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Crossing the finish line without hitting up against the wall!

Friday, January 16, 2009
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Professional runners know the perils and resulting impact of inadequate nutrition on their performance levels, but what about the novice marathoner who has risen to the challenge, done extensive training and is ready to face and conquer a feat of amazing strength and endurance. Does he know what to do in the days leading up to the marathon?

This is year four of The Mumbai Marathon taking place on the 18th Jan 2009, with this year having greater emotional significance for all Mumbaikars. They will be coming together to cheer the athletes as they run with greater pride, Joie De Vivre and determination in the shadow of the 26/11 Mumbai tragedy.

The most common problem facing these athletes is that they "don't eat enough, and they don't hydrate enough," says Dr. Sunil Jhangiani, a Physician Nutrition Specialist in New York, and himself a Mumbaikar. He goes on to say, "Thus, during advance training, just prior to the event and during the event, keeping the five factors in focus is critical for a successful completion of the race."

Below are a few tips for the runners as they prepare to run for the chance to say -"I am a marathoner!"

Nutrition during training: In the months leading up to the marathon, runners need to gradually increase complex carbohydrate intake, but even more so during the last few days before the event. The average human body stores enough glycogen to generate 1500 to 2000 kcal of energy. Intense running can easily consume 600-800 or more kcal per hour. Unless glycogen stores are replenished during exercise, glycogen stores will be depleted after 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 km) of running. Just short of the finish line.
  • Have a bowl of enriched oatmeal porridge for breakfast daily. Throw in a few nuts or dried fruit to add to the taste!
  • Replace that white bread in your lunch sandwich for whole grain bread instead.
  • Opt for brown rice instead of polished rice.
  • Instead of just a whole-wheat chapatti, go in for a `multi-grain' alternative. The barley, jowar, ragi, soy & oats in the `multi-grain' mix is not just healthier, it's tastier, too.
Nutrition the night before: Load up on carbohydrates is the traditional mantra for athletes, and for the most part that is true. But, did you know that protein has made a comeback on the marathoner's training plate? That's because adequate protein is critical for effective muscle repair. So the night before, instead of stuffing yourself only with carbs, try this:
  • 4 oz whole grain pasta with a light tomato sauce, steamed vegetables and a protein source like grilled chicken (about 3-4 oz) on the side. OR,
  • 3-4 `whole-grain' chapattis with mixed vegetable sauté and a big bowl of cooked rajmah (red kidney beans)
Get a good night's rest, specially the night before. That means get to bed early!
Don't even think of skipping breakfast on the D-day. This can lead to a mind fatigue called "bonking," One of the biggest mistakes runners make is skipping a good breakfast because they are anxious or cramping.
The morning of the race: Set the alarm for 5 A.M., and have a carbohydrate rich breakfast with a little bit of protein. Ideally - 2-3 whole grain toasts with either a boiled or lightly scrambled egg. A glass of orange juice and a not too ripe banana. Such a `high-starch, low-fat' meal tends to digest easily, settle comfortably and maintain a stable blood sugar. Make sure you have breakfast 2-3 hrs prior to the event. Avoid caffeine, whether it is in green tea or in coffee form as these can be dehydrating, may increase your heart rate, cause jitteriness, or even cause an upset stomach.
Psychological preparation is also critical. You want the body to be calm, so that it burns calories optimally and not too rapidly.
During the race: 4-8 ounces of fluids every 15 minutes of run time is the bottom line!
The humidity in Mumbai is another critical factor that must be addressed through nutrition, for when it is humid; sweat does not evaporate easily from the skin; so the body sweats even more. This causes a drop in the blood volume and the body goes into a survival mode- diverting blood to the skin for cooling rather than diverting it to the muscles for performance causing the runner to either slow down or stop.
Need to prevent extreme electrolyte depletion of minerals like salt or potassium, which aid muscle function. The following `replacement drink' can help - 80-120 mg sodium i.e. 1/4th-1/2 tsp of table salt per 8 oz (240 ml) and 6-8% (15-20 g) carbohydrate either as glucose, glucose polymers, or fructose. (Fructose [3.5%] is good to avoid gastric intolerance and diarrhea). 1 glass of replacement to be consumed every 15-20 min of exercise. OR Dissolve 1-2 tsp of `electrol' in a glass (240 ml) of chilled water and consume every 15-20 minutes.
Nibbling on dried fruits and nuts as well as sipping on sports drinks also helps.

Good Luck Mumbai's Marathoner's. See you at the Finish Line!

By, The Dietetic Team @
Article written exclusively for



User Comments

15 June, 2010 | Geetanjali | Reply

Geetanjali Marathon is a prolonged intense sport. Long duration training enhances generation of free radicals, reactive oxygen species that damage cells. Body has its innate mechanism to deal with free radicals. But the mechanism is not enough to take care of oxidative stress in athletes. Dietary antioxidant intake should be increased during training and competition. Increasing the fruit and vegetable intake help to alleviate the damage caused by free radicals. Research has shown that antioxidants also prevent red blood cell damage, improve oxygen carrying capacity and consequently performance.
Intake of Antioxidants- Vitamin A, C and E also reduce the occurance of respiratory tract infections that are common in runners.

Geetanjali Kelkar, PhD
Nutrition Vista

12 June, 2010 | Manish | Reply

Manish Very comprehensive article!

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