Foods to eat, during the marathon, which will help you reach the finish line

Tuesday, 03 November 2015 948 Views 0 Comments
Foods to eat, during the marathon, which will help you reach the finish line

By Prachi Mandholia

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you are planning to run a marathon: Will I be able to make it all the way? You can, if you have the necessary store of energy.

How is energy stored during a run?

Carbohydrate is the major source of fuel during a run. It is stored as glycogen in the muscle, as well as the liver. When looking for energy, the body first turns to muscle and liver glycogen; next it turns to fat and protein and breaks these down to energy.

Hitting the Wall

Depletion of glycogen stores in the muscle and liver, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy, is termed as ‘hitting the wall’. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.

What to eat during the run?

A performance is likely to be improved if you top up, on the go. When choosing mid-run foods, look for those which fuel your muscles and keeps blood sugar levels steady; and contain electrolytes so as to retain fluids.

Do not rely on hunger as your cue to refuel during a run: 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour should be your target during the marathon.

Some ideal mid-run foods are listed below:

1. Energy gels: Racing gels are primarily carbohydrates which are used by the body as a quick fuel source. Gels are typically composed of one or multiple sugars such as maltodextrin, sucrose, and fructose. These are an alternative to sports drinks which also help maintain blood sugar levels. Gels are available in sachets, so it is easy to carry during a run.

2. Sports drinks: Gatorade and Powerade contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Electrolytes help the body to retain fluid and prevent muscle cramps. Another plus of sports drinks are that they contain carbohydrates too, which in turn supplies energy and prevents fatigue.

3. Dates: They are an excellent source of simple carbohydrates as they release energy quickly during the run. They also contain electrolyte potassium which helps to prevent muscle fatigue and cramps.

4. Bananas: During a run, potassium is released from skeletal muscles and is lost through sweat. The lost potassium needs to be replenished and eating bananas is a great way to do that. Bananas are also a source of easily available energy, and are just as effective as a sports drink. Ripe bananas are absorbed even faster.

5. Raisins: As opposed to candies or sports gels, raisins give an added advantage of vitamins and minerals. Raisins contain natural, easy to digest sugars making them an ideal source of all natural energy for the endurance runner in you.

6. Energy Bars:  They are essentially easily digestible carbohydrates. Honey based energy bar are a good choice as they contain both glucose and fructose. Glucose is a fast releasing sugar and fructose is a slow releasing sugar. In addition to this perfect combination, these bars often contain iron too; iron supplies oxygen to the blood and thus prevents muscle fatigue.

7. Dried Prunes: Dried fruits contain carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Dried prunes work on the body in the same way as energy bars to sustain you during an arduous run. Also, they are a good source of potassium; an electrolyte that needs to be replenished during the run.

8. Orange Juice: Running long distances depletes the body of electrolytes and antioxidants, so replenish it with fruit juices like orange juice. Juices also provide instant energy.


*Consuming carbohydrates early in the run has shown to optimise recovery because muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores.

* Stay hydrated by drinking fluids early in the run, even before your body shows signs of dehydration. Take a drink at every drink-station, even if you don’t feel thirsty. However, it’s important not to over-hydrate. Hyponatremia is a rare but serious condition in which the body’s natural balance of electrolytes is disturbed by too much fluid.

FullSizeRenderPrachi Mandholia, M.S. , R.D. , is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She is based out of Mumbai, India. She is a practicing Clinical Nutritionist and Columnist, passionate about making changes in lifestyle. She is reachable at


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