What to Eat When Training for a Half Marathon

Complete fuel for your half marathon

Nutrition plays an important role for races of all distances. Locking down your fueling plan is especially crucial for half marathons because the duration is usually too long to rely solely on your body’s glycogen stores. To get that PR, you’ll need additional energy to push hard. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering your training nutrition plan for a half marathon:

Eating is Training – Start with a steady foundation

Here at GU, we embrace the principle “Eating is Training.” To us, this means feeding your body the right nutrients, at the right time, in sufficient amounts to maximize recovery and encourage positive physiological adaptations. You only spend a small part of your day training, while most of your day is spent resting, recovering, and preparing for the next workout. Think of this time as an opportunity to improve your performance even more! So, during the months of training leading up to your half marathon (and all the time, for that matter), try your best to eat a nutrient-dense, whole food-based diet.

Days Before – Fuel up on carbs (properly!)

Your training plan is designed for you to peak on race day, and your nutrition can be used for the same function. One popular term in the running community is “carb loading.” Carbohydrates are your body’s first choice of fuel as they’re quickly converted into glucose, or blood sugar, which is used to give you energy. Increasing carbs to boost glycogen stores your body’s carbohydrate reserves) can be effective, but think of it more as a steady uptick rather than a drastic pre-race splurge. Instead of going for the all-you-can-eat pasta dinner the night before, trying upping your carbohydrate intake 2-3 days leading into your race to stock your muscle and liver glycogen stores. Get in high quality carbs such as sweet potato, quinoa, or brown rice, and make sure to have your (well-cooked) veggies and a protein source of choice.

In addition, make sure familiarize yourself with what foods work with your stomach in the weeks before your race. Experiment throughout your training to discover what foods you can or can’t tolerate before you get in your miles.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Over half of all endurance runners experience GI issues, and nutrition can be a contributing factor. Experiment with gels, chews and drink mixes during your training runs to discover what form of fuel works best for your body. It’s better to be safe than sorry on race day, so go into the race knowing when to get in your calories and what types (and even flavors) of fuel you’ll be most comfortable using.

After Workouts - Focus on recovery

Once you’re done with your workout, replenish your body with electrolytes, high quality carbs and protein within 30-60 minutes. This time window is when your body is most receptive to absorbing key nutrients to promote recovery. In addition, try to get in a meal within 2 hours to fully restore depleted glycogen, amino acids, fluids, and electrolytes. When in doubt, toss in a couple BCAA capsules (we like to call them  “muscle insurance”) to stimulate muscle repair and rebuilding. Remember, your goal with recovery nutrition is to bounce back faster so you can hit it hard again during your next workout.

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