Taper & Race-day Nutrition Q+A: Nick Morgan

More expert answers to your marathon nutrition questions from Lucozade Sport's Lead Sport Scientist Nick Morgan


Posted: 6 April 2009
by Nick Morgan

Q. What is the best mix of protein, carbs and fats to eat the week before the marathon? Rob22
A. The most important thing is to continue eating a well-balanced diet composed of carbohydrate (70%), protein (15%) and fat (15%). Aim to eat around 6-9g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day (420-620g) in the form of rice, pasta, potatoes etc. Don't try and eat loads in one go though - grazing is a much better way to consume the food you need without feeling lethargic and bloated.

Q. What would you recommend eating for dinner the night before the marathon? The Rat
A. I have a bowl of pasta with salmon and broccoli in a light tomato sauce, followed by a banana and yoghurt. Don't worry too much about having a huge portion. Ideally, you'll have started carbo-loading around three days earlier so focus on quality rather than quantity the night before.

Q. How much food should I eat the night before? Silburbas
A. Your plate should look like three quarters of it is carbohydrate; the final quarter should be fish or chicken and veg. A good portion size is simply a normal plate that looks full - not one that's overflowing.

Q. I'm struggling to get my timing right when eating before a long run - will eating a late dinner the night before affect my performance? Mouser12
A. When you eat your meals is very important. Ideally you need to eat three to four hours before you run, but this isn't always possible. Try to have a good meal the night before, then eat as early as you can before running the next day. How late you eat the night before isn't too big a concern, unless it affects your sleep patterns. Breakfast is the most important meal to time right.

Q. How much water should I drink on the morning of the race? I want to drink enough water but not so much I have to stop for a pit stop after 800 yards! Mr Missionator
A. Aim to drink 5-7ml of fluid per kilogram of body weight between three and four hours before the race (i.e. 350 - 490ml or roughly one bottle of sports drink). If your urine is still dark then top up with another 3-5ml per kilogram of body weight (i.e. about 210-350 ml or half a bottle of sports drink). This should leave you well hydrated for the start of the race.

Q. Do you have to use energy products? lovely_lovely_gorgeous
A. You don't have to use anything but energy products can be really beneficial. The marathon is an immense challange that will really test your resolve. Covering the distance relies heavily on carbohydrate but the body can only store about 2000kcal. Depending how fast you run, this will become significantly depleted after about 90 minutes of running - certainly well before you reach Mile 26. Our analysis of last year's Flora London Marathon finishers showed that the vast majority reduced their pace from the 20K point until the end of the marathon. Therefore, some carbohydrate every hour will be better than none.

Q. When should I take my first sports drink - an hour or so before the race or once I have started running? Back Seat Boy
A. One hour before is common practice. Your blood sugar will rise because of the carbohydrate content, but there is no evidence to suggest it'll have any impact on your race.

Q. Is there a limit to the number of gels you can take during a marathon if you're drinking sports drink as well? The Rat
A. There isn't a limit per se, but your body can't use more than 60g of carbohydrate per hour. One gel gives you around 34g so taking one gel every hour (and topping this up with sports drink) is good advice.

Q. I struggle to eat gels as they seem to give me an upset tummy. I've managed my longs run just by taking on a small amount of liquid - should I stick with this strategy at this stage? Mouser12
A. With three weeks to go until race day, there isn't much time left to try new strategies. However, although you might have felt fine on your long runs, the marathon does start to get harder in the final miles. I would find a way of using sports drink on course if you can and try some Jelly Babies during some of your smaller runs (or last long run) in training. If you still have concerns, then my advice would be to pace yourself carefully so you don't go off too fast. Otherwise you will really challenge your carbohydrate stores.

Q. Are energy products such as chews and gels really of any superior benefit to sweets like Jelly Babies or Fruit Pastilles? kittenkat
A. The key things to think about are:

  • how much carbohydrate the product provides (remember you need between 30 and 60g per hour)
  • which products you find easiest to consume
  • which products you prefer

Find a balance between what you prefer and the best way to get enough carbohydrate. Gels are a great source of simple carbohydrates so if you like them and can stomach them, use them.


Don't miss our next live forum debate - part of a series in our 2009 Flora London Marathon build-up. On Friday April 17, we'll be welcoming Olympic athlete - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Liz Yelling into the forums between 1pm and 2pm to answer your last-minute race-week questions. Pop the date in your diary now!


