Nutrition tips for the novice runner

Preparing for a marathon, half-marathon or even your first race can be a daunting task. Dara Wittenberg, M.S., owner of TriCoachDara in Boca, gives us nutrition tips to help runners before, during and after race day.

Fueling for a marathon:

The body doesn’t need supplemental carbohydrates for exercise that is less than an hour long. But once runners get past that hour, supplemental calories become extremely important, Wittenberg says. The recommended calorie intake for a marathon is about 90 calories for every 40 to 50 minutes.

What to eat:

When race day approaches, runners should already know what works for them as an individual. “We need to listen to our bodies and not compare what we are doing to what someone else is doing,” Wittenberg says. If you have been starting each morning eating a bagel with peanut butter, don’t decide to eat oatmeal on race day. It could interfere with gastrointestinal processes, causing stomach pain that would slow runners down.

The lowdown on H2O:

Runners should consume two to three sips of water every 10 minutes, which adds up to 16 to 24 ounces of liquid an hour. Wittenberg suggests taking energy gel tablets along with drinking water. Consistency is key, she says. Also, Wittenberg adds, when it comes to sports drinks, look for drinks with 6 to 8 percent carbohydrates. If the drink has more than that, it’s hard for the stomach to process.

Refueling after the race:

Shakes are a go-to meal after a race that provide an adequate amount of carbohydrates and proteins. They also help increase recovery time, Wittenberg says. Look for a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 carbohydrate ratio. Bagels, bananas with peanut butter, and chocolate milk also provide the right amount of nutrients to restore the body and increase recovery time. Avoid foods that are really high in sugar unless it is your only food source. “The simpler, the leaner, the more brightly colored, the better it is for you,” Wittenberg says.

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