You’ve just signed up for a marathon and can’t wait to start training. You’ve put a lot of thought into how to periodize your training so that you peak on the day of competition. But has the same level of detail and thought gone into your fuelling plan? Nutrition can have a huge impact on your performance, both during training and especially on race day. Your body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver, but in a limited supply. During endurance events of over 90 minutes we start to run out of these important energy reserves if we don’t take in carbohydrates while racing. (This, or insufficient training, is usually the reason first-time marathoners “hit the wall.”) Therefore, you should map out a plan well in advance to help you perform at your best.
Carbohydrates include sugar, starch and fibre, and they’re found in plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes) and dairy products. We need carbohydrates in the largest amount, since they are the main source of energy (glucose/glycogen) to fuel our activity. They also promote optimal brain and muscle function and help regular blood sugar levels.
Any time you will be training or racing for 90 minutes or more, you should be taking in carbohydrates, to help:
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