Taking hydration and nutrition for granted

Do you have a question about hydration and nutrition you’d like to ask our expert?
To submit your question and stay tuned to our social channels for expert advice.
  Ask an expert

hydration is important before, during and after the race

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.

“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)

Hi I'm Holly Muggleston. I'm a food and nutrition lecturer in the School of Health and Human Sciences at Southern Cross University.

A few days before the race is the time to actually make sure that you've actually got enough carbohydrate if you're actually consuming. Carbohydrate will get those glycogen stores in your muscles up all right because it's glycogen that's going to fuel your muscle. So you eat a little bit more carbohydrate than you would normally do at the same time. It's really important to increase your hydration or to make sure you're adequately hydrated so the easiest way to do that is to check your urine.

If your urine is clear or a very pale yellow then you know that you're hydrated, if not then you're gonna have to up your intake of fluids. You need to make sure that your breakfast is easy you know fast and you can eat it quickly something that you've consumed in the past so you're not trying anything new because you're not sure how that's going to react in your gut.

You need anywhere between about 400 and 600 mls of fluid before the race. During the race you need to make sure you've got adequate fluid keep in mind if you're well trained if you're a male or you have a very high sweat rate you're gonna need more fluid than someone who runs the race much slower or doesn't sweat very much. All right so the general rule of thumb is anywhere between 400 and 800 mls of fluid per hour when it comes to carbohydrate you need about thirty to sixty grams of carbohydrate per hour.

So what does that look like? 600 mls of sport drink or 300 mls of sports drink and a gel or one to two gels. If you've never had a gel before the race day is not the time to try you really need to try those before.

After the race is a great time to get carbohydrate back into the muscles, have protein to actually repair any sort of muscle tears that you might have had, replace fluid so you can rehydrate and to get those electrolytes back into the system. In terms of fluid you need to replace anywhere from 125 to Now what types of fluids? All fluids are okay except for alcohol okay you may want to celebrate with a beer but if you do, have equal amounts of water with that beer.

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.

Southern Cross University is requesting this information from you to administer this promotion and for marketing and student recruitment purposes. By entering this promotion, you agree to the terms and conditions of the “Ask an Expert promotion” and acknowledge that the University may contact you to provide information about study opportunities.

The University will not disclose your personal information to anybody else unless we are required to do so by law – for example if the information is needed in an emergency or for law enforcement purposes.

You may withdraw your consent for the University to contact you at any time. You may request access to your information at any time. To access or update your personal information, or for more information on our privacy obligations, ask to speak to our Privacy Contact Officer or email privacy@scu.edu.au.

A copy of the University’s Privacy Management Plan is available here: policies.scu.edu.au/