Confused about eating for half marathon training? Our basic, no nonsense advice will help.
Whether the Windsor Half is your 100th half marathon or your first, you will want to know how to eat to fuel your body properly. Long-distance running training can be a fine line between getting enough energy, and maintaining your weight.
Every runner is different, of course. But read our half marathon eating plan and you’ll have a great starting point for creating your own!
Your Calorie Intake As You Increase Mileage.
Your body will need more calories to cope with the demands of your half marathon training plan. Energy balance means calories in (through food and drink) and calories out (through all your movement and activity, including that increase in training miles). You will certainly need to eat an appropriate amount to fuel half marathon training. But, depending on your current diet, this might not mean an increase in calories.
Your first step should be assessing your current diet and calorie intake.
Keep a food diary (or use an app like myfitnesspal) for 3-7 days for an honest and clear look at the current state of play. Then get a best-guess number for how many calories you should be eating for half marathon training. Google BMR (basal metabolic rate) and TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). These two calculations will help find the amount of calories you need based on your weight, size, every day activity levels, plus training. It won’t be exact, but it’s a good start. Remember that (on average) a female runner will burn 80-100 calories per mile, with variables including weight, muscle mass, speed, and fitness levels.
Now you can see whether you are currently overeating, undereating, or eating enough to support the increase in mileage.
Eat The Best Quality Foods.
Calories are one thing, but a smart runner tries to get most of those calories from nutritious foods to fuel your body and keep it healthy. Replace pressed foods or pre-packaged snacks with real foods (things that are as close to their raw state as possible). Single ingredient foods should make up a hefty portion of your daily diet. If you can prepare more of your foods and snacks, this puts you firmly in control of the nutrients you are putting into your hard working body.
Balance Is Best.
Forget low carbs, low fat, or ultra high protein. A balanced intake of all 3 micronutrients will fuel your body the way nature intended. If you stick to mostly real foods, you will find this approach much easier. Here are some great food choices to get you started:
Carbohydrates: oats and porridge, sugar-free cereal, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, all fruit and dried fruit, rice cakes, quinoa, cous cous, other grains, beans and pulses, bread, wraps, bagels
Protein: lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, high protein dairy (sugar free) such as quark, skyr, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, tofu, quorn, beans and pulses
Fats: avocado, nuts and seeds, nut butters, coconut products, olive oil, oily fish
Fuel And Recover.
There’s no evidence to prove that eating little and often helps or hinders running recovery, so eat the way that your appetite and schedule demand. The golden rule to remember (whether you eat 3 or 6 times a day in total!) is to fuel your run with a carbohydrate and protein meal 1-2 hours prior to running, and to start recovery with protein or protein and carbs within 90 minutes of finishing. Then continue to eat your regular meals as normal.
Do you struggle to know how to eat for half marathon training, or have you got it sorted? Let us know – we can tackle specific questions in these blog posts.