If you are a runner and are interested in the half marathon, you need to know how to eat when training for a half marathon. Unlike shorter race distances, the half marathon is 13.1 miles of energy depletion on your body. Properly eating while training will ensure you have the energy and stamina necessary to complete the race. Running, racing and diet all intertwine to affect performance; read below to learn how to eat when training for a half marathon.
- Match your nutritional intake to the demands of training. Stated more simply, your diet will have to change as your training evolves over the course of your half marathon training program. At the beginning of your training, your mileage is probably fairly modest. Therefore, you do not need to significantly increase caloric intake in order to properly recover. However, as your training for a half marathon continues, and you add increasingly longer and more demanding workouts, caloric intake must increase as well to facilitate proper recovery and performance improvement.
- General nutrition guidelines hold throughout the training period. Conventional diet wisdom holds while training for a half marathon. Fat intake should be modest, while carbohydrates (mostly complex) should be the staple of what you eat. Protein does take on added importance to recover from long runs, but complex carbohydrates should still reign in importance.
- Increase carbohydrate intake as your running progresses. Training for a half marathon involves running increasingly longer and longer distances. These longer distances deplete glycogen in the muscles; carbohydrate intake restores levels of glycogen facilitating recovery. During the most intense part of your training, carbohydrates should make up 70% of your caloric intake to ensure your body has enough fuel to support your workouts.
- Protein is important for recovery. After running, your muscles are depleted of glycogen. Therefore, a post-run carbohydrate rich meal is important. Lace this meal with some protein, which helps transport carbohydrates through the system. An ideal meal would be 1 part protein to 7 parts carbohydrates – a rice and chicken snack is an excellent option.
- Limit indulgences. Indulgences, usually containing simple carbohydrates like sugar, zap your body of energy and do not help when training for a half marathon. Focus on quality food intake for peak performance.
Eating more carbohydrates as training intensifies is key to success when training for a half marathon. Post workout meals combining protein with carbohydrates are most effective and will facilitate recovery. A limited amount of fat is also necessary, as fat turns into long-term energy storage that can be useful during a race. During your most hectic training weeks, your diet should approximate 70% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 10% fat. Following these general guidelines will enhance performance when training for a half marathon.
“Eat Right to Train Right,” by Chris Carmichael. Published by Berkley Trade.