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Training for a marathon: How to get the nutrition you need

NASHVILLE, TN – April 22, 2013 --  Among experienced runners, the moment when an athlete runs out of glycogen stores, or easily accessible energy, is known as “the wall.” Beginners often call it “running out of steam,” or even, “the day I had to walk home.” 

How can marathoners and half marathoners prepare for their race and prevent “the wall” from happening to them? Baptist Sports Medicine specialists suggest in addition to ramping up mileage, runners need to focus on nutrition.  

When running a marathon – you need to fuel your body with good-for-you foods. Carbohydrates are important, but you also need protein and healthy fats. 

Caloric requirements for men and women are different, depending on their height, weight and the number of miles logged each day. A general rule is that 65 percent of calories consumed should come from carbohydrates, 10 percent should come from protein, and 25 percent should come from unsaturated fats. What are good sources of these nutrients?   

  • For carbohydrates, eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Apples, bananas, grapes, carrots, beans, potatoes, whole wheat bread and whole grain pasta are all nutritious choices.
  • For protein, consider beans, low fat milk, eggs, fish, nuts, cheese, chicken, yogurt, lean beef and soy products.
  • Healthy fat sources include avocados, olive oil, salmon, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. 

However, for runners, eating well is only half of the equation. The other half of the equation is knowing when to eat. If eating before a run, limit your intake to a light snack. Popular choices include a banana or peanut butter on toast. No more than 30 minutes after your run, eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates will replenish your energy levels, while protein will help mend your muscles. 

Last, if you will be running for more than an hour, plan to eat a very light snack, such as an energy bar or a fruit gel, on the go. The longer you run, the more glycogen you use and the less power you have. Eating 40 minutes to an hour into long runs will replenish your glycogen stores and keep you from running out of energy and hitting “the wall.”    

For more information about Baptist Sports Medicine, and questions about training for your next marathon, please visit


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