Gauging Nutrition for a Half or Full Marathon

March 21, 2013 | Kait Fortunato

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How you fuel for a marathon or half marathon is just as important as how you train. Without adequate nutrition, you’re at risk for fatigue, injury, and nutrient deficiency. Everyone is unique, so it's important to make an individualized plan geared specifically to meet your requirements and accommodate your schedule. (See also 10 Basic Guidelines For Marathon Training.)

To make sure you're following a realistic plan, I recommend working with a sports dietitian and using tools like Super Tracker on choosemyplate.gov. As a general rule of thumb, the Institute of Medicine breaks down runner’s nutrient percentages as follows:

Carbohydrate — 45-65%


These should mainly be whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrates, low in refined sugar and flour. They help provide the body's main source of energy. Some of my favorite sources are fruit, starchy vegetables and whole grains. (See Classifying Carbohydrates: Refined and Recommended.)

Fat — 20-35%


Fat is a critical component of your meals because it aids in satiety and provides long lasting energy. Sources of healthy fats include nuts, avocados, olive oil and salmon. (Check out The Fats You Need.)

Protein — 10-35%

Protein aids in repair and recovery of muscle tissue while stabilizing blood sugars and maintaining proper metabolism. My favorite sources of protein are lean meat and fish, eggs and low-fat dairy. (See Protein and Your Diet.)

In addition to meals and snacks, fueling during your run is necessary. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 grams, or 100-250 calories, of carbohydrates per hour during endurance exercise, after the first hour. Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte levels are also critical.

Photo: philk_56 on Flickr

Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
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