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Marathon Walking Strategy - Nutrition

Nutrition for Training for and Walking a Marathon

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Updated April 06, 2014

Fruit Stand

Fruit Stand

Wendy Bumgardner ©

With your increased mileage during your training, you will be burning more calories and need proper nutrition to build muscles and capillaries.

Do not go on any extreme, unbalanced diets during your marathon training. However, now is a good time for those who are overweight to start on a balanced, mildly calorie restricted diet, or to maintain their present balanced diet with no increase in calories or portions.

In both cases, walkers should see a slow and steady loss of fat and conversion of it to healthy muscle, bone, and lean tissue. In 18 weeks of marathon training, you could lose 15 pounds of excess fat just from the training mileage - IF you do not increase the amount you are eating and were maintaining your weight at the time you started.

For those who are within a few pounds of their ideal weight, listen to your body's cues as you increase your training distance. If you discover yourself losing weight and feeling worn out and tired, you should think of increasing your portions of a balanced diet, or adding balanced snacks to your daily routine.

Carbohydrates are an endurance athlete's friend.
The body needs available carbohydrate to burn on your long distance walking days. High protein diets with a minimum of carbohydrates are not recommended for distance athletes. On your long days you may become dehydrated, which stresses the kidneys, and those on a high protein diet are already stressing their kidneys with the byproducts of breaking down protein for energy. Stick with the traditional balanced diet of 15-20% protein, 30% fat, and 50-55% carbohydrate.

Eat a variety of foods to ensure you get the micronutrients that can't be packaged in a pill. Try new vegetables and fruits. If you are restricting your calories, take a simple multivitamin each day to guard against deficiencies.

Do not start popping supplements. Most of the extra vitamins pass out in your urine, and again you don't want to stress your kidneys. Excess fat-soluble vitamins and some minerals are stored in the body and can build up to toxic levels. You do not need any supplements that promise to build muscle. Endurance sports use long, lean muscles, not bulk. You are not looking for explosive strength, but muscles that can perform steadily for hours.

Carbo-Loading Before the Race
For three days before the marathon, and perhaps before your longest training days, eat high-carbohydrate meals such as pasta. This brings the glycogen level in your tissues to its maximum so you have more available during the walk. Previous thought was to deplete your stored carbohydrates first, but this has not been borne out by research.

Most importantly, do not change your diet significantly in the week before the marathon. Practice good eating habits in the prior months and increase your favorite complex carbohydrate the three days before the event.

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