Marathon Runners' Diet

Loosing weight

Hey!! Looking to loose a few ponds by running? Will setting a high target such as a full marathon race one year away from now do the trick? It does sound like a waterproof plan, but is it reality?

Training for a marathon requires you to run four to five days a week, with weekly totals of around 25 miles at the end of a novice training program. That sounds like a lot of running which would burn lots and lots of calories, right? True but not right. You need to eat more carbohydrates to fuel your training runs. Then it'll take a lot of experimenting to find out how many calories you need to eat in order to healthily complete the practice runs. By that time you might be a couple of months into the program. Still no problems, because then you can just reduce your carbohydrate intake slightly and start burning calories and unwanted fat.

The next evolutionary miracle is one which is going to punch holes your water proof plan. All those long runs will turn your body into an increasingly more efficient fuel-burning factory. Your muscles are learning to do more exercise with less fuel, and you become an economy runner. This brings you back to square one where eating less and counting calories is again the only remedy.

The Diet Trick

There is however one way to by-pass the economy effect, that is by doing speed-work or interval-training such a Fartlek or other twice a week to give your heart and lungs a harder workout. Interval training requires more explosive energy and will deplete the muscles more because they are used to the less strenuous long runs. Running at increased efforts uses different muscles. Our body contains slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles which are called into use automatically according to the intensity of the exercise. During long endurance runs the low intensity slow-twitch muscles are used. These slow-twitch muscles require less energy because they fire slower than the fast-twitch muscles. So if you are looking to burn more calories you need to involve the fast-twitch rapid firing muscles with increased intensity activities.

No Diet

Basically one should not mix a weight-losing diet with a marathon training program. Most popular diet programs aim at reducing carbohydrate intake. But it are the carbohydrates which are the fuel for your training runs. Instead of reducing food, try create a better balance by eating greater variety in smaller amounts. Using a challenging marathon training program to maintain optimal weight after a diet program is a much better option. Instead of an endurance race as your goal,try a shorter distance race (such as a 5K, a 10K, or a 10 Miler) which would force you to do more intense exercises for shorter periods of time. This will help make you faster and burn the same amount or even more calories in order to loose weight.

Basic Diet Guidelines

Every day the endurance runner should eat a variety of food from each of the four major food groups. The first and biggest group consists of bread, pasta and cereals. The second largest group consists of vegetables and fruits. The third group contains milk, dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and meat substitutes such as lentils, chickpeas, soy beans and other beans. The smallest group contains fats and sweets and can be consumed occasionally. This is the same as any other food pyramid.

Prepare meals with small amounts of added fat (be especially cautious with saturated fat) and salt. When using oils to fry or cook, choose olive oil or sesame oil which are actually good for you (in proper dosages). Aim for 25% of fat of your overall intake of calories.

Maintain a healthy body weight and keep track of your weight as often as possible. Check your current results on our BMI calculator

Keep drinking lots of fluids throughout the day every day even on non-running "rest-days". Water is needed to refuel and to help dispose waist products from the body. Water also keeps your body temperature stable while exercising.

To review examples of the various food groups and the daily level necessary to meet your basic nutritional requirements

Runners basic nutritional requirements

Rule up a chart under the headings;

  • Breads, pasta, and cereals (recommended serves – 6 to 11)
  • Vegetables and fruits (recommended serves – 2 to 4 fruit & 3 to 5 vegetables)
  • Milk, dairy products and milk substitutes (recommended serves – 2 to 3)
  • Meat and meat substitutes (recommended serves – 2 to 3)
  • Fluids (recommended serves – 8 cups or more)

dietary food pyramid for marathon runnersTake notes of what you eat for a day in the food groups. Calculate the number of serves you had from each food group and compare with the food pyramid.

If you have not been able to meet the recommended servings you need to start by trying to comply with these basic diet requirements.

Marathon runners as well as other endurance athletes often take supplements to cover for the food servings they missed during regular meals. Once or twice a month could be fine but anything more than that needs to be avoided. Science has proven that nutrition is most beneficial when retained from its natural form in food.

Writing down one goal that you will try to work on over the next week(s) to improve your basic diet. For example: "This week's goal is to increase my daily servings of fruits from one to three."

Why is it so important to have a nutritional plan for marathon training?

A nutritional plan for marathon training is to ensure that you are meeting your body’s increased nutritional requirements. These increased nutritional requirements do depend on your training intensity, frequency, and volumes. Your dietary requirements will also vary during the different phases of the year depending on the kind of training you are doing.

Following a well designed dietary program is most important during marathon training. Because you spend most of your time training and this is mainly what determines your results in competition. Good nutrition will support you to maximize your training and your competition performance. Your nutrition on race day is just for fine-tuning your training nutrition.

Competition Nutrition
Marathon race-day nutrition is only an extension of training nutrition. The correct nutritional plans before, during and after race-day will support you to achieve the ultimate goal: your best possible marathon performance.

Planning your meals for race-day is a good way of concentrating on your marathon event. By knowing when, what and how much you are going to eat and drink, you can feel more confident that you have the best possible nutritional preparation. Planning is to make sure that the food you want is available, whether you’re at home or traveling.


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