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Sports nutrition before a marathon race


For the ninth time Kyiv will host a sports festival of a world scale – Wizz Air Kyiv City Marathon, which would include races on various distances. The races are almost a month and a half away, therefore professional athletes and amateur runners still have enough time for thorough preparation and getting themselves into the perfect physical condition.


According to doctors of sports medicine, stayer distances are the most difficult format of running competitions, which can be successful only if all key systems of human body work in sync, if you use a special race tactics and have a strong will. As a runner prepares for the race, sports nutrition plays an important part in preparing the body for the physical maximum and extreme physical tests. In this article we will try to share basics of sports nutrition for a stayer.


Basic nutrition principles

Long-distance races require special approach and principles in sport nutrition. Let’s try to define the most important ones:


Form the glycogen reserves

Glycogen is the main source of energy, which will be actively used during a long-distance run. This is the basic form of glucose stored in the human body. Its main reserves are found in liver and bigger muscles. To provide the body with the required amount of glycogen, you must ensure you have it in store for the long distance. It is easy to do – ensure you have a nourishing high-calorie breakfast and eat boiled meat or fish, fresh vegetables or vegetable stew for dinner.


To form glycogen reserves before the race itself, modern sports diet specialists use two basic methods (American and European), which provide the maximum amount of carbohydrates for the body of an athlete.


American system requires heavy trainings with the maximum load for 2-3 days about 3-4 days prior to the marathon while consuming the minimum amount of carbohydrates. Such a load would lead to the minimum level of glycogen reserve in the body. Afterwards, the athlete would limit his intake of fat and proteins and carbohydrates would amount to about 80% of the diet, which would lead to glycogen overcompensation.


European method works on keeping the present amount of glycogen, which is why in the last week before the race the athlete limits the intake of proteins and fats and increases intake of food rich in carbohydrates. The training in this time period should be moderate without running loads.


Optimize your diet

Sports nutrition requires a well-balanced diet of natural high-quality products. Avoid processed food, fast foods, soft and sweetened drinks. Give up fat fried meat, white and sweet breads, sweets and alcohol.

Your daily diet should consist of fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, lean white poultry, nuts and seeds, rice, oatmeal and cornmeal. If your body tolerates dairy products, consume whole milk, cheese and natural yoghurts.


Never give up breakfast

A breakfast that is high in energy and calories is the basics of a diet of an athlete. Morning food intake should contain 30% of the overall calorie intake of a day. Training sessions and preparations usually take place in the first half of the day, therefore you must ensure you have enough carbohydrates, which would be actively used during the workout.

No doubt, tastes differ, but it is best if you eat grain porridge with fruit for breakfast as it would give you lots of fiber. Remember to eat products that are good for your heart and blood vessels.  The best solution to this would be ripe bananas. Including bananas in your diet would help you avoid muscle cramps during workouts.


Remember to drink

Preparing for a marathon race, remember that quick carbohydrates can be received not only through food, but also energy drinks. The recommended drinks include natural juices, tea and regular drinking water with sugar. Perfect recipe is 2 teaspoons of sugar per 200 milliliters of water (regular cup).



Preparing for the race, stayers must prepare their bodies for an exhausting task. To do this, remember to provide enough energy through foods, which would be used on the course. Sports diet specialists and coaches use different methods. The foundation of each method is sports diet with high intake of fast and slow carbohydrates with limited intake of proteins, fats and fiber.