June 24, 2022 by John Fernandez
Food for Thought: Marathon Tips From Dietitians
Caption: Team Nutrition, (pictured above), featuring Baptist Health dietitians at the Corporate Run. From left: Carla Duenas, Cathy Clark-Reyes, Natalie Castro, Terry Ochoa and Lucette Talamas.
Are you planning to walk or run in the Miami Marathon or Half Marathon? Your menu – before and after the race – can make a difference in your performance and well-being, according to a group of registered dietitians, who are also runners.
Here’s a roundup of pre- and post-race health tips from registered dietitians at Baptist Health South Florida.
New food and fitness options may catch your eye right before the race, especially if you attend the Miami Marathon’s two-day Health & Fitness Expo event. But be careful about making drastic changes to your diet right before the race, says Cathy Clark-Reyes, registered dietitian, with Baptist Health Primary Care.
“Stick with what’s tried and true for race day,” she says. “While touring the Expo hall, it’s very tempting to try new products and eat new — sometimes funky — foods that don’t always agree with your digestive system. I would advise against this because you never know how it will affect your performance or how you’ll feel.”
Play it safe:
• Eat the same dinner and breakfast before the race as you would for a long practice run.
• Bring your own foods and snacks for race day.
• Carry your favorite fuel sources with you rather than depending on what the race will provide.
“This means products like gel packets, blocks or nutrition bars. Some may upset your stomach if you’re not used to them. If you’re looking for natural sources of energy that are portable enough to carry on race day try Medjool dates. They’re high in potassium and naturally sweet to provide a supply of needed carbs,” Ms. Clark-Reyes says.
The same holds true for new sneakers and gear – don’t break them in on race day, she says.
Make a Race Schedule
“Go with what you know,” says Tim Katz, a registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist with Baptist Health’s Wellness Advantage team. “Don’t try any new foods or routines leading up to the event.”
And before the race, map out a race-day schedule for refueling with water and snacks, he says. And stick to that plan during the race.
“You need a schedule,” Mr. Katz says. “If you wait until you feel bad, it’s too late.”
Guidelines for Carbs and Caffeine
Carbs are important, says Carla Duenas, registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health. Here are her recommendations about carbs, coffees and hydration.
- 50-Percent Rule: Before and after the race, carbohydrates should represent about 50 percent of your plate.
- After the race: Eat plenty of carbohydrates throughout the following 24 hours. Doing so can help you to avoid a headache or sore muscles in the days after the race.
- Caffeine alert: Practice drinking caffeine about two hours before the race to get your bowel moving at home, instead of stopping at the portables. Caffeine can also help you feel less tired, meaning you can run longer or faster.
“Pre-run and pre-race food choices are very important to fuel your body throughout the run,” says Natalie Castro, chief wellness dietitian for corporate wellness at Baptist Health South Florida. “Figuring out what to eat can be tricky. You will want to try a few options to see what your body tolerates best.”
1. Toast with almond butter and a small banana,
2. Hard-boiled egg with slice of bread with an orange.
3. Plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries and 1 tablespoon of granola.
Post-Run Snacks and Meals
A post-run snack will help your body start to recover. Aim to have a snack and water soon after finishing the race, Ms. Castro says. Banana and nuts are ideal snacks for replenishing glucose and glycogen stores.
“The post-run meal is also important for proper recovery, “ Ms. Castro says. “Don’t wait too long to enjoy your post-race meal.”
She recommends a post-race meal within two hours after the event. Her sample menu: Four ounces of grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and a sweet potato. And remember to drink plenty of water.
Hydration & Post-Race Recovery
“Never try anything new on race day. Training season was the time to experiment, especially with what you eat before the race and refueling while you run,” says Lucette Talamas, registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health.
Here are her top tips:
- Liquids: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Make sure you are properly hydrated at the start line, while avoiding over-hydration before and during the race. The day before the race, carry water with you to sip on throughout the day. Make sure urine color is consistently pale yellow, which is a sign of proper hydration.
- Post-race recovery: the 3 Rs
1. Rehydrate by drinking 24 ounces of fluid per pound lost during the race.
2. Refuel muscle and liver glycogen stores by eating carbohydrate-rich foods.
3. Repair muscles with a serving of protein.
Recovery snack tip: Follow a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Chocolate milk is an example that meets this ratio.
Don’t refuel with beer or any other alcoholic beverage after the race, says Terry Ochoa, a registered dietitian with the Wellness Advantage team.
“Beware of alcohol after the race because you are dehydrated,” Ms. Ochoa says. “Alcohol will further dehydrate you. Water is always your better choice.”