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Hi everyone

Nick Morgan, Lead Sport Scientist at Lucozade Sport will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer any queries you might have about your spring marathon nutrition.

Nick has been helping our Lucozade Sport Super Six as they prepare for the Flora London Marathon and will be on hand to discuss all aspects of race nutrition, whether you want to know what to eat and drink during your taper or fine-tune your nutrition strategy for race day itself. We're starting this thread now so you have a chance to post your questions beforehand - that way, Nick will be able to hit the ground running rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once.

Time to get posting!

Alice RW


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 11:59

Hi Nick,

What is the best mix of protein, carbs, fats the week before the marathon, I know some people that only eat pasta for the 5 days before and little else, for me a good supply of protein should aid muscle recovery aswell as the energy from the carbs?

Thanks

R22 


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:11

Nick

Two quick questions:
(a) What would be your pick for best marathon dinner the night before....?

(b) Is there a limit to the number of gels you would take on a marathon in conjunction with lucozade sport?  I am hoping my finishing time will be around 3.15?

Thanks

Rob


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:15

Hi,

I am doing London and am planning on taking on Lucozade carbohydrate gels after about one hour, then every 45 minutes until the end (am hoping to finish in under 4:30 hours). I will take on water to wash down the gels and extra water at some of the other points. If I am consuming gels and water, do you think it is necessary to drink Lucozade Sport as well?

Thanks.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:16

Hi Nick

(sorry didn't read this was all about nutrition! - i blame the cold!!! )

Quick question on my taper, I've managed to catch a cold this week and was going to get a nice slow 20 in this weekend but will have to put that off until next week (Thursday or friday) and then start to taper, is this going to be ok? It will be my only 20 and the furthest I've run due to injury in feb. I'm fit otherwise and my injury is ok, i just want to make sure i've got the miles in my legs, furthest i've gone so far is 17 miles. I'm hoping for a 5 hour marathon.

Thanks

Jo


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:30

Hi, I am struggling to get the timing right for eating before the LSR's. Would you reccommend big breakfast and big lunch rather than big tea the day before? The 20 mile run last week although ok for my legs but was marred by an upset tummy., my thinking was eating too late the night before.

Also I struggle to eat gels as they seem to cause tummy probs - I managed an 18 mile run with just taking on a small amount of liquid, and loads of lucozade sport on finishing. I felt fine. Should I stick with this strategy, not much time to play about now?

Thanks

Claire


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:35

Hi Nick,

I have done all my training using Lucozade Sport drinks and towards the end of my long runs I eat a few jelly babies just to give me a bit more "fuel".  I was just wondering if they would affect the isotonic drink or not (too much glucose to liquid?) or is it safe to eat them and drink the Lucozade Sport drinks?

Many thanks for taking the time to answer everyones questions.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:45

What would you say are the main differences between energy chews (such as Ride Shots, Shot Bloks etc) and energy gels?

Which are better in endurance training/racing and why?

And....... are they really of any superior benefit to the Jelly Babies and Fruit Pastilles that I've got sat in my fridge right now?

Thank you *bounce bounce*

Kate.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:49

Happy lunchtime everyone... I have just entered the thread and will begin answering questions in 10 mins or so.

 I will begin with the questions already posted, and then work my through as best as I can. Please feel free to email again if my answer leads onto another question. And remember the only stupid questions are the questions you don't ask!

As always, please stay with me as I try and type as fast as possible, and certainly forgive any spelling mistakes!

With only 3 weeks to go (from Sunday) these are very exciting times for those running the marathon - myself being one. For those of you with other running challenges on the horizon then all this information will be more than applicable.

 I hope everyone is well... and here goes!


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:50

Rob22: The best mix of carbohydrate, fat and protein.

The most important thing about the last few days before the marathon is conitnue to have a good well balanced diet based on carbohydrate (70%), protein and fat (15%). In real terms Rob you should have arounf 6-9 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day (420-620 grams of carbs per day). This comes from rice, pasta, potatoes etc. My other piece of advice is that don't try and eat loads in one go. Have three go meals but grazing is a much better way to consume the food you need without feeling lethragic and bloated.

