Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The New Rules of Marathon & Half Marathon Nutrition

I want to start this post by saying that I rarely read books about nutrition. There are many different diets out there and the point of this post is not to hate on any one type. This is not a sponsored post. I just really liked this book.

I ordered this book back in August and read it while I was on vacation in Florida but just finished reading it a second time. The first time I read it I just wanted to get a general idea of what it was about. The second time I took notes on what I thought would be helpful and what I wanted to start incorporate into my training. I thought the information in this book was worth sharing, but I definitely recommend reading the book also.

The book is broken up into three sections
  • The Two-Rule Diet
  • Performance Nutrition from Day 1 to Race Day
  • Nutrition Training Synergy
I personally found the second of the three sections the most helpful as that is the section that discusses how to fuel your workouts, what to eat during the taper, and what to eat before, during, and after a race.

Meeting Your Carbohydrate Needs
One of my favorite things about this book is that it explains why athletes need to eat both carbohydrates and fats. So many people are afraid of eating carbs but this book goes into detail about why and how many carbs you need to be eating to maximize your athletic performance. 

The Diet Quality Continuum
There are ten categories of food (veggies, fruits, nuts, fish/meats, whole grains, dairy, refined grains, fatty meats, sweets, fried foods) and each is allowed in your diet. The foods are listed in the order they are ranked and the gist is to eat the foods at the top of the list more than the ones at the bottom. Essentially this means that as long as you are eating more veggies and fruits than there is no reason to feel guilty about eating sweets or fried food. I think it is a common misconception that these foods are "bad" and by eating them you've ruined your diet. While they certainly aren't good for you, there's no need to never indulge.

Fueling Your Workouts
This was the section I personally enjoyed the most. Instead of trying to summarize things I'm just going to bullet point some of the things that I highlighted. I highly recommend reading this book to get the full value of all of this.
  • Water consumption actually does not so much enhance running performance as it prevents the decline in performance that results from dehydration
  • If a run is long or fast enough to leave you more than moderately fatigued at the end, then carbohydrate intake would make a difference
    • You need 30g of carbohydrate per hour to attain a measurable performance increase
  • It is recommended to consume carbs in roughly half of your runs lasting between one and two hours and consume carbs in all runs lasting longer than two hours
Taper Training Guidelines
I think the most interesting thing is this book for me was how long it is recommended you taper. The book says that your taper is more dependent on how many miles you peaked at, not what distance race you are running. For example, if your peak week includes 41 to 80 miles of running then only a two week taper is necessary for a half marathon or a marathon. Less than 40 miles warrants a one week taper, while more than 80 warrants a three week taper.

Nutrition During the Taper Period
Just like you need to alter the amount and intensity of your running, in order to make the most out of your taper it is also recommended that you reduce calorie intake, fat load, caffeine fast, and carb load. The fat load was a new-to-me concept that I can't decide my opinions on. It is not a necessary part of the taper but essentially means eating high-fat, low-carb foods for a few days before doing the carb load.

  • Switch to a 65% fat diet two weeks before race day [if you are tapering for at least two weeks].
  • Remove all caffeine from your diet one week before race day
  • Switch to a 70% carb diet for the last three days before your race
Prerace Nutrition
"The final twelve hours before a marathon or half marathon are the most nutritionally important period in the entire race preparation process."
  • Dinner the night before your race should be low in fat, protein, and fiber, with the main purpose being finishing off your carb loading. 
  • Breakfast should be eaten between 2-4 hours before your race and should be primarily carbs


  1. Definitely some good thoughts pointed out in the book. key is finding what will work best for you. Although I do agree with most of these things and they work for me in some way shape or form.

    I do the same thing with informational books... read it through to get an idea and then re read it to really dig deep and pull what I want to out of it

  2. I think I'll need to grab one of these books. I have been trying to find out all the things I can recently about the nutritional aspect of training for a long race.

    I'm considering doing a 25k next May, with training starting in January, and I need all the information I can get!

    Great post, thanks!

  3. Wow great information! I hadn't heard of this book so I am definitely going to check it out now!