Essential Tips for 1st Time Marathon Runners

With the NYC Marathon happening this Sunday, I figured this would be a good opportunity to discuss the main nutrition and hydration tips every marathoner, and especially first time marathoners, need to know for a successful and safe race!

Tip #1: Stay hydrated during the race:
Aim to drink 3-6 ounces of fluid every 15-20minutes of running, or about 1 cup every other mile.

Tip #2: Know Your Sweat Rate
The best way to determine your individual fluid needs is to know your sweat rate, which can be determined when you train. How to do it: Weigh yourself completely naked before and after an intense one hour run. The amount of weight you lost represents how much fluid you sweat out (in addition to any fluid you drank). So for instance, if the scale reflects you lost one pound (16 oz) and you also drank 8 oz during the run, this means you sweat 24 ounces per hour. So, going forward, you would want to plan on replenishing 24oz per every hour of intensive exercise to stay adequately hydrated.

Tip #3: Include Sports Drinks, not just water, especially on hot days
When we sweat, we lose both water as well as electrolytes. During long races, such as a marathon, you also deplete your energy stores. Sports drinks help to restock your energy stores with the carbohydrates they contain, as well as help replenish both fluid and electrolyte losses. This can help prevent hyponatremia (low blood-sodium level caused by excessive water intake).

Tip #4: Develop a Race Day Plan
During the race is not the time to make decisions about refueling, since you may be too tired to think clearly and make the best decisions. Know in advance how often you plan on rehydrating and refueling. Make sure your plan includes consuming some for of calories (simple carbohydrates are best during a marathon) along with fluid within the 1st 45-60 minutes of the race. If you wait too long, you may lose energy or become dehydrated, making it harder to finsih the race.

Tip #5: Now is not the time to drastically change your diet
In the days leading up to your race, stick with foods that you know your body digests easily and you have eaten before. Some runners become irritated with high fat, high fiber, or excessive dairy foods. Try including a good source of complex carbohydrates each day leading up to the race (whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain cereals, etc) to make sure your glycogen stores are fuelling fueled for race day. However, try not to eat more calories then you normally would.

Tip #6: Energy Gel Warning
Energy gels are a great way to provide your body with energy during a race. However, having an energy gel at the same time as a sport drink can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea since the excessive sugar at once can pull too much fluid into the GI tract. Instead, drink your energy gels with water or have a sport drink alone.

Tip #7: Start your recovery right after you cross the finish line
You want to refuel and re-hydrate right after completing the marathon to help your body recover quickly. Aim to eat/drink about 300 calories within an hour of completing the race. This meal/snack should include a good source of complex carbohydrates (to replenish glycogen stores) as well as protein (to help muscle repair). This can be as simple as a glass of chocolate milk or a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread. Drink fluids slowly and continuously after completing your race to help rehydrate.

Good luck to all the runners this weekend! It looks like it will be beautiful weather!

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