Training for marathon? Here’s all you need to know to boost your nutrition levels.


With the marathon and half-marathon season just around the corner, Alexandra Dalu, a doctor of nutrition and anti-aging, has seven nutrition tips for runners looking to optimize performance and rise to the challenge without putting their health at risk.

Don’t fill up on just carbs

Loading up on endless pasta isn’t recommended — the key is to eat a varied diet. Although it’s important to get plenty of carbs to fuel muscles with energy, protein is also needed to maintain muscle mass. A few hours before a training session, the ideal meal would combine pasta or potatoes with chicken or fish. Rice is a better choice for the night before since it has a lower glycemic index.

Boost muscle strength with protein

Thanks to the amino acids they contain, proteins can increase lean mass and give muscles a boost. These amino acids include leucine, a veritable fuel for exercising muscles, which is essential for gaining strength and reducing “fatigability” and post-exercise aches.

It is found in meat, fish, eggs, shellfish and dairy products and at low levels in vegetables. An average protein intake of 1.6g/kg is recommended for endurance training. Otherwise, 6g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) like leucine per day for six days before an endurance event and 20g one hour before exercise can help.

Keep an eye on iron and magnesium levels

Iron deficiency — detected by a blood test — can lead to physical and muscular fatigue. Magnesium deficiency can have a similar effect. If you start to experience unusual levels of fatigue, muscle spasms, signs of anxiety, sleep problems and hypersensitivity to noise, you should get your levels checked and consider supplements of magnesium (350 to 400mg per day) or iron.

Give energy drinks a miss

Before, during and after exercise, reach for carbonated drinks rich in alkaline mineral salts riches like bicarbonate, potassium and magnesium, with freshly squeezed lemon juice (citrate) and caster sugar (50g if exercising for more than an hour). Energy drinks contain high levels of fructose, sweeteners and caffeine. They are bad for the heart, dehydrate the body and create nervous energy. It’s better to have a coffee before your training session.

Vitamin D for bone strength

Active people who enjoy high-impact sports like running need a higher vitamin D intake to reduce the risk of stress fractures. Here too, it’s important to get your level checked. Vitamin D is found mainly in oily fish like sardines and mackerel, calf’s liver, eggs and cod liver oil. Supplements can be taken in the form of daily drops.

Coenzyme 10 to bolster energy

Similarly, coenzyme 10, or CoQ10, is an antioxidant that’s used by cells to produce energy. It can help boost performances and help prevent injury. CoQ10 also helps fight oxidative stress.

Don’t eat during training

Contrary to popular belief, eating during a run doesn’t increase performance — quite the opposite, in fact, since it can lead to abdominal pains and nausea. The intestine is the last organ that the body oxygenates, focusing primarily on the heart, the kidneys and the liver. Tuck into a snack bar rich in protein and sugar, or a yogurt or some cheese after your session to favour recovery.

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