Sports nutrition professional Armand Bettonviel works closely with the leading NN Running Team athletes. The Dutchman uses his expertise to offer his three-point nutritional guide ahead of a marathon.

Carbo-load

You’ve probably heard the phrase carbo-loading, which means to take on extra carbs 48 hours before a marathon. So why carbo-load? Well, when your body reaches a very intense state, as it will in a marathon, it will test the carbohydrate stores. Simply put, the more carbs in the body and greater storage levels the greater the likelihood you will perform at your best for longer. The extra carbs I would recommend a marathon runner take on board are: rice, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal, banana and pancakes. It should be noted, however, that whole grain products are not suitable for everyone because it can cause gastro intestinal discomfort. If you have experienced gastro intestinal discomfort then refined grains are a safer option.

Fine-tune the carbo-loading

It is crucial to think carefully about your carb-intake 48 hours before competition and critical the evening before a marathon. I’d recommend a high-carb, low-fibre, low-fat diet. I’d suggest taking on board a significant amount of carbs during the pre-race dinner, maybe white rice or pasta – because your liver will waste some energy overnight. I’d then suggest repeating the carb intake with a low fibre intake for breakfast on marathon day. A low fibre intake will not distress the gut system, so I’d suggest simple foods like rice porridge or pancakes with honey or even corn flakes for your race day breakfast.

Experiment with fasting

It has been found that running in a fasting state will simulate fat oxidation whicih increases the capacity of the body to utilise fat as an energy source during exercise. The fat storage is so much more extensive compared to carb storage so there could be an advantage to increasing fat oxidation, particularly for recreational athletes who perform at a more sub-maximal level.

On the other hand elite athletes perform at a maximal level, so for them carbs (rather than fat oxidation) are often king. With regards to fasting, I would recommend the body should train in a fasting state for a period of between two to four weeks to adapt. However, it is important to remember this is a complex subject and help from a professional is strongly recommended.