product you have never tried before? Buy some of that product and train with it before race day to be sure you tolerate it.

3. Frontload fuel
A key to marathon fueling is starting sooner rather than later. Any of you who have run a marathon before are familiar with that "22-mile wall"'s that feeling you get somewhere between miles 19 and 23 when your body says "are you done yet?". Hitting the wall often means you have little motivation to provide fluid and fuel to your body anymore. Therefore, make sure you will be covered by starting fueling (i.e. something more than water) within the first 45 min into the race and then consistently every 30 minutes after that. This will also assure that your muscles have energy to get you through the ENTIRE race. This will result in better mile times and hitting that wall later rather than sooner.

4. Have a plan
Once you have checked out the aid stations and begun to train your stomach, start devising your fueling plan. This is perhaps the most important thing you will bring to race day. Decide which product(s) you will take at what mile markers. Will you use a fuel belt? If so, what will you carry? Will you take from the aid stations? If so, do you know what flavors of products they have and if you like those flavors? These are all important questions that should be answered beforehand instead of as you are approaching that aid station on race day.

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, this is a perfect opportunity to meet with a sports dietitian (RD, CSSD), who can walk you through the steps above. Make an appointment with RDKate Sports Nutrition by calling 989.906.2459. If you are not located in Illinois or Michigan, check to find another RD, CSSD near you!

Be Extraordinary,


Photo credit:


  1. Could you comment on fueling strategies for the runners doing the half marathon? Thanks tons!

    1. Hi Melissa - thanks for your question. Much of what you would do for the half marathon will mirror what you would do for a marathon..just - shorter! Check out the course for the half marathon so you know what they are providing and how often. Sit down and figure out which aid stations you will pass when based on your mile pace so you know what to do on race day. While half marathoners often don't hit that terrible 19 mile wall, they still can cramp up or fatigue toward the end of the race. Follow the same guidelines for front loading and start fueling within the first 30 min (vs. 45 min) of the race. Continue fueling every 30 minutes after that. Before the race, be sure to eat breakfast and perhaps even a morning snack (depending on how early you will be up)! Hope that helps!