So: key is carbohydrate, but don't go silly and overload plates. Use the guidelines above and check the back of packets and structure evenly throughout the day. There should be no one meal necessarily bigger than any other in that day.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 12:54

Rat

Two quick questions:
(a) What would be your pick for best marathon dinner the night before....?

I will have a bowl of pasta with salmon and broccoli in a light tomota sauce. I will follow this with a banana and yoghurt. That is my favourite and within guidelines... so soemthing similar for yourself should work. Again as above, it will be a good solid dinner but not ridiculous in size. My loading and carbohydrate will have been attended too over the 3 days before and simple meals throughout the day. Don't get into a state about about having a huge dinner the night before, just ensure its quality along with your breakfast and lunch

(b) Is there a limit to the number of gels you would take on a marathon in conjunction with lucozade sport?  I am hoping my finishing time will be around 3.15?

No limit per se, but certainly you can't really use anymore than 60 g of carbohydrate per hour. Given one gel gives you 34g (or very close) then one gel and some Lucozade Sport every hour is good advice. For a time of 03:15:00 I would have a gel on 01:00:00 min, 01:45:00  and 02:30:00. Try and have as much of the 330 ml LS as you can too to maximise delivery. The new bottle and sports cap make it easier to run with


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:00

Hi Nick

 I am running FLM and am using SIS Go Gels which contain 144cals and 36g of carbohydrate.

  •  How often should I take them? The instructions say every 30 mins but the opinions of the forum vary with some saying every 50-60 or more.
  • Should I take them with water alone or with Lucozade Sport and water?

Thanks


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:04

SuzR

am doing London and am planning on taking on Lucozade carbohydrate gels after about one hour, then every 45 minutes until the end (am hoping to finish in under 4:30 hours). I will take on water to wash down the gels and extra water at some of the other points. If I am consuming gels and water, do you think it is necessary to drink Lucozade Sport as well?

Wow... that fits in with what I said above ^^^. Good minds think alike!

In terms of consuming LS... well again as above guidelines suggest 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour. If the gel gives you 34g then you are within range. However, I would certainly also use LS at the stations (5,10,15,19 & 23) to try and get that little bit more in. We have seen from previous stats that 85% of last years runners slowed significantly towards the end and whilst I can't say it is because of carbohydrate I am pretty certain I would want to get as close to 60 g per hour as I can without feeling sick.

Therefore the simple answer is yes if you can. But balance it with what you have trialled in training along what you can stomach and feel comfortable with

For reference: It is ORANGE LUCOZADE SPORT on course in 330 ml bottles. remember they are fully recyclable and therefore remember to think of others runners and discard to the side and not at the feet!


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:04

JWrun

Quick question on my taper, I've managed to catch a cold this week and was going to get a nice slow 20 in this weekend but will have to put that off until next week (Thursday or friday) and then start to taper, is this going to be ok? It will be my only 20 and the furthest I've run due to injury in feb. I'm fit otherwise and my injury is ok, i just want to make sure i've got the miles in my legs, furthest i've gone so far is 17 miles. I'm hoping for a 5 hour marathon.

The most encouraging thing is to here how sensible you seem! Honestly, what you have described is probably very similar to what others have experienced. I think getting up to 20 miles is beneficial, but given you are slightly run down (pardon the pun!) then one more long run is probably sufficient.

I would wait until you are feeling better and remember to eat well, plenty of carbs for energy along with a well balanced diet. This should help you through but what you have suggested sounds very sensible


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:07

Hi Nick,

I'm not running London as I got injured......................but hopefully running it next year. My question is regarding nutrition during the race. I've run a couple of marathons running with 'go' gels - these have less carbs and are more dilute than the usual ones. I ran each race taking one every 3M from mile 6-21 (6 in total). Is this a good strategy. Usually by the end I'm sick of them! Can I get by using less? Also, what's your opinion on the caffeine ones? Are they useful?


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:09

Hi Nick

If I was to fuel myself using the 5 Lucozade Sports in addition to gels, for an average 50kg runner aiming for a 3:30 marathon what would your thoughts be in terms of carbs in on the timing of gels - was thinking of one at 6, 12, 17 and 21 miles with a spare just in case for 24/25.

