There’s a lot of excitement in those running the marathon. Everyone is working on improving their speed and time. Amidst all preparations for marathon, nutrition is an important part of training.
One has to eat good quality dietary fats. There are many vitamins which are fat soluble only and need fats to be absorbed. So, Protein Carbohydrate and Fat (PCF) ratio should be balanced. Also, it is advised to consume foods which are protein-rich within first 30 minutes after exercise. This helps in absorption as well as recovery.
So, for all those running for the marathon, here is a list of to-do things before, during and after the race.
- Gradually build up your stamina, train yourself in advance. Follow a regular routine and avoid trying anything new on the race day, especially warm-up activities, new exercise, any different clothes or even food.
- Non-athletes and first-timers should begin preparation for the race with brisk walks.
- Don’t allow your body to get too comfortable running on same surface. Running on treadmill will not give you the same results as running on the actual track. Choose and practice on a challenging track and do at least one trial run on actual route, if possible.
- Running a full or half marathon is not easy and it depends on customised body condition. If you have diabetes or blood pressure, then take medical advice and you can run with an ID card displaying your medicines.
- While running, diabetics can experience hypoglycemia.
- If you are a cardiac patient, then re-evaluation is very important from a qualified cardiologist or physician. Ensure that recent stress test, 2D echo colour doppler evaluation, pulse, blood pressure, latest blood sugar report are evaluated the doctor.
- A good pair of running shoes, socks, and comfortable cotton t-shirt is a must to prevent excessive perspiration and subsequent dehydration.
- Learn a relaxation technique, like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Yoga can increase your BMR and will be helpful. Try kapalbhati and pranayam.
- Try foods which have a calming effect like fresh fruit juices, mashmelon juice, lemon water, and non-caffeine soft drink.
- Limit or avoid your intake of caffeine and alcohol as they can affect your mood and sleep patterns. Alcohol can also heighten feelings of depression.
- Eat potassium-rich fruits and vegetables like bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, sweet lime, coconut water and tomatoes. Replace sodium lost through sweat by adding slight salt to your food after exercise.
- Reduce training 3 to 4 days before race and increase carbohydrate intake to 70-80% of total calories during this time.
- Don’t skip meals and eat well before training.
- Choose high fibre carbohydrate such as oats, whole wheat etc, consume lots of vegetables sweet potatoes, banana shake, good quality protein from egg, skimmed milk, paneer, tofu, lean poultry and fish for strong muscles, and fistful of nuts such as walnuts and almonds. Choose watermelon or oranges among fruits as it will keep you hydrated and oats with skimmed milk, egg with multigrain bread is preferred too.
On the day of the marathon
- Before the run, getting a sound sleep will play an important role for your good health. Sleep for 8-9 hours. Wake up at least 1-2 hours before you leave home. Listen to your favourite music as it increases endorphins level.
- Try to wear comfortable special fabric sweat absorber clothes and running cushioned shoes. Never try new cloths and new shoes on the day of the race. One must also consider wearing light colour and a white cap.
- Always remember to do your warm-up prior to the event, which includes doing some aerobic stretching exercises and jogging to loosen your muscles and prevent sudden cardiac arrest.
- If you are suffering from diabetes or blood pressure, then let your trainer or organisers know. Carrying or trying to wear hanging personal ID card with medicines written on it will help in case of any emergency.
- Keep a small water bottle instead of bigger one or opt for lemon water. If you are not suffering from diabetes then drink glucose water or electrolyte solutions instead of plain water. Electrolyte can be mixed with coconut water also. Keep refilling the bottle at water stations or pick-up sealed small bottle on the way from water station.
- Ensure to eat carbohydrate-rich healthy breakfast an hour or 2 before the race, like a bowl of porridge with almonds and walnuts and 1-2 bananas. Don’t try something new just a few hours before the run.
- Eat few biscuits if you feel giddy or uneasy, it could be hypoglycaemia due to exertion.
- Stay hydrated while you wait for race to start, but don’t overdo it. Just drink in sips rather than gulping gallons of water in a go. Throughout the run, ensure you keep your body hydrated. Your muscles need good amount of potassium, so try sipping lemon water or electrolyte water instead of plain water.
Post the marathon
- Don’t suddenly drop down or stop after reaching the point and keep moving for 2 minutes. Cool down slowly as this will prevent cardiac arrest.
- Keep drinking water or glucose water in small amounts, and but don’t gulp gallons of water at once.
- Complete rehydration will take another 24-30 hours. For few days after the event, take adequate physical rest, apply ice pack to sore areas and keep feet elevated while sleeping to take away swelling, if any.
- After the run, body can be stiff especially leg muscles, so, keep rehydrating with lemon water rather than plain water.
- A good post-run snack would be a peanut butter sandwich or an egg sandwich. A mix of protein with substantial amount of complex carbohydrate should be good.
- Pamper yourself with a good oil massage to calm the muscle aches. A good body massage is known to lower level of cortisol in the body. An increased level of cortisol is linked with hormonal imbalance and stress. Besides body, even mind is relaxed during a massage as it reduces anxiety and stress levels.
Running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical sport. A marathon will help you discover the strength you never knew you had. So, get, set and go, with precautions.
The author is a Clinical Nutritionist and Director at Bio-Logics Nutrition Clinic in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai
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