April 2015 – Nutritional Support for Running a Marathon 

With the start of the warmer weather and the marathon season, all types of joggers are out and about attempting to get fit and healthy. However, what you eat can make all the difference to your performance and wear and tear on the body.

The aim of a nutritional program for a marathon is to help your body healthily build up the right energy reserves for the marathon and accomplish recovery and tissue repair, speedily and efficiently. Eating enough of the right foods in the right balance will enhance your achievement and keep you from injury keeping you be fit and healthy.



You will need high quality protein several times a day;

You need a hand sized piece of protein or 1gm of protein per kg of body weight as a minimum per meal 3x a day.

Choose from;

  • Egg-6.3g/1oz each
  • Cheese-cottage-14g/4oz
  • Milk-skimmed-8.4g/8oz
  • Yoghurt-10g/8oz
  • Chicken-6gm/1oz
  • Lamb-6.5g/1oz
  • Beef-5.5gm/1oz
  • Ham-6g/1oz
  • Bacon-11.3g/2slices
  • Turkey-6g/1oz
  • Tuna-14g/2oz
  • Sardines 14g/2oz
  • Salmon 14g/2oz
  • Other fish-5g/1oz
  • Soya-tofu/other soya products

You also need high quality carbohydrates several times a day.

This should consist of wholegrains which are slower burning energy than white refined grains and stop the spikes of blood sugar highs and lows from fast acting carbohydrates which can cause fatigue in your training or on your marathon.

Choose from;

  • Wholemeal bread (Hovis high fibre white variety is fine)
  • Wholegrain cereals (lower sugar types) such as porridge, Cherrios, Quakers Oat Krunchies, Quaker Oat Bran Krispies, Shreddied Wheat, Wheatabix
  • Fruit especially bananas and apples
  • Lower sugar varieties of cereal bars eg Fruesli/ Brunch Bars
  • Wholemeal rice
  • Wholemeal pasta
  • Jacket potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Rye
  • Barley

Keep up your intake of “good fats” such as olive oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish, avocado’s.

Eat 3 meals a day and also 3 small snacks inbetween to keep up blood sugar levels and hence energy. Always have equal protein and complex carbohydrate snacks.

Best Examples;

  1. Fresh fruit with some nuts and seeds – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery PLUS essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation
  2. Wholemeal chicken and salad sandwich – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery
  3. Apple and cottage cheese – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery
  4. Palm – full of seeds and a small banana in yoghurt – high in essential fatty acids for reducing inflammation with protein for muscle renewal
  5. Half an avocado with tuna or prawns – high in essential fatty acids for reducing inflammation with protein for muscle renewal
  6. Organic corn chips and hummous – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery
  7. Oat cakes and ham
  8. Rice cakes with 3 nut butter or Peanut butter
  9. Low fat Babybel with a Satsuma
  10. Walnuts or almonds with fruit – and magnesium and slow release sugar

Drink 8 glasses of water a day – dehydration can effect athletic performance.  You should urinate once every 2 hours to show good hydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of hydration. Remember caffeine dehydrates you.

Improve your performance by drinking during the run.

Sample Menu for the two days preceding a marathon

Day before your Marathon Day of your Marathon
Start upping fuel and hydration for tomorrow. Carbohydrates need to make up bulk of lunch and dinner which will be available for tomorrow


1 WEEK BEFORE eat 55-60% carbs until 3 days before race when you up the carbs to 70%

Start fuelling up 3 hours before you go and aim to consume 300cals for each hour either in one hit or in increments
Breakfast Breakfast
3 hours to go
Porridge and rye 2 eggs with rye toast and porridge with jam
Morning Snack Morning Snack
1 to 1/2 hours to go
Banana with 2Tbs peanut butter on 2 slices rye bread Salted Rice cakes for electrolytes and fast release carbs with almond butter – high in magnesium for the muscles
Baked potato with beans and cheese Straight after run, start sipping a lucozade recovery drink or something equivalent

Then eat a high protein bar.

Afternoon Snack Afternoon Snack
1 Naked bar and handful almonds

Beetroot juice from M&S

Maybe some chocolate!!
Dinner Dinner
Plate of Wholemeal pasta salad with a tin of oily fish such as sardines Whatever you fancy – you deserve it but I would suggest a nice steak and salad with good quality chips or another form of carbohydrate and let yourself have a desert!!


For a Sample Menu for the week preceding a marathon please contact Diana Wright.

Tel/Fax 01494 722777



  1. Wholegrains and low glycaemic carbs release a steady flow of energy to muscles and brain.
  2. Beef is high in iron but also creatine which increases blood oxygen as well as reducing mental fatigue and boosts cognitive performance.
  3. Ground Flax seeds or linseeds (available in Holland and Barratt) contain Alpha linolenic acid- improves functioning of the cerebral cortex which helps your spacial awareness and motor skills plus acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce muscle pain and stiffness after the run. Add a teaspoon or 2 to your porridge.
  4. Tyrosine available in chicken and tahini or sesame seeds reduces brain fatigue on the run and improves performance.
  5. Beetroot increases nitrate which the body and converts to nitrous oxide which helps motivation and attention and widens blood vessels for more oxygen flow.
  6. Walnuts contain vitamin E which protects your essential fatty acids from oxidation and is beneficial for blood vessels in the brain and also cognitive function important in concentration.
  7. Choline is in eggs which will help the legs respond to the brain messaging system more efficiently and prevents fatigue for longer in the last miles.
  8. Magnesium is in almonds that reduces cramps in the muscles.
  9. DHA in eggs and avocado helps boost metal focus in a run and especially before a run.
  10. Don’t forget the Epson salt baths after your run and perhaps try one this week – 1/2 a tea cup in a bath-will relax your muscles and help them recover.

