Taking hydration and nutrition for granted

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There are all levels of preparation that go into your marathon training, from your mental preparation to your shoes. It’s easy to take hydration and nutrition for granted but these can be fundamental in your preparation, performance and even in your recovery, says Southern Cross University food and nutrition lecturer Holly Muggleston.

hydration is important before, during and after the race

“A few days before the race, you need to pay attention to your carbohydrate stores. These take the form of glycogen in your muscles and this is what will fuel your muscles during the race,” said Ms Muggleston.

“At each meal in the days before the race, you should slightly increase the normal amount of carbohydrate that you consume. This could be with grains, muffins, fruit, potato, legumes, even flavoured milk, anything with starch and sugars – these will increase your glycogen stores”.

Hydration is equally important. The best way to check this is by checking your urine. “About two to two-and-a-half days before the race, keep checking your urine. If your urine is a very pale yellow you know you are sufficiently hydrated. If not, then you need to up your intake of fluids,” said Ms Muggleston.

An early start on race day means breakfast needs to be something you can eat easily and quickly, especially if you are getting up earlier than normal. “Now is not the time to try something new as you don’t know how it will react in your gut. Eat some of your habitual breakfast foods, and simple foods are fine, whether it be cereal, fruit, toast and jam or whatever”.

Southern Cross University lecturer in food and nutrition Holly Muggleston with her tips for preparation and recovery from the Gold Coast Marathon. (2:38)

As a guide, you need about 400-600ml of fluid before the race to top up your hydration. Drinking too much fluid can cause gastric distress during the race. Likewise, during the race you need to make sure you have the right amount of fluid. “If you are well-prepared, a male and with a high sweat rate, you’ll obviously need more fluid than someone else. About 400-800ml per hour during the race is a good rough guide,” said Ms Muggleston. "This could be water, sports drink or even cola and some people alternate between water and sports drink. Take care not to overdrink – over-hydration can lead to a potentially fatal condition – novice runners can be susceptible," she added.

Similarly, you need to keep your carbohydrate intake up during the race, to the tune of between 30-60g of carbs per hour, which is equivalent to about 300ml of sports drink plus one gel or one to two gels. “Race day is not the time to try gels, which are just concentrated sugar. You need to try these well before race day to see if they work for you and drink water at the same time,” said Ms Muggleston.

Once the race is over, you need to replace about 125-150 percent of the fluid you have lost and protein is necessary to repair any muscle damage your body might have suffered. Whole foods are ideal for a recovery meal – even something as simple as a chicken, cheese and salad sandwich or flat bread and hummus with nuts and fruit juice. “All fluids are fine in recovery except for alcohol. You might like to have a beer to celebrate but if you do, make sure you have an equal amount of water,” cautioned Ms Muggleston.