Tips from Carlos Farré

Breakfast before a marathon or long preparation run

Fri, 22/02/2013

Today’s advice is linked to breakfast before a marathon or a long preparation run (30km). This Sunday, the Dream Runners that are interested are invited to a demanding workout: we will go to Monjuich and finish in Premiá (almost 32 km). 

Throughout my marathons away from home, I usually sleep in the hotel of the organization. This has allowed me to eat with the elite, including runners from Kenya and Ethiopia. What and how much they ate amazed me-- they literally “blazed through” the hotel buffet. 

One day I was with my good friend Yola, a nutritionist for the magazine Runners, and we talked about the topic of breakfast before a big run. The issue published a month after our meeting was focused on this important subject and has been re-posted below. 

I have to say, before speaking with her my breakfasts before a marathon were and are between 3 and 4 small portions of butter, 1 large croissant or 4 little ones, and a good coffee with milk. After that, a fresh orange juice and it’s time to run…  without forgetting to make a prior visit to “Can Roca.”


I will now leave you with the advice of Yola: 

If you’re like most athletes, you’ll probably eat large quantities of carbohydrates in the days leading up to your half or full marathon. However, a good nutrition plan should not end with one last plate of pasta the night before the race; it’s very important to take care of the pre-race lunch, as it helps replenish the liver glycogen (or stored energy) that burns off at night. According to expert sports nutritionists, liver glycogen maintains blood sugar levels stable during the exercise.

Breakfast provides energy to the brain, and helps avoid fat and fiber; the former causes food to take too long to be digested and the latter can cause bloating and intestinal problems. Experts suggest food like croissants and butter, oats with milk, dried fruits or yogurt, and tostadas. Other healthy options include bananas, energy bars, waffles with syrup and strawberries, and even a bowl of rice.


Eat Enough

While a croissant and banana will give you enough energy to start meetings in the morning, it can be insufficient to last throughout a half or full marathon.

 Studies have proved that the ideal quantity of grams of carbohydrates to prepare your body for utmost efficiency is 2-2,5 grams per kilo of your weight. For example, for an athlete that ways 75 kg, the ideal quantity of carbohydrates would be 150 to 190 grams, or 1000 calories, which can seem like a lot before a race. What is key is to eat breakfast early, between 3 and 4 hours before the race, which gives you enough time to digest so that your stomach is relatively empty, but also makes sure your muscles are full of energy.

 If you don’t think you can eat 1000 calories at once, you can divide it into more meals, taking between 200 and 400 calories and 35 to 60 cl of liquid four hours before starting, and between 90 minutes and 2 hours before the start of the race, eat the rest of the carbohydrates, choosing foods that are easy to digest.

As many races start at 8:00AM or earlier, you will have to wake up very early to have the four hours to spare. If this is unrealistic, you will need to eat only two hours before the race, but because there is less time, reduce the amount of grams by half and drink liquids that are easy to digest. Because you have consumed less, you run the risk that your glycogen is depleted, which can cause your blood sugar to crumble so it is important to pay attention to your energy levels. Finally, take between 35 and 30 grams of carbohydrates between 30 and 60 minutes before the race ends, giving you another burst of energy that will take you to the finish line. Each person has their own style and tolerances with respect to food and drink, which means that this plan will work for some but not for others.


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