Fuel Up for the Marathon with Penne Pasta

As the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon quickly approach, what should you eat before the big event?

The fueling strategy used differs from person to person, although one rule of thumb always applies — practice your race nutrition, along with your distance training, several days before the race.

Tim Katz, a registered dietitian at Baptist Health South Florida offers several nutritional tips  that show you what foods and drinks boost your energy and fuel your body before, during and after the race.

Most experts recommend carb-loading for endurance events that last longer than 90 minutes. Eating additional carbohydrate servings saturates your muscles with glycogen and increases energy, enabling you to accomplish your goals.  This is the reason many runners eat pasta dishes before they run.

One less-used trick is to eat baby food, especially banana, for pre-race energy fuel.  It gives you everything your body needs and gets quickly absorbed, since much of the digestion work has been done, and should kick in right when you need it.

Try this easy-to-follow carb-loading meal and fuel up for your best race ever.

Penne Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Mushrooms and Spinach
(serves 4)


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped portobello or cremini mushrooms
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can lower-sodium stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) can lower-sodium tomato sauce
  • 5 cups (about 1 bag) baby spinach
  • 4 cups cooked penne (ziti) pasta
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add oil.
  3. Add onions and bell peppers, and sauté 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in basil, salt, black pepper, tomatoes and tomato sauce, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat.  Simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thick.
  6. Stir in spinach and cook until the spinach wilts. Stir in pasta.
  7. Place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread a very thin layer of ricotta over the top.
  8. Cover and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Uncover and top with Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned.

Nutritional information:  calories: 237; fat: 6.3g; saturated fat: 2.5g; monounsaturated fat: 2.4g; polyunsaturated fat: 0.8g; protein: 11.6g; carbohydrate: 35g; fiber: 4.5g; cholesterol: 12mg; sodium: 588mg


 Chef Richard Plasencia, executive chef at South Miami Hospital, joined Baptist Health South Florida in 2011 for the opening of West Kendall Baptist Hospital. He is an award-winning chef who is passionate about creating and sharing fresh local and seasonal recipes seasoned with flavor and good health. In addition to an interest in nutrition, Chef Richard has an extensive history in the hospitality industry.

He served as Chef at Town Kitchen & Bar, Jake’s, the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, the Shore Club, Por Fin, and the Conrad Hotel. He also was part of several teams that received the Mobile 4 and 5 star awards, as well as Cioppino being named to America’s Top 50 restaurants by Esquire Magazine 2005, during his time at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Chef Richard Plasencia graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelor of Science in culinary arts.



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