The final stretch – Ajusting your nutrition as you taper
It is just a couple of weeks from the big day, and you should be starting to make those final adjustments to your training. As you taper and reduce your training volume and distance you may be thinking about whether you need to change what, and how, you eat. After all you want to feel good on race day!
The simple answer is yes. You need to factor in a reduced energy intake during your taper, so you don’t start the run a few kilos heavier than normal. In doing so, you might also want help in curbing those cravings that will inevitably occur along the way. In this article, we provide you with some simple tips to help in this area, as well discussing the most important component of the taper; “carbohydrate loading”.
Fuel for the work required
One of the main rules in marathon nutrition is to consume the right energy to meet the demands of your day-to-day energy expenditure plus any training you do. When you start to decrease your training as you begin to taper, it is important to decrease the calories eaten in order to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
Therefore, be smart about your carbohydrate choices, choosing traditional carbohydrate sources (e.g. pasta, potatoes) on the days where you are still exercising, and choosing lighter vegetables (those grown above the ground), fruit and salad-based meals on the days when you aren’t. As you taper, it is unlikely you’ll need to fuel during your training runs.
A little protein along the way
As you decrease the amount that you eat, you might find it hard to manage those feelings of hunger and craving for sweet foods. This is not unusual. However, by slightly increasing your protein intake throughout the day (meals and snacks), you will naturally reduce both fat and carbohydrate intake, as well as reduce your feelings of hunger (satiation).
Eggs at breakfast, snack choices of greek yoghurt, nuts, seeds, beef jerky, and evening treats like protein pancakes, could be just the treat.
Carbo loading, or carbo grazing
Most people have heard of the term carbohydrate loading and associate it with eating a huge amount of pasta in the days leading up to their event. Whilst consuming a high carbohydrate diet before a race is beneficial, it is not a process of gorging, but a simple process of grazing 24 hours before the big day. This will help manage bloating, stomach discomfort and short term weight gain. Following these simple tips will help along the way:
• Don’t increase overall calorie intake; adjust the ratio of fat and protein to compensate for extra carbohydrates
• Eat your carbohydrates little and often rather than all at once. Include carbohydrate snacks such as fruit, cereals bars and muffins.
• Have extra carbohydrate at meals, whilst reducing other components. E.g one more spoonful of rice/pasta, and one less of meat with your evening chilli
• Include a high carbohydrate pudding such as a sponge or crumble
• Focus on easy to digest carbohydrates (High GI) or liquid forms such as juices, sports drinks or smoothies to help with digestive issues