Easter Weekend in Cape Town is synonymous with one thing: The Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon. The iconic event is perhaps most well-known for its 56km Ultra Marathon and 21.1km Half Marathon, but the race weekend now also includes a series of trail runs and as well as fun run options for those not quite up to the long distances.
Regardless of what distance you’re tackling (or if you’re sitting this one out, but quietly planning to get off the couch and onto the trails soon) it’s important to know what and how much to eat to fuel your body throughout the race and avoid hitting the dreaded ‘wall’— and going into glycogen depletion.
Now, there are countless nutrition theories out there and we are not dieticians. First and foremost, you need to figure out what works for you, and then stick with that, below, in broad sweeps is what works for us (with the input from various experienced sources over the years), in road and trail-running as well as mountain biking.
CARBS ARE STILL COOL
When it comes to nutrition for runners, it’s important for runners to consume a well-rounded diet consisting of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein. Although healthy fats and lean protein often receive less scrutiny, some individuals have developed a fear of consuming carbohydrates due to the popularity of low-carb and Paleo diets. Nevertheless, we firmly believe that athletes, particularly runners, should incorporate carbohydrates into their diet. Carbohydrates serve as a crucial source of fuel for runners. However, it’s important to note that there is a notable nutritional distinction between simple/refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains (e.g. oats, brown rice, whole wheat), quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, fruits, and vegetables, take longer to digest, providing longer-lasting energy and a greater feeling of fullness than simple carbs like white bread, pasta, cereals, and baked goods. Learn more here.
2-3 HOURS BEFORE
Fuel up with the same breakfast that you’ve been eating for your longer training days. Ideally this should be a light, but well-balanced meal consisting of something such as toast with eggs, yogurt and muesli; a lean-meat sandwich, granola bar, and a piece of fruit or even rice and a bowl of vegetables.
1 HOUR BEFORE
For your nutrition plan to work optimally, the pros will tell you that they have a light snack such as an energy bar, banana or small muffin around 1 hour before the start. They also sip on an energy drink and typically consume around 500ml of a sports drink during the hour.
DURING THE RACE
This is where nutrition can get tricky. Fortunately, an event such as the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon has very well-stocked feed stations are regular intervals. Don’t wait too long before you stop to refuel. Take in small amounts of food and then top up with sports drinks, energy (and caffeinated) drinks, and small snacks can provide extra energy to help fuel your muscles during the race. Drinking or eating small quantities at regular intervals (15-30 minutes) will make digestion easier. Now that you’ve got a broad idea of how to plan for race day, stay tuned for a more detailed race-day nutrition strategy.