he moment, with just under two weeks before the marathon (writes Henrietta Bailey) you should continue with your normal training diet which should be made up of 50-60 per cent carbohydrate. But when you get to three days before the marathon you should be starting to carb-load and your intake should go up so that 75-80 per cent of what you are eating is carbohydrate. The reason for carb-loading is that carbs cause glycogen to store in the muscles – and that is what gives you energy.
In terms of quantities, as a broad guide, you should normally be eating 6.6 grammes of carbohydrate for every kilogramme of your bodyweight, and that should go up to 8-10 grammes in the last three days. Also, in those 24 hours before you should be grazing, on snacks like rice-cakes or oat-cakes, dried fruit, and cereal bars. Don’t worry about putting on a few pounds.
It is a good idea to eat things that you are familiar with – this isn’t the time to be experimenting with new foods. You don’t want indigestion on the big day. The night before, eat something plain like pasta or rice with chicken. It should be something you have had before – it’s an idea to practice the meals you are going to eat and find something that suits you.
On the morning of the race, you should again go for simple foods for breakfast. Smoothies, yoghurt, toast, porridge or muesli, again something that you have eaten before. In the hours before the race also have a snack, something like dried fruit. Bananas are good, some people like isotonic drinks, while some like flapjacks and jelly-beans. Practice and see what suits you.
Afterwards, there should be something in the goodie bag that they give you that is appropriate, but check beforehand that it is something that you like. Otherwise, work out where you are going to get the foods you do like, eating well in the 30 minutes to two hours after the race are essential to a good recovery. Keep an eye on your urine colour too, to check you are re-hydrating properly.
Henrietta Bailey is a nutritional therapist at Pure Sports Medicine, www.puresportsmed.com