I initially sat down to write an article that would help runners create their own meal plan for a marathon. I started researching nutrition and creating new recipes, along with things like carb loading versus protein heavy routines. After a couple days, I became acutely aware that before I could put together a meal plan or even a guide to help runners out, they needed to understand the runner’s diet first. Runners can’t put together their own meal plan unless they understand the nutrition that goes into it. The marathon meal plan begins with understanding marathon nutrition and the minute they head out on your first training run.
So, before a runner can start tackling or creating their own marathon meal plan, we need to begin with educating you on how to increase the quality of your diet.
Eat Real Food
It is easy for runners and most other athletes to grab a snack bar or a protein shake regularly as a meal replacement. I understand that everyone is busy and that at times, they do work when you are crunched for time or have no other option, but this is not ideal for the long haul. Focus on real food as often as possible and only the bars when you have no other choice.
Eat Foods with Color
Not only is eating a plate that is full of different colors aesthetically pleasing, it packs more bang for the buck nutrition than most people realize. The red in tomatoes come from lycopene which is great for the heart and lungs. Carrots and sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene which is used to decrease asthma symptoms in athletes. Blueberries contain anthocyanins which in some studies, it has been shown that they can increase aerobic performance and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max).
Eat the Skin
I can’t tell you all the times that I would watch my mother peel the skin off of vegetables like sweet potatoes, Idaho potatoes and carrots. Not only was she spending more time in the kitchen than she needed to, but she was also unnecessarily peeling away healthy nutrients from our diets. The skin of most veggies contain a lot of fiber. Studies show that fiber blocks 3-4% of calories consumed when eaten as a high fiber diet. People that consume 35 grams of fiber or more each day tend to be thinner than their counterparts.
Related Article: Do You Have to Peel a Carrot?
Eat Seafood from Cold Water
Choose seafood from cold water like salmon from Alaska, arctic char and Pacific halibut as they are environmentally friendly and contain high levels of omega-3’s fatty acids. Research and studies show that omega-3’s fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the muscles, which helps athletes recover more quickly.
Eat Meats, Poultry and Eggs that are Free-Range and Grass-Fed
Yes, a vegetarian based diet is healthy, but so is balance with some people. Research shows that meats like cattle that are grass-fed contain lower amounts of saturated fat than grain-fed cattle. New studies are showing that iron and zinc are more easily absorbed from free-range meats too.
There is no quicker way to sabotage your performance or nutrition than to become dehydrated. Studies routinely show that even being slightly under hydrated can start to hinder your athletic performance. Muscles fatigue more quickly and your heart rate can become elevated. It’s important to stay hydrated before, during and after running. Don’t wait until you start showing signs of dehydration.
Once you start understanding these basic principles for marathon nutrition, you can then start putting together your own detailed meal plan or diet plan for marathon training.