Thanks

F


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:09

Hi Nick,

 I'm training for my first half ironman and i'm just starting to do my longer rides and runs as part of my training. My pre and post fuelling is fine however i'm a little unsure of the what nutrition/foods are good to consume 'on the go' apart from gels and lucozade drinks. I'd like to consume more solids as gels often leave me feeling empty and hungry. Can you give me some good suggestions?

 Also - at what point into the run leg should i stop eating solids and concentrate on getting fuel from sports drinks? I'm aiming to do the half marathon run leg in around 1:45.

 Cheers, Gary


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:10

Mouser12

Hi, I am struggling to get the timing right for eating before the LSR's. Would you reccommend big breakfast and big lunch rather than big tea the day before? The 20 mile run last week although ok for my legs but was marred by an upset tummy., my thinking was eating too late the night before.

ok... the timing of the meal is very important for sure. Ideally you wil eat 3-4 hrs before you run. I know I know that is not always possible. Basically, have a good meal the night before (as examples above) and then eat as early as you can before running on the Sunday and race day. How late you ate on Sat doesn't concern me unless it affected your sleep patterns as this is just as important in preparation. Therefore if your worried about timing it is the breakfast that is the biggest timing issue. I've eaten 2 hrs before and felt terrible when running so I always do 3hrs and then use lucozade sport or sweets to top up closer to run time

Also I struggle to eat gels as they seem to cause tummy probs - I managed an 18 mile run with just taking on a small amount of liquid, and loads of lucozade sport on finishing. I felt fine. Should I stick with this strategy, not much time to play about now?

There isn't much time left to try much new. However, you might have felt fine on 18 miles, but this is at the time when it really starts to get harder and you still have 8 miles to go. I don't know how fast you are but that is definitely another 60 mins or so. I would find away of using lucozade sport on course if you can and maybe on some of your smaller run (or last long run) try some jelly babies or some other alternative. If you really are concerned, then my advice would be to best utilise the LS on course and pace really well so you don't go off to fast otherwise you will really challenge your carbohydrate stores.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:12

Darrell

I have done all my training using Lucozade Sport drinks and towards the end of my long runs I eat a few jelly babies just to give me a bit more "fuel".  I was just wondering if they would affect the isotonic drink or not (too much glucose to liquid?) or is it safe to eat them and drink the Lucozade Sport drinks?

In the interests of time the simple answer is NO. If that is working for you then sounds great, no impact at all.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:14

Nick,

Many thanks for your prompt reply. It now puts my mind at rest. Thank you


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:15

KittenKat

What would you say are the main differences between energy chews (such as Ride Shots, Shot Bloks etc) and energy gels?

no knowing all products that in depth I am not sure. Key things to think about are: 1) How much carbohydrate does a product provide (remember trying to get 30-60g in per hour) and 2) Which product is easiest to consume or which do you prefer?

Find the balance between what you prefer but the best way to get enough in

Which are better in endurance training/racing and why?

The one you prefer that gives the most carbohydrate possible

And....... are they really of any superior benefit to the Jelly Babies and Fruit Pastilles that I've got sat in my fridge right now?

The are a great source of simple carbohydrates so energy is readily available. If you like them, can stomach them and have tried them - Use them! I used wine gums on Sun, the only issue is carrying the, The back pocket on my shorts seemed a great idea apart from the sweat!


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:17

  •  Camilla

am running FLM and am using SIS Go Gels which contain 144cals and 36g of carbohydrate.

  •  How often should I take them? The instructions say every 30 mins but the opinions of the forum vary with some saying every 50-60 or more.
  • Should I take them with water alone or with Lucozade Sport and water?

The gels are best taken with water really to help wash them down as they are quite sweet. If you can with Lucozade sport then by all means. In terms of when/how often then every 30 mins seems fine but for 4hrs I am not sure that is always as easy to do. Logically it is sound advice, but so is every 45 mins. I would work on something like on 60 min and then every 45 mins. Although, go with what you ahve tried in training.

To alleviate any worries though.. the discussio is largely unnecessary. you are definietly doing the right thing in terms of a strategy, just work out whether 30, 45, or 60 mins intervals best works for you.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:21

Thanks Nick.
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:22

Nick

 How much water should I drink on morning of the race (ie from 7am till start). I am looking to do 4 hours or so and want enough water but not to have to stop for pit stop after 800 yards! i have heard it is sensible to have nothing then start drinking in the pens, and I have some luco sport with caffeine for just this purpose. Also I am v aware there are lots of water stations in London unlike some smaller maras.

