Marathon (triathlon) refueling methods

Husband thought about participating in a triathlon (or he was bothered by people to compete in a triathlon with them).

What did I ask?

“Can you swim?”

I’m so nice. :)

I’m not certain Husband will compete. However, if he does, it will completely change the eating habits in our household. Completely.

Marathon runners and triathletes will fail to perform well if they do not fuel up and refuel properly.

Nutrition Advisor Alyse Levine said nutrition plays a vital role in the training process. In an interview with Livestrong.com, Levine said proper nutrition is necessary to train longer, delay fatigue and help the body recover faster after a run, which will, in turn, prepare the runner for the longer marathon or triathlon.

(The interview was focused on marathon running… so advice for swimmers might not apply…)

Levine recommended the following post-run snacks for training.

  1. Homemade Trail Mix: Mix up dried cherries, pretzels, nuts and cereal and stir into low-fat yogurt, or enjoy by the handful. (Recently, I found out that Husband loves Chex Mix –even though I already knew he loves Wheat Chex Cereal –so he should be a big fan of trail mix.)
  2. Chocolate Milk: Are you serious? Seriously? YAY! Milk is 90 percent water, so you are rehydrating at the same time. Have 16 oz. for a good snack serving.
  3. Bananas with Peanut Butter: Put it on a slice of fiber-filled bread! (That’s my advice.)
  4. Bagel with Hummus: Levine said bagels are great refueling foods for runners because they’re a rich source of carbohydrates with some protein, as well as easy to digest after a long run. Hummus just makes the whole thing tastier while adding more protein. Hummus is awesome. Eat it.
  5. Cherry Smoothie: Blend together one cup of non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt, one ripe banana, half cup of orange juice, one-fourth cup tart cherry juice concentrate and one cup crushed ice. I love cherries, but I think this smoothie will be tasty without the tart juice.

In beginning training for a marathon or triathlon, Levine said that as a runner’s mileage increases, his or her need for calories increases –especially those coming from carbohydrates. Carbs load up muscles’ glycogen stores, which are the primary fuel source used during endurance exercise. (Soccer players like pasta.)

According to Levine, at least 55-65 percent of an endurance runner’s general diet should come from carbs –much different from people wanting to lose or maintain weight. The other percent should come from lean protein to help with muscle building and repair, and the balance of calories should come from fat.

Runners should also aim for an antioxidant rich diet that contains plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, Levine said. Antioxidants and phytochemicals help improve recovery and overall health. Two servings of fatty fish a week balances the whole runner-nutrition plan.

Levine also identified several myths about nutrition for marathon runners or triathletes.

Myth #1: Drink as much water as possible on the run to prevent hypernatremia, a dangerously high concentration of sodium in the blood. However, by drinking too much water, you can cause hyponatremia, which is an imbalance of the fluid-electrolyte levels in the blood.

Basically, runners need to drink water in order to replace lost fluids and drink sport drinks with sodium rather than just plain water because, oh yeah, you still need sodium to function.

Myth #2: You must carbo-load before a marathon or long run. Instead of munching gross amounts of pasta the night before a run, runners should consume their normal carbohydrate rich diet and focus on tapering their exercise regimes during the week before the run to maximize glycogen stores.

Myth #3: I am running so much that I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight. (I’ve seen this to be true –nutritionist or not.) Calorie need will increase, but make sure you eat because you’re hungry, not because you can.

Myth #4: Energy bars and gels are better for refueling than actual food. Actually, energy bars and gels are the same as food only more weird. Eat food. Levine also said that chocolate milk is just as good as special recovery drinks (and way tastier in my opinion).

Myth #5: You don’t need to consume any fat when training for a marathon. Um, what? Your body needs fat to function every day and probably more so when training for a marathon. Cell walls and what not… Levine said to consume at least 15 percent fat daily.

And, something new, cherry juice is apparently lauded for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits and should be consumed by long-distance runners to avoid muscle pain (not soreness or fatigue) and damage caused by exercise.

Cherries and tart cherry juice are expensive. For a little 8 oz. bag of dried cherries, it costs about five dollars. Let me tell you if I’ll be buying cherries for their anti-inflammatory benefits.

No. The answer is no. (And I’m certainly not buying them to put in smoothies. Strawberries are WAY cheaper.)

Finally, what should runners consume immediately after their fun to help them recover? Levine said the ideal post-workout snack will include lots of fluids, easily digestible carbohydrates, a little bit of protein, and some sodium.

So, a roast beef sandwich and a bottle of water? That’s what I want.

What do you think? Should we, and by we I mean Husband, compete in a triathlon?

No. I’m not going to.

What’s your favorite post-workout snack?
I usually eat a bagel or toast.