Here it comes! Many of you have been hard at work training for your upcoming marathons, and it’s finally here! I’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding hydration and nutrition. The following post will focus on the most common questions I’ve received.
What is carbo-loading and should I do it?
Carbo-loading is not just going to a pasta party the night before your race. Done properly in the week leading up to your race, it can create glycogen stores in your muscles that can really enhance your energy levels during your race. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into simpler sugars like glucose. Any simpler sugars not used right away are stored as glycogen. Glycogen is the source of energy most often used in exercise. It is easy for your body to break down and use for energy.
How much water/sports drink should I drink?
Recently there have been more articles about the danger of hyponatremia—a metabolic condition in which there is not enough sodium in the body fluids. This condition can occur if you drink too much water and you excrete your sodium stores.
These articles recommend you only drink when you are thirsty. I feel it’s extremely important to elaborate on this statement. When you are running a marathon, you will get to the point that you are very tired and your mental acuity is not at its normal level. You could very well believe that you are not thirsty and in fact are becoming dehydrated; therefore, thirst is not always the best indicator of when to drink.
My suggestion is to drink at the same levels you normally do in the week leading up to your race. Try to cut back on caffeine a bit but not entirely if you normally consume caffeine. On race day, drink at the level you do during your long runs. Your training runs are great dress rehearsals for race day. Think about how much you drank on a hot day or a particularly cool day.
One really good gauge of hydration level is the color of your urine. If it looks like lemonade, you are right on target. Too dark means dehydrated, too clear means back off on the liquids.
When and what should I eat on race day?
Again, this is something great to practice on long runs to see what your body will and will not tolerate. My friends call me Rainman because I always eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread. I traveled to France for a race and brought peanut butter with me so I could have my “brand.” That said, everyone digests differently, so don’t try anything new on race day. Here are couple good rules of thumb:
The Night before the Race
During the Race
After the Race
Speaking of fun: enjoy your race and celebrate your accomplishment. Whatever your race goal is, be proud! When you cross the finish line, you are among only one percent of the American population that has completed a marathon. Wear your medal everywhere.
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