Hi Runners!

It’s May and we are about 3 weeks out from the big day! I hope your training has been going well. I wanted to talk today about some specifics on types of fuel for your runs and races, and what to eat before, during and after.

First of all, the basics of a successful nutrition plan is to have a nutrient rich diet every day and carry that into your big training days and races. This is when we need to think about what we are going to eat before, during and afterwards.

Cara Marrs Steamboat MarathonBefore the Race

Before a run you must first think about what type of a run you’re embarking on.  If you are going out on a shorter run of up to an hour, I would keep your intakes simple; you do not need to fuel too heavily. These runs might be at a faster pace so keep it simple to avoid stomach upset. Sometimes for runs like this I will make a big smoothie and drink half before the run and half afterwards. You might also just have a piece of toast with peanut or almond butter or even just a banana. My strategy for a “split” smoothie is to drink half before and keep the other half in the blender in the fridge, and add some extras for the after-run consumption. The first version might be berries, a little protein powder, ½ banana, and almond milk. After my run I add a full scoop of plant based protein powder, more almond milk, some unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, the other half of the banana, and a few more berries and re-blend. The reasons behind all of this is that before the run I just need a little carbohydrate for energy, and afterwards I want to add protein for muscle recovery and anti-inflammatory fats, plus carbohydrate for glycogen repletion (filling the tank from what I used on the run). On longer runs that might be done at a lower intensity or that might be long runs on trails that take many hours, I would have something like a breakfast bowl that might consist of eggs, quinoa, spinach and avocado, or oatmeal with berries and nuts. For a race keep it simple and lower in fiber as you will be running at a higher intensity; this can cut down on bathroom breaks. You will also have access to aid stations that you don’t on your solo outings. Toast with nut butter and a banana might work well for you or just oatmeal with fruit; everyone’s system is different! Pro tip: If you are trying to go to the bathroom before a race skip the banana until after you have accomplished that, as bananas can be constipating. If you are worried about pre-race jitters, and too many bathroom breaks, a banana might just do the trick to keep that at bay while you’re running.

During the Race

During a run or race, aim for 30-50g of carbohydrates, depending on size, every 45 minutes to an hour. Runs up to 1 hour I would just have water. 300 calories an hour is the upper end of what most people can digest while running. Options in a marathon or half should be easy to grab and easy to digest. For longer ultras and days out, I get more creative on food choices, but for a marathon keep it simple. Honey Stinger will be the fuel on course so make sure to try their products before the race if you want to use the aid station fuel. Typically the aids will have Stinger gels and chews. One gel is about 25g of carb and one packet of chews is 38g. I find that slowly eating a packet of chews over a 1-3 minute period works great if you’re getting sick of gels. Gels are easy, but find the right product for you. All sports products have different types of sugars and everyone’s GI tract will work with different products. I like Honey Stinger, V-Fuel, Huma and Spring energy for easy to digest gels but there are so many great products out there. Go to your local running store and try them all. Remember to take note if a product has caffeine if you are not used to that. In 2002 I ran the Chicago Marathon and was jolted awake when I realized I had grabbed and eaten a gel that said 4x the caffeine on the wrapper at an aid station! It worked, but it could have been a disaster as I was not used to that much caffeine. You can also do all liquid nutrition with a product like Tailwind Nutrition if that’s what works best for you.  A product like Tailwind provides all of the carbs and electrolytes in one drink powder, and I often use it during races along with other products.

Steamboat Marathon TrainingAfter the Race

Post-run, make sure to fuel yourself with carbohydrate to replenish energy stores, protein to rebuild and anti-inflammatory fats to heal body and mind. My favorite is a big bowl of quinoa or brown rice, tofu, beans, 2 cups veggies, greens, pumpkin seeds, avocado and a dressing like a cashew cream. It could also be a burrito bowl with chicken, salsa, rice, veggies, beans and avocado. Remember to hydrate with water and some electrolyte afterwards and not dive straight into the beer! …..Have that after :)

I’ll check in with you all in a few weeks to discuss taper time!

Stay healthy and enjoy your last big weeks of training for the Steamboat Marathon,


About Cara:

The 2018 Steamboat Marathon will be Cara’s 21st running of the event. She lives in Steamboat Springs with her husband and six year old son, owns a private nutrition counseling practice, and is an avid ultra runner and skier. You can learn more about Cara by clicking here.