For millions of years, primitive men walked very long distances in search for new horizons. Their main goal was to reach their destination. In the same way, passionate runners cover long distances to get to the finish line. If you're one of them, make sure to use all resources wisely to enjoy this challenge safely.
A marathon is a sport above the usual level of physical activity for one person. But that doesn't mean it is out of your reach. All you need to do is set realistic goals and, most importantly, enjoy the experience and finish the race willing to do it again.
During the preparation, it is very important to learn about hydration.Sweat makes you lose water and electrolytes, like sodium, and small amounts of potassium, calcium, and iron. Water may restore your fluid losses, but doesn't provide enogh electrolytes, so you should take specific rehydration drinks or sports drinks that have adequate amounts of these elements. Remember you should hydrate yourself before, during, and after the competition:
Two hours before: It takes at least 16 ounces of water, fruit juices or hydrating drinks for your kidneys to work properly and eliminate the excess liquids.
Ten minutes before: Drink at least 4 to 8 ounces of water or hydrating drinks. This will help you replenish your sweat losses.
During the competition: Depending on your own tolerance, take between 8 to 10 ounces of fluids every 20 minutes. During a high-impact competition, you could be losing up to 3 times this amount.
Remember: Don't wait until you're thirsty. Once you're dehydrated, you might not feel thirst anymore, and this can negatively affect your performance.
Your dietis one of the most important aspects when preparing for a marathon. It should be balanced and tailored to your nutritional needs. You should try to limit your consumption of unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol, in order to preserve your cardiovascular health.
Be careful with fats, since they slow down your digestion, and you surely don't want to run with an upset stomach. Before the competition, evaluate your own tolerance to fat by trying different sources of healthy fats. Many people use energy bars or gels, but there are many healthy foods that provide you with plenty of energy and nutrients, such as bananas, raisins, granola bars, and breakfast cereals.
According to Nancy Clark's Nutrition and Exercise Guide, if you practice an exercise routine for more than 60 to 90 minutes, you should consume 100 to 300 calories per training hour.
Glucose is your body's main fuel, including your muscles, so it is essential to "fill up your tank" by eating an adequate amount of carbs. Your liver is capable of storing enough glucose to provide for a one-hour race. Therefore, you might need to take some extra carbs during the competition.
Before the marathon, take a snack that is low in fat and fiber, but rich in carbohydrates. It could be cereal with low fat milk and a fruit or a bagel with peanut butter and fruit. When you finish the race, you will need to restore your energy, so a high-carbohydrate snack is a good choice.
Don't forget about proteins. These are necessary for musle formation, so be sure to eat enough meat, dairy products, and legumes.
Taking care of your skin during both the preparation and the competition is equally important. A study published by Medscape Medical News found that athletes who run marathons have an increased risk of a type of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma,due to the exposure to ultraviolet radiation during the race.
Wear sunblock and clothing that is both comfortable and protective against UV rays. Keep in mind that sweat and the water sprays you use to refresh your body may wash away the sunblock from your skin. Make sure to apply it again if necessary. Get professional counseling on which type of shoes are best for you, in order to avoid unnecessary injuries.
A marathon is a high-intensity sport, so it is important to get support from an expert. Consult your doctor before beginning any training regime. It is advisable that you receive advice from your dietitian about diet and hydration before and after the competition.
Grandjean, A. Macronutrient intake of US athletes compared with the general population and recommendations made for athletes. (1989). AJCN.Revised on September, 2008 from: http://www.ajcn.org/
Barclay, L. Marathon Runners Should Reduce Sun Exposure to Avoid Malignant Melanoma. (2006). Medscape Medical News.Revised on September, 2008 from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/548332
Clark, N. Sports Nutrition Guidebook. (2003) Third Edition. Human Kinetics Publishers.
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