10 Nutrition Rules From 14 Days Out to Race Day
By Claire Shorenstein MS, RD, CDN
When it comes to running the NYC Marathon, having a solid nutrition plan is a crucial component for pre-race and race-day success. The hope is that you’ve already dialed in your nutrition during training; regardless, here are a few key points to consider:
#1- Stick with what you have practiced throughout training. Do not start trying out new foods and sports products on race day, or even the days before!
#2- Plan (at least generally) what you will be eating the day before the marathon. Don’t forget logistics (i.e. If you’re going out to eat, do they have your planned meal on the menu? Or if at home, do you have everything you need on hand?)
#3- Three days before the race, continue to eat balanced meals and snacks but increase your serving size of carbohydrate rich foods. No need to “carbo load” or stuff your face with pasta! Eat to appetite, and if appetite is lower than usual, have smaller more frequent meals. You may gain some weight between the reduced mileage and increased carbs – but don’t stress. You will be burning it all off soon, and some of it is water retention.
#4- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate in the days leading up to the race. The day before, remember to eat salty foods to stimulate thirst (e.g. parmesan on your pasta).
#5- Create a detailed nutrition race plan (hopefully you have done this already!) that includes what and when you will be eating breakfast on race day and any additional pre-race snacks. Again, logistics and timing are VERY important here, especially with a challenging race such as NYC that involves a lot of travel and waiting around. You may need to prep your breakfast in advance and eat on the ferry or in the village, or perhaps you will have a small breakfast at home and another breakfast in Staten Island. Do NOT leave these details to the last minute, and always be sure to allow plenty of time to digest and go to the bathroom!
#6- Part two of your nutrition race plan should include how you plan to fuel during your run. Again, this should be detailed and specific – not “take gels as needed.” Fuel consistently so you don’t get behind and crash! Think of these calories as an investment in your energy and performance, even if you don’t feel you need them at that time. I usually recommend that clients take on nutrition (gels, chews, sports drink, etc.) by TIME not by mileage, especially with a tough course like NYC that is hard to run evenly paced. We are aiming for 30-60 grams of carbs per hour (= 120-240 calories) for the average-sized person. A good starting point usually is 1 gel per 30-45 min.
#7- Don’t forget about hydration during your run. Some runners find it handy to carry a small bottle at the start that they sip along the way and toss when finished to avoid the crowded initial water stations. Others stick with the water stations. No need to “stay ahead of thirst” as it used to be suggested, but do drink to thirst and aim to replete 100% of fluids lost to sweat. If you’re not sure what this means, you can always do a sweat test during your next 1 hour run as follows: weigh yourself nude before and after the run (1 lb lost to sweat = 16 oz fluid), and add any fluids consumed during the run to this number to get hourly sweat rate (e.g. 1 lb weight loss + 16 oz consumed = 32 oz sweat rate per hour). Keep in mind this number may change based on weather conditions.
#8- Hydration isn’t just about plain water – also make sure you are taking in enough salts. This can be in the form of your gels, chews, etc., but sometimes you need additional electrolytes, e.g. salt pills, actual salt packets, Nuun, etc. Sodium in particular is lost in the greatest amount, and everyone has very different requirements. If you are a heavy sweater, you most likely need more than what you are taking in via other sports products. If in doubt, try having a little salt – and if it tastes good, that’s your body saying, yes please! If you’re not sure, you probably still need a little more.
#9- Sometimes things don’t go according to plan – and that means that even with all these plans and preparations, you have to remain FLEXIBLE. If you have GI issues or you find that you’re hungry late in the race or the weather conditions mean that you need to fuel differently, you obviously need to adjust on the fly. That’s not only fine but also necessary. So if needed, grab that banana on the course or take a short breather from your fueling strategy – whatever you need to do to get yourself back to feeling well.
#10- Most importantly, HAVE FUN!!!!
Claire Shorenstein is a Registered Dietitian and founder of Eat for Endurance nutrition counseling. She works with clients all over the country virtually and in person in NYC. She specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, chronic disease prevention and management, disordered eating, and pre/post natal nutrition. Claire is a Road Runners Club of America Certified running coach who has helped many runners finish the NYC marathon and achieve their individual performance and nutrition goals. As an avid distance runner herself, Claire has run NYC twice as well as many other marathons and trail ultra marathons.