Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Figuring out hydration and nutrition

I got home today to find a parcel full of goodies I had ordered for my marathon training:
Bonus: free Nuun water bottle... gotta love a freebie
Ordered from The Feed Station

There is no denying that the correct hydration and nutrition strategy can make or break a race.  There is a plethora of literature on how much you should drink, how much carbohydrate you should consume, how frequently, what combination of sugars and electrolytes are best, real food vs gels or chews... the list is endless (and my mind is completely boggled). 

I did not have any plan when I ran Brighton Marathon 2011 – the only thing I did do was practice hydrating with Powerade, as this was the drink provided on the course.  I did my longest runs with diluted Powerade in my CamelBak and munched a few jellybeans halfway through if I felt like it.  That was it... the full extent of my nutritional plan.  I knew they were supplying Clif Shot Bloks on the day so I figured I would just help myself and all would be well.  However, they had run out at every station by the time I reached them (thank goodness for the wonderful supporters handing out sweets).

This year, being older and wiser, I have decided to be sensible about fuelling, both in training and during racing in the hope that it will help me achieve my goals and postpone the dreaded ‘wall’ for as long as possible and help aid my recovery.  

I choose not to take any water or nutrition with me on runs of 13 miles or under.  However for runs over this distance I always take my CamelBak filled with Nuun for hydration and electrolyte replacement.  Once I reach 18 miles and over I will begin to experiment with nutrition and frequency whilst running to find something that works for me. 

I find it very difficult to run holding anything in may hands and therefore use a hydration backpack which allows me to take a swig whenever I feel like it whilst keeping my hands free.  It can take some getting used to if your not used to running with a backpack and it is important to try before you buy to ensure you get one that fits you properly and doesn't bounce around too much as this will cause chaffing.  

Practicing your nutritional strategy before your race is essential – you don’t want to try anything new on the day as digestive issues and stomach cramps can make for a thoroughly miserable experience.  It is also useful to remember that what works for one person may not work for another so you must find out what works for YOU and what works well at 5 or 10 miles not be so great at 21 miles! 

I really like the Clif Shot Bloks and find them easy to eat and digest whilst running.  Each pack contains 6 individual blocks which contain just 33 calories each and 3 blocks is equivalent to one gel and will provide 24g carbohydrate.  I like the fact you can eat a block every 15-20 minutes rather than having to neck an entire gel in one go.    

I have never got on that well with gels as I find the consistency is often unpalatable making them hard to swallow but after trying a free Gu gel sample – which were thicker than others and actually tasted quite nice, I decided these may well be the gels for me!!  Each gel contains 100 calories and approx 20g carbohydrate.  Obviously, being the chocoholic that I am, I opted for the Chocolate Outrage flavour – with added caffeine.  Not everyone tolerates gels containing caffeine as it can cause light-headedness and palpitations but I am a big fan of the caffeine boost (and have been known to pop a couple of ProPlus when on long training runs). 

I think I have my pre and post run routine sorted and it works well for me:

Pre Run:               35g porridge oats with skimmed milk, 12g honey, 10g pumpkin seeds and 10g chia seeds
2 cups of black coffee
1 pint of water
1 bottle of lucozade or lucozade light

Post Run:             Chocolate milkshake
                                1 pint water with Nuun
                                Wholewheat toast with peanut butter or bagel with philly and tomato

I try and drink lots of water the day before my long run and for the day after my run.  I also try not to drink beer the night before my long run (but I’m not always successful!)

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