Few more days and we will be entering the new year. But the month of January doesn’t just kick-start the year, it gets everyone pumped up for the annual marathon in Mumbai. I recently spoke at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon Runners Meet, and it was a high-energy, power-packed audience. The discussion touched upon so many interesting topics, making me realise that every year Mumbai is not only getting fitter and healthier, but also more aware.
Every morning these days, the streets are filled with people — and an increasing number seem to be training for the marathon. They’re participating for several reasons, it could be for a noble cause, an organisation, for personal targets, weight loss to improve stamina or for overall health (and it’s safe to say some are running simply to impress someone!). There is such a burst of energy and excitement that if a non-Mumbaikar visited the city early morning he’d be puzzled wondering where all these people are headed.
A full marathon is 42 km. However, there are runners targeting the half marathon as well. Whether you’re planning to go the whole hog or not, the following nutrition tips will be helpful. But if you are planning a ‘Mumbai Marathon-Dream Run’ or anything close to 8km, you don’t need ‘special’ nutritional guidelines apart from the regular healthy nutrition tips we always emphasise on.
For the long distance endurance runners, these are some tips to eat and drink through next few weeks of training and for a successful run on D-day.
Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates before your run and through the day. Don’t be carbophobic, because carbs are the main source of energy for your body during exercise. Fruit, vegetables, pasta, whole grains like wheat, jowar, bajra, brown rice will release sustain energy and help you run better. Contradictorily, simple carbohydrates, like sugar, honey and glucose will not be helpful before your run, but will serve as great energy sources during the run and help with recovery post the run.
Don’t neglect proteins. A good mix of complex carbohydrates along with good proteins help in recovery and improving the immune system. Try sticking to this combination in every meal. Whether it’s milk with wheat flakes or some soya chunks in the vegetables, a balanced meal will give you a boost for a better run. Some common protein sources are lean meats, low fat dairy, soya and pulses.
Although fats are also an import energy provider during endurance workouts, loading up on them isn’t wise. Having said that, there is a breakthrough study carried out recently by a renowned researcher Tim Noakes who suggests otherwise. According to him ‘low carb high fat diet’ should be the eventual dietary goal. However, I personally think research changes and before I have to eat my own words let’s stick to moderation. Consume fats as used in routine cooking. Make a conscious effort to get a dose of good healthy fats once a day. And by healthy fats I mean from fish, flaxseeds, nuts and avocados. Not chips, butter and batata wada!
Pre-plan your meals. Fruit, oats, dates, wholewheat bread are some snack options. Eat a couple of hours before the event or training. The time will help you digest the meal better and release the nutrients effectively for providing energy. This rule doesn’t work with everybody. Everyone is different when it comes to their pre-running foods, so figure out what works for you before blindly following your training partners diet.
Post training meals should be available and accessible. Recovery nutrition is the most magical meal in the day of a marathoner. The right amount of carbs, proteins and fluid after training will allow all the hard work to be converted into significant fitness improvements. So make sure water, protein shakes, fruit and eggs are in your sight for maximum recovery post run.
Don’t innovate with new foods. As you are getting closer to the event, you need to stay in best health. Consuming something which you never did can mess up your tummy, or it simply won’t be effective. Stick to tried and tested foods and don’t surprise yourself with new ingredients especially on the event day.
Stay hydrated all the time. Drink water before you begin the run, sip on water or sports drinks during the run and replenish with fluids post the run. One should ideally sip every 15-20 minutes, but remember always follow your gut (except when in love!). Consume fluids in an amount that doesn’t cause you any discomfort. Few days before the event monitor your urine colour, if it’s dark yellow, you probably should be drinking more water.
Be motivated. Your training and nutrition will help you almost till the finish line. But when you are approaching the end, and every muscle in your body is crying to give up, look around and find your inspiration. One such breath-taking inspirational individual is Major DP Singh, our very own Indian Blade Runner (a Kargil war soldier), who has successfully run marathons with his prosthetic leg.
He runs not to win, but to just be a part of the high-energy race. While working with him on his diet, I’ve concluded that it’s his sheer discipline, courage, dedication and will that can motivate anyone to run till the finish line.
I hope these tips, just few weeks before the event, help you prepare well for the big day. Endurance nutrition is most important during training and not just on race day. Just remember to enjoy your training. Running a marathon is an amazing achievement, so savour the challenge. Stay Healthy! Run like the great Kenyans!