Children and Veggies

I am sure you remember the mantra at meal times ‘you must eat up all your vegetables, they are good for you’ when we were children and those of us that have had children know how difficult it is to encourage them to do the same. This article explains why it is important for children to eat fruit and vegetables and what research has found that gives insight in helping children to grow up to be healthy eaters of fruits and vegetables.

Why are vegetables so important for the health of our bodies?
Firstly, they provide antioxidants and phytonutrients. These nutrients are vital for the immune system to help our children stay strong against the attacks of the outside world of virus’s, bacteria and pollutants and so protect them from disease.
Secondly, they help keep our body alkaline which prevents our body being acidic which increases risk of diseases such as cancer and arthritis.
Thirdly they provide minerals, especially magnesium, important for growth, blood sugar management and energy.
Fourthly they provide cellulose, which is soluble fibre, and it is this which reduces cholesterol and prevents constipation and so prevents toxic build up.  Soluble fibre helps eliminate and detoxify old hormones and other waste products. It also provides a substrate for the growth of beneficial bacteria which provide us with nutrients and important biochemicals for our bodily processes as well as optimising brain chemicals.
Finally, adequate fruit and vegetables helps to prevent obesity and this is important due to the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children and the added risk to the prevalence of other conditions such as cardiovascular disease in older age.

All of these functions help a child grow strong physically, develop mentally and give emotional well being. Vegetables are vital, not a choice, to reduced disease risk and increased longevity.

Apparently vegetable consumption in the western world is below recommended levels for both adults and children, so what hope do we have for our children to eat optimum amounts of vegetables?
In the bible it says that we should train up our children in the way they should go. What can we do to help teach children ‘the way they should go?’ that is going to result in eating their vegetables?

Food preferences start in the womb. Apparently if a child is breastfed, this significantly affects their acceptance of different foods such as vegetables in later life compared to non breast fed babies and also will be happier to eat those foods that they were subjected to through the amniotic fluid or breast milk. Being breastfed increases the likelihood that one would have a healthy diet later in life.

Preschoolers naturally avoid vegetables when given free choice. From birth children prefer sweeter foods rather than bitter and chose higher density foods which are packed with calories. I suppose that is understandable as children are programmed to grow and so to prefer calorific foods to survive.

However, by 2 to 3 years old, most children restrict their food to a few favourites but by repeating exposure and familiarity, the child is more likely to go back to eating a wider variety. Repeated exposure has been significant in increased learning of liking a novel food.

So how do you increase exposure to either new fruits and vegetables  or those your children don’t want to eat without causing meal times to be like a battleground and the dinner table a war zone?

  • Be creative.
  • Teaching children to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables mirroring the colours of the rainbow is a very creative way to help your child eat a balance of fruit and veg that are high in a variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients. These are the key nutrients that protect our body from disease and cannot be replaced by supplements. Eg
    • Carrots, beta carotene
    • Blueberries, anthocyadins
    • Tomatoes, lycopenes can be used as tomato sauce as in the cooked form, the lycopenes are more concentrated
    • Curly kale high in vitamin c
    • Sweet potato, high in caratenoids
    • Brocolli high in magnesium
  • Involve  your child and educate them in the best choices of foods. Use food charts with pictures and stickers
  • Let them help you cook with them
  • Let them grow their own (or help you!)
  • Do pick your own
  • Hide vegetables by mashing softer vegetables and adding to pasta sauces or mixing them into fish cakes pies and homemade burgers. Eg carrots, brocolli, corgettes, cauliflower.
  • make or mix them into soups.
  • If all else fails use the vegetable water for making gravy or a soup
  • Use their favorite foods and use as a theme eg try making sweet potato chips
  • Can also use vegetables as a dessert eg sweet pumpkin pie
  • Add mashed banana with a drizzle of honey into sandwiches or yoghurts or make into smoothies
  • Strawberries into ice cream or also add to smoothies for extra antioxidants
  • Add good fibre by adding red lentils to bolognaise dishes, either cooked or add raw to the dish during cooking.
  • Make your own muffins and add grated carrot or blueberries
  • Use a fondue, savory with vegetables or sweet with fruit
  • Use bargaining but not force
  • Be creative in your names and presentation
  • Make sure you give them choice.
  • Eat together
  • Let meal times be about sharing, listening and hearing each other, developing good communication skills and associating food with safe enjoyable experiences. This is what being family and community is all about. Jesus shared food as a way of showing love and care.

So eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy way of living helps our children to do the same and make similar choices. Encouraging our children to eat foods that nourish their bodies, helps them live an abundant life, emotionally as well as spiritually and physically and reach their full potential. Food choices are formed early and generally stay into adulthood so it is important to introduce as many different varieties of fruit and veg in the earliest years before the terrible two’s! Repeated exposure may be effective for most children but in those that are more fussy, perseverance and creativity is greatly needed but the nutritional advantages far outway the hard work.