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13.1 Half Marathon Nutrition Tips

Half Marathon Nutrition

Whether this will be your first 13.1-mile trek through the streets of Pittsburgh or your 13th, you could probably benefit from some pre-race nutrition advice. The 13.1 tips below will make training for (and running) the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon a whole lot easier.

  1. You’re exercising more than the average Joe, but that does NOT mean you can go overboard on tasty snacks and treats. Consuming just any calories after long runs will not improve your performance (or waistline). Think healthy foods for healthy recovery — this will ensure you toe the line without carrying extra baggage.
  2. Make sure you’re eating enough. Taking in too few calories while training can leave you feeling sluggish. If the calorie deficit lasts for too long, it can lead to muscle wasting, and that will make getting through those 13.1 miles a daunting task.
  3. Consider tracking your calories using an app like MyFitnessPal or an activity tracker. Knowing how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight (and performance) will help you stay healthy and feel your best.
  4. Carbohydrates are your friend. They are your muscles’ primary source of fuel. Focus on complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  5. Include a variety of fresh fruits and veggies in your diet. These foods are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and low in calories. They help prevent muscle soreness, speed recovery, and keep you healthy!
  6. Proteins — such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of meats, and low-fat dairy — will help you maintain muscle mass and stay strong for the long run.
  7. Incorporate a heart healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids with foods like nuts and seeds, avocado, and fatty freshwater fish. Doing so can help reduce muscle inflammation.
  8. Always eat breakfast or a small snack before training runs. Your runs will improve because you’ll have more energy!
  9. Don’t eat anything high in protein, fat, or fiber 30 to 60 minutes before a run. Such foods take longer to digest and can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Aim for easily digestible, fast-acting carbohydrates, such as toast with jelly, pretzels, applesauce, bananas, or sports drinks.
  10. The longer you run, the more stored energy you use, so replace carbohydrates early and often! For runs that last longer than 60 minutes, refuel and rehydrate with easy-to-digest carbohydrates (gels, chews, jelly beans, or sports drinks).
  11. Hydrate! Despite the cold weather, you still sweat. And because additional layers provide additional warmth, you could easily overheat. The goal when exercising is to lose no more than 2 percent of your body weight from sweat. Drinking water or sports drinks (remember: extra carbohydrates = extra energy) while training and racing can prevent dehydration. Carry fluids with you or consider running a loop where you can keep fluids stashed for easy access.
  12. Practice makes perfect: Never try something new on race day. When you’re training, use sports fuels and drinks that are similar to those that will be provided along the race course. Alternatively, you could take items with you on race day to maintain your energy and prevent stomach upset.
  13. Recovery should begin immediately after your run ends. Replenish your energy with carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. Aim to consume something like chocolate milk, a fruit smoothie, or yogurt within 30 minutes of training runs that last an hour or longer.

.1   HAVE FUN!

Paying attention to what and when you eat can greatly impact how you feel while training, your recovery, and whether you get stronger from your runs.

Good luck, Runner of Steel!