If you’ve committed to running those 13.1 miles that are a half marathon, then you’ve probably got quite a few questions – especially if you’re a beginner.
One of the common questions is “how to fuel for a half marathon.”
In other words, what kind of things should I be putting in my body on race day, and just as importantly – in the weeks and months leading up to the race as you prepare.
Here’s some advice from BJC WellAware Center manager Jeremy Koerber as it relates to fueling for your race:
Sure, you might lose some weight while you are training for your race just simply because you are burning so many calories. However, you shouldn’t have the mindset of cutting your calorie intake – because your body won’t have the fuel it needs for peak performance.
Here’s an excerpt from an article on Daily Burn: “If you diet while training, you won’t perform at your best because your body won’t be able to adequately repair your muscles after workouts,” says Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, and the author of the food and fitness blog fANNEtastic food. The consequences aren’t just limited to feeling sore and tired, either. Mauney says, “If taken too far, under-fueling while training can lead to more serious issues like stress fractures or passing out during runs due to electrolyte imbalances.”
Fruits, vegetables, and other natural, nutrient dense foods will help your body sustain energy and avoid feeling hungry and depleted.
In addition, make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet. According to Runner’s World, you should aim “…for an intake of at least 0.55-0.77 grams/lb (aim for the upper end of the spectrum during times of heavy training and racing). Which means that if you weigh 130 pounds, you’ll want to aim for approximately 72-100 grams of protein a day; a 195-pound runner will need to aim for approximately 107-123 grams/day.”
As for the day of the race, make sure you don’t try anything new – you want to avoid surprises. So if you’ve been using a certain beverage or GU during training, your best bet is to stick to that during the race.
Personally, I stash some of my own GU and drink the hydration available at the race. If you’re looking for GU to try, here are some of the popular choices:
The Importance of Sleep
One thing that is easy to overlook in your race prep is the importance of sleep.
Sleep is essential for recovery in any sport.
As Jeremy states in the video, “If you’re not sleeping, you’re not recovering.”
The Sleep Foundation summarizes it this way: “Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game.”
Strength Training For a Half Marathon
Some runners aren’t all that focused on weight lifting or specific strength training as part of their conditioning.
This is a mistake.
In particular, the muscles in your core like your abs and your back muscles can make or break you when you start getting really fatigued around mile 10.
When you see people starting to hunch over when they get tired, it’s typically because they lack strength in their core.
In addition, building muscle in your legs means that every time you take a step and push off, you are using less energy and effort to move forward. That will definitely add up over the course of a half marathon.
Allow Time To Recover
We already talked about sleep’s role in recovery, but be careful not to overdo it when you’re training.
If you are doing your first race, you might be more susceptible to this – thinking you’ve got to be running or doing some form of intense training every single day.
The fact is, your muscles, joints, and virtually every other part of your body need time to recover. In my guide to running a marathon in under 4 hours, I included a specific training plan that helps you prepare – while still allowing time to recover.
If you’d like a free copy of that training plan, simply tell us where to send it below:
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Remember to Have Fun!
No matter what your big “why” for running a half marathon is, you’ll enjoy the process more if you don’t stress about it and just have fun!
That may sound cliche, but one way to do this is search your local area for running clubs or even check out the race’s website to see if they have any official training groups you can join.
Finding camaraderie in the running community will help you stick with it as opposed to being a lone wolf. In addition, training with a group is a great way to make friends and be accountable at the same time.