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How to fuel up for your marathon

Whether you're set to run a local spring marathon, such as the Muddy Marathon in Rockaway, NJ or the River Towns marathon in Susquehanna, PA, or you're starting to train for a fall local marathon such as our own Baltimore marathon, there are a few rules of fuel to ensure you have plenty of energy to run the 26.2 miles while keeping nausea or discomfort at bay.

Here are some simple dos and don'ts:

DO:

  • Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates (cookies don't count) the entire week before the race, particularly two nights before the marathon.  Eat protein as well, but make carbs your focus.  Remember that fruits and vegetables are also good sources of carbs.
  • Sip on water throughout the day before the marathon to ensure you'll be properly hydrated.
  • Carry with you during the race the energy foods (gels, beans, blocks, etc) with which you trained.  Ideally, one gel packet or its equivalent 15 minutes before the start and every 45 minutes after the start.  Don't forget to follow with water, or you'll have too much glucose in your system which may upset your stomach.
  • Try and at least sip a bit of the water at each water stop to stay hydrated; obviously the hotter it is the more water you need to replace.
  • Consume a mix of, ideally, a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein within an hour after the race to begin to refuel your energy and repair your bodyAccelerade has a patented product with this ratio of carbs to protein, the only one with this exact ratio.

DON'T:

  • Eat any rich or different foods the night before a race.  It can be tempting, when you're in away from home with family and friends who have come to watch, to indulge in a delicious sounding al fredo sauce to top your pasta.  Don't.  I speak from experience.
  • Drink liquids in a two to three hour window before the start of the race.  It will have the obvious effect.  Drink all you want the morning of the race but stop two to three hours before the start.  Drink again following your energy gel (or its equivalent) just before the start, but only enough that you're not uncomfortably full of liquid.
  • Combine gel packs, beans, bars, etc. with on-course energy drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.).  The mixture adds too much glucose to your stomach and could make you nauseated (again, I speak from experience).  Research has shown that if you merely sip the energy drink, swish it around in your mouth, then spit it out, your body gets an equal boost because your brain is fooled into thinking you just took in some sugar. 
  • Drink a full cup of water at every water stop.  You'd be quite uncomfortable and likely get nauseated with all of the swishing. 
  • Eat or drink anything along the course you didn't use in training.  It may be very tempting to take some orange slices, m&ms, or even beer as handouts from well meaning fans.  Stick with what you know to avoid gastro disasters.

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