Below is part 2 of our 2014 Marathon Training Program Nutrition Q&A w/Alicia Shay. You can find Part 1 here.
MTP: Been dealing with an increased level of pain in my toes–not toes nails–toes. This is new. I think it’s arthritis. By 4.8 miles I’m in intense pain. Bones feel like they’re cramping/breaking. I need to be as pain free and energized as possible leading up to the Marathon. Started reading about drinking apples cider vinegar or juiced beets w/ wheatgrass or just buying a green powder for making drinks. Have you ever heard of any of these reducing the pain? Any danger of drinking any of these things right before the big day?
AS: For this particular issue I would recommend that you see a doctor, sports therapist, PT or physio. Since it is located to one are of you body and you are feeling pain, I wouldn’t presume that it is something that can be eliminated through dietary changes. I would not recommend drinking or eating something different. You should see someone for a thorough evaluation and treatment.
MTP: I’m gluten free (or try to be). Any optimal carb you recommend for the night before the race?
AS: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, brown rice, quinoa or gluten free pasta.
MTP: I burp A LOT. It’s absurd. I’ve started carrying antiacid with my for my runs. While they help a little, I’m still having heartburn and lots of burping. I’ve done lots to reduce acidic foods from my diet, and eat to later that 2 hrs before a run. Any food suggestions to help ease this, especially for the night before the marathon.
AS: I would avoid eating all dairy, fried food and more than 3 ounces of meat/day in the days leading up to the race. The night before do not eat a huge serving of pasta, bread and red sauce. This combo can also lead to digestive issues or heartburn if eaten the night before an early morning, hard effort. I would additionally suggest that you eat at least 2 hours before running.
MTP: If one is off sugar, what is an alternative source of fueling during long runs? And, is that a safe way of engaging in long runs since glycogen/ sugar is a way to replenish during long runs?
AS: If you are looking to avoid sugar, you can find products that are mostly made of maltodextrin. This is a long chain carbohydrate that fuels your body during endurance activity but doesn’t have the same sugar content as glucose, fructose or other sources of sugar. A couple products that are mostly maltodextrin are Hammer and Gu.
MTP: Are you familiar with UCAN? Would you recommend as fueling option instead of gels? (gels go right thru me).
AS: When you say that gels go right through you….do you mean your digestive system or that they spike your blood sugar levels? If it is a digestive issue then you should email me and we can trouble shoot. If it is an energy issue then you should either:
-Choose a gel with more maltodextrin rather than straight sugar such as Hammer or Gu.
-Try chomps or blocks (the tummies)
-Sports drink that is lower sugar and more maltodextrin.
-You could try UCAN but I am not a huge fan of it because it is basically cornstarch. Research has yet to show that cornstarch trumps products with a maltodextrin/fructose blend such as Gu.
MTP: I’ve heard not to eat much/any vegetables in the days leading up to the marathon, to eat a moderate amount of protein, and to load up on carbs. Is this accurate?
AS: I would avoid a large amount of vegetables and fruit the day before but you should be fine to eat a normal diet in the days leading into a marathon (the last day begin the exception). The day before you do want to eat a modest amount of protein and fat and more carbohydrates. The key is not over eating carbohydrates so that you feel ill, bloated or have digestive issues the day of the race. An additional snack that is mostly carbs and a little extra carbohydrate at every meal the day before should be adequate. Keep in mind that you are also running less so if you continue to eat somewhat normal size meals, you will naturally fill your glycogen stores with extra carbohydrate.
MTP: Is it smart to eat a half of a banana during the race?
AS: If you are running the race at easy to moderate effort AND you have been eating bananas during runs leading up to the marathon then yes it is ok. If you have not been practicing that then do not add in anything new on race day. If you are racing at a hard effort then stick to liquid or gel calories.
MTP: What is the best thing to eat post marathon- something high in carbs or protein or both?
AS: Both. A snack that is high in carbohydrate and a moderate amount of protein (10-20 grams) is appropriate. After you get that snack down then you can replenish with a normal meal couple hours later.
MTP: For the NYCM, I will need to wake up hours in advance of my race start time (approximately 5 hours in advance of my race start). How should I plan my morning nutrition? Do I eat breakfast when I rise? How much should I eat? What should I do while I’m waiting in the start village for my start time? Do I eat again? How far in advance of my start time should I eat?
AS: I would recommend eating when you wake up and then a small snack 2 hours from the start of the race OR wait until 3-4 hours before the race and just eat one bigger breakfast. In total you want to consume around 400-600 calories before the start of the race.
