Collection: Race Day Nutrition Tips for Half & Full Marathons

With race day approaching it’s time to plan and practice your race day fuel. Regardless of whether you are running a 10km, half marathon or a full marathon, in order for everything to roll smoothly & comfortably for you on course now is the time to implement a race day nutrition plan. To give you confidence in putting this together, PURE Sports Nutrition co-founder and qualified Sports and Exercise Nutritionist, Marewa Sutherland, has some handy tips to help get the most out of your run.  

Feed early & consistently
Our bodies have adequate reserves for the first hour or so of exercise, however the quicker you begin to refuel the less likely fatigue will hit like a freight train, so start within the first 20 minutes of the event.  This is particularly important for the half-marathon and full marathon runners. Evenly spread your energy needs over each hour to ensure a consistent supply of fuel. Don’t rely on natural hunger and thirst cues! Set repeating 15-20 minute alarms on your watch to avoid race distractions and help cement this habit.  

Carbohydrates will be your best friend  
Carbs are essential for fuelling your muscles (and brain which has a big part to play in getting you across the line) so if you're planning on running over 1 hour then these need to be factored in.
How many carbohydrates to consume during a race differs for every person, but generally you need 30-60g per hour and up to 90g per hour (these need to be from mixed carb sources) if you are running beyond 2 hours. 

Once you have calculated your hourly carbohydrate requirements, then consider where you will source your carbohydrates from. This will be your sports drink such as PURE Electrolyte Hydration and any food like PURE Fluid Energy Gels or other carbohydrate sources.
To find out how many grams of carbohydrates are in each of your intended race day foods, look for the ‘Carbohydrates Total’ line on the nutritional panel and check the serving size.  

Related article: The Lowdown on Gels

Plan your aid stations
Check to see what sports nutrition will be available at your event.  If PURE Electrolyte Hydration will be on course at each aid station during your event, and each 200ml cup will contain 10g of carbohydrates.

Fats & Protein
Avoid foods that have more than 10g fats / 100g as these can be hard for your stomach to digest while exercising.  Full marathoners, or those exercising over 2 hours duration, will benefit from including protein in their food choices.   The PURE Endurance Formula has been specifically designed for this purpose.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Hydration can be easily overlooked but has a strong link to fatigue. Research the course to find out the location of aid stations and work out the time it will take you to get between stations. If this is upwards of about 30 minutes then I suggest carrying hydration on you for these parts of the run.
Fluid requirements vary a lot (temperature, size, gender, fitness level etc) but a general rule of thumb is 500ml – 750ml an hour.

Regardless of the weather, aim for a minimum of 500ml per hour. Note: marathoners, it is particularly important to ensure you use hydration containing carbohydrates for energy but also electrolytes. You will be losing vital electrolytes in sweat and if these aren’t replaced (or you're drinking a truckload of plain water) you may be at risk of a very dangerous condition called Hyponatremia. Symptoms include confusion, nausea, headaches and even loss of consciousness, so be sure to replace electrolytes.

To ensure you adequately replace mineral salts lost from sweating during your run, we recommend you include PURE Electrolyte Replacement Capsules to your nutrition plan in addition to an electrolyte sports drink (particularly in the second half of the race) and your body will thank you for it!

Don’t be afraid to mix up your fuel
Remember that there are other carbohydrate containing options such as real food. Examples are peanut butter slugs, sports bars and bananas. While food takes longer to digest, if you train yourself to eat small morsels regularly this can be a really effective way to remain energised.   

Take extra
Always anticipate longer race times, and take extra fuel accordingly. I have met countless numbers of athletes who have rocketed through races only to hit that dreaded wall and have nothing left to eat or drink to get through it. Even a few sweat covered jet plane lollies can save the day.  

Breakfast is the first step to a successful day out
After a long nights fasting it is essential to fuel up for the day ahead no matter what distance you are planning to run. If you tend to suffer from stomach issues plan to eat 2-3 hours before start time to give your body time to digest breakfast. Choose something that ideally contains carbohydrates but more importantly sits well with you. Practice different options and lengths of time before training long runs to make sure you have this nailed. Some of my athlete's common breakfast choices would be porridge, bircher muesli or Nutella, peanut butter and banana on fruit toast (race day treat?).  

Practice in training

All of the sports nutrition theory in the world will not get you through your race if you physically can’t tolerate eating & drinking while running (believe me I have learned this the hard way!). Use your long training runs as a dress rehearsal for your race day nutrition plan. This means using the exact same brand of any gels/chomps/electrolytes you plan to use on the day. As a result, your body will know exactly what to expect and if something doesn’t work for you now there is time to change it. Remember to be patient, you do have to train your body to accept fuel while running so the earlier you start practising your race day nutrition plan, the better.  

The golden rule is to get carbohydrates and protein on-board within 30 minutes of finishing your run. Even if this is your last run for the foreseeable future your body will thank you for this in the days to come. Finally, don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your fantastic efforts, we often forget to take the time to do this, just remember you are so awesome for getting out there - so go, you!!  

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About Marewa
Marewa Sutherland is a qualified Sports & Exercise Nutritionist (BAppSc, Otago University) and co-founder of PURE Sports Nutrition.  She is a former elite road cyclist and has previously represented New Zealand for rowing.  

Need more help?
Personalised Nutrition Consultations, available nationwide by Skype.  Whether you want help with your daily lifestyle nutrition, or assistance on a specific race day nutrition plan, a one-on-one 45 minute consultation and written nutrition plan can help you on your way.

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