What to eat before a Half Marathon

So, you're training for a half marathon and you know you need to eat better. You're trying to figure out, what do I eat right before the race? What do I eat in the weeks leading up to the race?

So, you're training for a half marathon and you know you need to eat better. You're trying to figure out, what do I eat right before the race? What do I eat in the weeks leading up to the race? Well, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runner's High, we're going to talk about what to eat before your race and the weeks before your race.

If it’s your first time with me here on the channel, hit that red subscribe button down in the bottom right-hand corner right down there. I say that not just because you need to listen to me but because I interview some of the very smartest people on the planet involving athletics, especially involving nutrition, which is what's important to you today, right?

So, if you don't want to take my word for it in this episode, go check out those episodes on the Smart Athlete Podcast episode three with Registered Dietitian, Gloria Stoverink. She actually works for us and she brings out a recipe for us every single week.

And I’ve also recently interviewed two other registered dietitians, World-Renowned Registered Dietitian, Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark's SportsNation Guidebook. She sold 750,000 copies. So, she's definitely got something to say. And then Katie Hake, another Registered Dietician who is on the rise, and they all have something to say about sports nutrition.

And we talked a lot about running as well in those interviews. So, if you don't want to listen to me, you're free to hop out of this particular video right now, but and give you some suggestions from them, and then my own personal experience in this video. So, enough plugging the other content, let's get on to what do you actually eat before your half marathon.

My first tip of figuring out what to eat isn't necessarily a specific food you need to eat, but a habit and that is don't try to cram a bunch of new foods in right before your race. When you are getting ready for any race, be it a half marathon, 5K, Ironman, whatever it is, you should be practicing good nutrition habits all the way through training up until race day.

Now, this may seem like a kind of duh suggestion, but there are so many kind of common sense ideas that kind of get thrown out of the way when we're in the middle of the training and we want to kind of splurge a little bit.

It's okay to have a treat here and there, but it's a whole different mentality if you think to yourself, well, I just went out and ran 10 miles today, so I'm just gonna have a dinner of ice cream, or I mean, I'm gonna have nachos for a snack. When you do that, you're shorting yourself and the training you're doing, because you're not giving yourself the kind of nutrition you need to you know, maximize your own potential.

So, that's my first tip, practice good nutrition all the way through training, all the way up until race day so that you know your bodies used to the foods, it follows that you know, axiom for everything, nothing new on race day. And then also, you give your body the ability to recover, and prep yourself for that half marathon that you're training for.

My second suggestion, and a lot of these suggestions, I'm not going to be specific foods because specific foods have to do with kind of your taste, you know what you've eaten growing up, all these kind of things and your gut microbiome is affected by the things you eat. So, if I tell you to go eat, X, Y and Z, maybe that doesn't necessarily sit well with you.

And there's kind of a period where the bacteria in your gut have to adjust. If you want to know more about that, again, check out episodes of the Smart Athlete Podcast, I think episode nine with Dr. Greg Grosicki and episode-- Whoo, I'm not sure, the one with Dr. Matt Lay, they both studied gut microbiome in runners.

So, number two, my suggestion here involves protein, how much protein should you be taking in? And those registered dietitians that I've spoken to, lots of different suggestions here. So, first, I'm going to give you my personal experience. And that's roughly one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. So, I weigh roughly 165 on any given day, plus or minus, depending on what I'm doing.

So, that means I should be taking in 165 grams of protein a day. This is kind of a rule of thumb that's been used by anyone from amateurs through Olympians, and was actually suggested at the Olympic Training Center, I think for a considerable amount of time.

Now, those dietitians I've spoken to, will say as low as a half gram per pound of body weight. So, again, because I'm 165, that means that my intake range should be somewhere between about a 82 and 165 grams a day. This is considerably more than the average person needs to take in. Somebody who doesn't work out, isn't putting those demands on their body, only going to probably be in the 30 to 40 gram range.

