When most people hear the words “marathon training schedule” they no doubt picture day after day of grueling training runs in preparation for the epic 26.2 mile race that lies ahead, and while this is certainly part of an overall training regimen, it is not the sole aspect.
Proper nutrition is also an essential component of any marathon training program and can significantly enhance your chance of success come race day. So, let's take a look at a proper marathon training diet, including foods that are essential, foods to avoid and the proper balance of nutrients recommended for those in training.
Marathon Training Schedule: Foods to Include
Marathon training, because of the toll it can take on your body, requires a proper nutritional plan to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need. Included in this plan should be a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, typically found in the following types of foods:
- Water . Marathon training requires lots of running, and running produces plenty of sweat. To ensure that you are replacing this water it is imperative that you drink plenty of fresh water before, during and after your training runs.
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables . Fresh fruit and vegetables are ideal food choices for those in training. They are loaded with nutrients, and the carbohydrates they contain will give you plenty of energy to train.
- Protein Sources . Protein is essential when training for a marathon, as it helps your muscles recover after they have been extremely taxed due to running. Fish and lean chicken is generally a better choice than red meat in this category, and soy and whey products are perfect for a quick source of protein on the run.
- Grains . Whole grains are an excellent form of complex carbohydrates – a mandatory component of any marathon training schedule.
- Healthy Fats . When most people hear the word “fats” they immediately assume it is a training no-no, but healthy fats, from sources such as nuts and avocados are an important part of a runner's nutrition.
Marathon Training Schedule: Foods to Avoid
Preparing for a marathon is asking an awful lot of your body, so in order to ensure that it responds to, and recovers from your daily running sessions, you should try and avoid the following:
- Fast Food . After a long day of work and training, you may be tempted to stop off for a quick bite, but you should definitely resist this temptation. Fast food is loaded with saturated fat and low-quality carbohydrates and should be avoided at all costs.
- Frozen and Packaged Foods . Whenever possible, try to avoid frozen and packaged foods. Because of the packaging process, which often includes the addition of chemical preservatives and other non-nutritional additives, most of these foods have lost a great deal of their nutritional quality.
- Junk Food . Foods such as soda, potato chips and candy have little to no nutritional value whatever.
- Alcohol and Coffee . Alcohol and coffee should always be used in moderation, and this is especially true during marathon training. In fact, you'd probably be better served by forfeiting these drinks altogether, at least until after race day.
When planning the nutritional component of your marathon training schedule, keep in mind that you should probably lean towards elevating your intake of complex carbohydrates. These substances are essential for energy and will help your body during very intense workout sessions. A good balance of nutrients for your marathon training program should look a bit like this:
- Complex carbohydrates: 50-65% of your daily intake
- Healthy, Unsaturated Fats : 15-25% of your daily intake
- Lean Protein : 20-25% of your daily intake
The importance of practicing good nutritional habits as a part of your overall marathon training schedule can not be overstated. With daily runs that will start at approximately 5 miles, and gradually increase to 20 miles and more, you need to provide your body with the fuel it needs to maintain your health and eventually get you to the finish line.