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To prepare for a marathon, follow an appropriate diet in addition to training.
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You've been training for months, and in two weeks the marathon will finally be here. Although you're excited and feel prepared, you also want to make sure you're fueling your body with the right foods. According to exercise physiologist and running coach Susan Paul, following a healthy eating plan prior to your race can help calm nerves and improve your performance.
Runners need carbs, particularly in the two weeks leading up to a marathon. According to Brown University, athletes should eat about four times the servings of grains as the average person. "Runner's World" magazine explains that carbohydrates act as fuel, and that the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles has a direct impact on how far and how long you can run. Glycogen storage is higher when you eat more carbs. You want to have enough fuel in your body to power through the marathon. Many carbs also have a high amount of fiber, which helps regulate your digestive system and prevents cramping during races. The magazine recommends a diet rich in foods such as couscous, potatoes, sweet potatoes, polenta, quinoa, rice, pearl barley, amaranth, buckwheat and whole wheat breads -- instead of filling up with doughnuts and brownies.
Running coach Susan Paul recommends eating plenty of lean proteins in the days leading up to your race. Some options include fish or lean chicken. You can opt for scrambled eggs for breakfast, boneless chicken for lunch and fish for dinner in the two weeks before your race. Paul also advises staying away from processed foods such as frozen fried chicken nuggets, for example. This way, you'll feel healthy and energized instead of sluggish when it's finally the big day.
Eat regular meals every few hours two weeks before your race. This is not only important for fuel, says New York Road Runners, but it also prevents stomachaches during your marathon. According to the organization, most runners have complained of gastrointestinal issues at one point or another in their career. Don't skip meals; instead, have breakfast, lunch, dinner and a few snacks every day, eating foods that haven't caused you any stomach problems in the past. If something is bothering you but you're not sure what it could be, keeping a food log in the weeks before the marathon is a good idea. That way, you can identify problem foods and avoid them the day of the day of the race.
Although it's important not to skip any meals as a marathon runner, you'll want to be extra strict about eating breakfast in the two weeks prior to your big race. This is because marathons are usually held in the morning, says the Washington Running Report -- on the day of your race, you'll want to eat breakfast for proper fuel. However, if you're not used to eating breakfast, you might suffer from stomach cramping during your marathon. Paul recommends eating toast with peanut butter, although you can also opt for an energy bar. Eat the same breakfast every day you go on a training run, she says.