A high carbohydrate diet permits the body to accumulate enough glycogen for optimal training and performance. If carbohydrate stores are adequate, the protein you eat can be utilized for muscle building and tissue repair. Otherwise your proteins are used for energy and this is not an efficient form of energy. Marathon training will deplete your glycogen stores, causing fatigue and exhaustion. The optimal pre-exercise/pre-race diet should fill your muscles with glycogen. It should be high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber. To achieve maximal glycogen loading, begin 1 week before competition.
First 3 days: Low-carbohydrate diet to deplete muscle glycogen.
Next 3 days: High-carbohydrate diet with little or no activity. This yields muscle glycogen loading with glycogen and water to prepare for the 7th day event.
Goals of a pre-exercise/pre-race meal:
1. Promote additional glycogen synthesis.
2. Supply the body with glucose for use during exercise.
3. Minimize fatigue during exercise.
Most endurance activities and competition occurs early in the morning after an overnight fast. Liver glycogen levels are lowered as liver furnishes glucose to the body during the sleeping hours. The pre-exercise meal assists in replenishing liver glycogen and stocks the body with additional carbohydrate. This helps prevent or delay fatigue during exercise.
THE PRE-EXERCISE MEAL:
1. Should be eaten 1-2 hours before.
2. Small, easily digestible.
4. High in carbohydrate.
5. Does not produce gastrointestinal distress.
6. Moderate in protein, low in fat.
7. If nerves prevent intake of solids, fruit juices, sports drinks, or glycogen replacement products.
8. Should be determined while training, not the day of the event.
Examples: bagels, whole wheat bread, crackers, jelly, all juices, brown/white rice, English muffins, cereal, pasta, sports drinks, apples, bananas, oranges, raisins. Make sure to try your planned pre-race meal before a long training run to see how your body handles it.
DURING THE EVENT:
Begin early in an event to guarantee available carbohydrate later in the race. Take your first GU 15 minutes before the event with 8 oz. of water.
Drink 4-8 oz. of a carbohydrate drink every 15-20 minutes.
GU packs or a similar product should be used at least every 6 miles, perhaps more often if needed. Some runners prefer GU every 4 miles. Make sure to try the product several times during long runs to make sure the product is right for you.
These packs may be pinned to the elastic band in the front of your running shorts, or kept in a pocket in your shorts/pants. GU pack holders are also sold in running specialty shops. From On The Right Track by Gary and Ellen Bloome