MTP: What post-race nutrition would you recommend that is packable and that can be prepared in a hotel room or purchased in a NYC deli?
AS: For post-race nutrition the exact food isn’t nearly as important as just getting in some calories that are mostly carbohydrate and a modest amount of protein. This could be a pre-made sandwich, wrap, burger with chips, fruit, yogurt, smoothie, etc. Honestly, you just need to get in some calories at this point so I would recommend eating whatever sounds good to you (within reason).
MTP: How many hours before the marathon should we have breakfast?
AS: Ideally 3-4 hours.
MTP: Is there any benefit to taking a gel 15 minutes before the start?
AS: Yes, especially if you have a difficult time eating a good-sized breakfast. Also, if this is something that you do before workouts and long runs then you could feel confident that your body is used to doing that.
MTP: Drink water or Gatorade along the course?
AS: Both unless you are taking gels then you just need to drink water with the gels. If you are not taking gels then drink water and sports drink.
MTP: Why is it recommended that we take first gel 45 minutes in and then every 30 minutes? Why wait 45 minutes for the first one?
AS: If you have already consumed a decent sized breakfast then there is no need for the extra calories until after a few miles of running. If you can only eat a light snack before the race then you could take a gel earlier.
MTP: Any good meal suggestions for day before marathon? Is pasta a good idea?
AS: I would recommend eating a dinner that is mostly carbohydrate (potatoes, sweet potatoes, pizza (with little to no cheese), rice, gluten free pasta, pasta, etc.) and perhaps a little it of protein (chicken, fish, etc.) and a little fat (avocado, salad dressing, olive oil, etc.). The emphasis should be on simple carbohydrates but not a huge pasta dinner. Keep the actual meal size moderate and make sure to spread your extra fueling throughout the day and not just one large meal the night before.
MTP: I tend to lose a lot of salt, especially when the humidity is high – what’s going on? What do you recommend I do?
AS: How do you know you are losing salt? Sweating is not necessarily losing salt. Probably email me on this one…
MTP: The day before (or couple of days before) the marathon, is loading up on pasta the best thing to do? Sometimes I don’t want to eat pasta & I know a lot of people do this, but I would like to look at other options.
AS: No, it is not the best thing to do! There are plenty other sources of carbohydrates and I would recommend mixing it up with some sort of: potatoes, rice, oatmeal, quinoa, bread, wraps, whole grain muffins or scones, gluten free pastas, etc.
MTP: Preventing cramps – are compression socks helpful? Should they be used?
AS: Cramping is usually structural and you need to see a physio or sports therapist or it is nutritional and you should speak to a sports nutritionist. It’s hard to know what your cramping is from without knowing more details. Please feel free to email me.
MTP: How you feel it is useful to employ natural fruit/vegetable juices in the month leading up to the marathon, how they might, if at all help, in stocking useful nutrients in the week before the marathon and what, if any use they are for recovery. Included in this question is which fruits/vegetables you would, if at all, suggest are best to use/mix for maximum desired effect?
AS: I think that it is most beneficial to be consuming a lot of nutrients from plant-based foods throughout the whole marathon cycle. Trying to crash course some nutrients the week before a marathon will probably not provide any extra benefit outside of decreasing the chances of getting sick in the days leading up to the race. Your best bet in the week before is to continue to eat healthy, balanced meals, hydrate and sleep plenty.
MTP: What benefit, if any, is there to having a banana/orange or other fruit strategically placed with a friend/family member along the course, what fruit would you suggest, if any and at what point(s) in the race? Are there any other foods that are not endurance products that you would suggest ingesting along the course (i.e. -peanut butter/almond butter on that banana or an apple?).
AS: Regardless of the specific food, you just need simple carbohydrates throughout the marathon. You should aim for roughly 200-300 calories/hour. This could be in the form of gels, sports drink, gummies/chomps, dates, bananas, etc. You should only eat what you have been using to fuel in training. Nothing new on race day!
MTP: Some people crave a Mickey D’s double cheeseburger and fries post-26.2 (others might choose to high end it at Shake Shack at 78th and Columbus). Is there a downside to satisfying this craving immediately after the race? Is it better to satisfy so long as you add in a good thick chocolate milk shake?
AS: Naw, go for it! Treat yourself. Just drink plenty of water along with it and try to have your next several meals be a little healthier and more balanced 🙂