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Fuelling your Marathon - Nutrition for Before, During and After your Endurance Event

You are what you eat. So, to run a marathon maybe you should be tucking into large portions of ostrich (it’s estimated they could run 26 miles in 45 minutes!). It’s not such a crazy idea, being high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol. But it’s a rather expensive option, and you still wouldn’t get all the nutrients you need. As a marathon runner, triathlete or any other endurance athlete the following advice will still be useful, even if you’re friends with an ostrich farmer.

Ostrich head

A balanced, high-quality diet with the right levels of macro- and micronutrients is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle and critical to athletic success. Macronutrients make up most our diet and provide bulk energy via proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that we need regularly in very small quantities for the healthy functioning of all our body's systems - from bone growth to brain function.

The general rule of thumb from the Eat-Well model is that carbohydrates should make up a third of our daily calories. However, since carbs are an athlete’s main fuel source during training and competition, we need more than people who are sedentary or only do light exercise. Typically, carbohydrate needs will vary from 5 to 10g per kg of body weight per day, depending on the type of training that you engage in. If you know how much you weigh and have a good training plan you can work out roughly how many grams of carbs you need daily:

Carbohydrate needs

The rest of your diet should be made up of: fruits and vegetables (try to eat at least 5-a-day and the more varied the colours, the better range of vitamins and minerals that will be available to your body); protein (2-3 servings daily, dependent on your training volume); and healthy fats (20-30% of your diet).

Protein needs

It is important to get the right balance of nutrients in your diet and everyone’s requirements will be slightly different, so find something at works well for you.