Again that depends on their lifestyle, if they have health concerns, all those kind of things. But we can't go too deep into all of that. So, figure out that range for you based on a half to one gram. And that should give you a good guideline of figuring out how much protein you should be taking in per day.

My third suggestion should make sense should be very simple, very easy to understand, and that is to take in carbs. I know that there are a lot of kind of, I won't quite say anti-carb, but really moving away from carb kind of fad diets that are going on right now. I'm a big fan of Atkin. Smart Athlete Podcast, I talked to Matt Fitzgerald.

If you know who Matt Fitzgerald is, then you know, he's written a lot of books, one of those being Diet Cults. So, I'm not a fan of diet cults, because they kind of trap you into one mindset of you can only eat this, not that instead of trying to figure out what works with your body, and what you need to fuel. They don't always take into account you as an athlete.

So, I am going to suggest eating carbs. And the reason is when we want those carbs to digest and be used as glycogen in our muscles. But the caveat here is that you can't just eat any carbs. It's not like okay, again, earlier I said we went out for a 10-mile run. Now, let's just have a dinner of ice cream. That would be a bad idea. Not only are you missing your micronutrients from plants, fruits, vegetables, grains, all those kinds of things.

You are getting a high glycemic index card, which means your insulin is going to spike, you're going to have a sugar crash, and then your body is going to store a lot of that as fat instead of as glycogen fuel that's more easily burned. So, when you look at those carbs, try to take in more low glycemic index carbs, that's something that's not going to digest quite as quickly won't make your insulin spike, and shouldn't be stored as much as fat, as some of those kinds of often junk foods will be.

Of course, if you want more personalized recipes and suggestions on what you should be eating and the ratio of carbs to fats to protein, there's nothing like hiring a registered dietitian to figure it out for you. So, you can always talk to Gloria, talk to Nancy, talk to Katie, or you know, pick up Nancy's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

There's a lot of good stuff in here, and you do not have to go cover to cover to get what you need. But there's nothing that's going to replace that personalized attention from somebody if you're confused about what you should be eating and trying to figure out that kind of optimal zone. So, don't forget that that is always an option. Although I love having you here on the channel with me and I love helping you, if you need personalized attention, go get it. Investing in yourself is one of the best investments that you can make.

My fourth and final suggestion about what to eat for your half marathon training actually has to pertain to the week of the race. This is what you wanted, right? You just wanted to know about the week of the race. You didn't care about the rest of it. Well, I've shoved some good information at you, please absorb it. But the week of the race is particularly important. Often, there are two main temptations the week of the race because we're going to taper here, which means we're not working out as hard, we have more energy, we get a little jittery.

So, temptation one is to say, well, I'm not working out as much so I just won't eat. I don't want to get fat before the race. That's a terrible idea. Don't change your diet significantly before the race. If you go through that and you say, I don't want to eat anything, you can end up gassed at the starting line before you get going, which means you're going to have bad time. I’ve been watching too much Southpark.

The other temptation is that you try to carbo-load the night before. I'm not huge on carbo-loading. I think if you eat well all the time, you're going to be fine on race day. If you want to carbo-load, if you have to carbo-load, do it two nights before. The issue here is if you jam all that food in your body, you may not have the time to digest everything. And then you can end up with GI issues the race morning because you're nervous, you're already going to the bathroom a bunch.

And that can be you know, the recipe to have a really terrible day, a really terrible race. So, you want to practice the same nutrition you always do the race week. Don't try anything new on race day. Don't try anything new on race week. If you have to carbo-load, do it two nights before, so you have plenty of time to digest all those carbs.

If you want to know more about what my pre-race meal is and how to make a pre-race meal or how to design the perfect pre-race meal for you, hit the subscribe button and then go search the channel. I've already done a video on this, how to make the perfect pre-race meal for you and I shared what my pre-race meal is I use for every race from 5K, all the way through half Ironman. Doesn't matter what it is, this is my go-to meal. So, stay around, see the other videos on the channel. I promise, you'll be a better runner for it. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High

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