 Also intending to take some energy tablets at start and save the wine gums till a bit later -what do you think?


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:22

faithfulred

I'm not running London as I got injured......................but hopefully running it next year. My question is regarding nutrition during the race. I've run a couple of marathons running with 'go' gels - these have less carbs and are more dilute than the usual ones. I ran each race taking one every 3M from mile 6-21 (6 in total). Is this a good strategy. Usually by the end I'm sick of them! Can I get by using less? Also, what's your opinion on the caffeine ones? Are they useful?

I think you could get away with less.. you don't need to start at 3 miles, unless that took an hour! I would say in a marathon you could get away with only two, one at 13 and one at 20/21 if you really struglle with taste, format, tummy etc. The gels reccomendations are all above so i'll not repeat now, but I think you could get away with less.

Caffeine ones are good too... for all the benefits of caffeine, i.e. reducing perception of effort. Depends on how much caffeine is in the product, although some is better than none if your happy using it

Sorry to hear about the injury. Best of look recovering


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:25

Fiona C

If I was to fuel myself using the 5 Lucozade Sports in addition to gels, for an average 50kg runner aiming for a 3:30 marathon what would your thoughts be in terms of carbs in on the timing of gels - was thinking of one at 6, 12, 17 and 21 miles with a spare just in case for 24/25.

LS at each station and 4 gels will give you very quickly.. hmmmm....say 270 grams of carbs (give or take), therefore that is about 40 grams per hour... I think that makes sense. Maths with be slightly out but close enough. The timing looks good too alongside drink stations too. The biggest drop in pace normally happens from 20 km onwards so starting at 6 and 12 works well.

Actually you know.. i really like those timings, may think about that myself


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:29

Thanks Nick - off to buy Jelly babies for my last LSR.
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:29

EEK - "Average" 50kg runner - really ?


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:32

Gary Chambers

I'm training for my first half ironman and i'm just starting to do my longer rides and runs as part of my training. My pre and post fuelling is fine however i'm a little unsure of the what nutrition/foods are good to consume 'on the go' apart from gels and lucozade drinks. I'd like to consume more solids as gels often leave me feeling empty and hungry. Can you give me some good suggestions?

If your on the bike then anything goes... bars are the most popular for ironmen. However some sort of chocolate biscuits or even sandwiches are known. Realistically, bars are you best choice of solid food along with banana's as another fav. For the ironman, the cycle is where you can make all the nutritional difference for food intake. When running it becomes much harder

 Also - at what point into the run leg should i stop eating solids and concentrate on getting fuel from sports drinks? I'm aiming to do the half marathon run leg in around 1:45.

You could keep going throughout depening on well you are stomaching it! If we just look at this in its simplest form you need carbohydrate and fluid. Therefore, drink throughout  - lucozade sport providing both fluid and energy. But supplement with something solid in gels, barsm sweets.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:34

......and in comes the stupid question ..................do you HAVE to use gels /  energy chews / jelly babies etc ? My longest run to date is 16 miles and I've not crashed and burned (yet)
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:38

Mr missionator

How much water should I drink on morning of the race (ie from 7am till start). I am looking to do 4 hours or so and want enough water but not to have to stop for pit stop after 800 yards! i have heard it is sensible to have nothing then start drinking in the pens, and I have some luco sport with caffeine for just this purpose. Also I am v aware there are lots of water stations in London unlike some smaller maras.

Water stations are every mile from 3 miles I think. Simple guidelines for fluid intake... i'l start geeky but make it easy.

5-7 ml of fluid per kilogram body weight 3-4 hours before, i.e. 350-490 ml - a sports drink basically

If you urine is still dark then top up with another 3-5 ml/kg body weight, i.e. a further 210-350 ml - half a bottle of sports drink. This should leave you well hydarted to start

 Also intending to take some energy tablets at start and save the wine gums till a bit later -what do you think?

Both provide carbohydrate for energy so could aboslutely work. I would just keep taking something every 2 miles... even if just 2 tablets. That way carbohydrate intake is continuous and it shouldn't affect your tummy


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:38

Thanks Nick

I'm only 5ft 4 LLG!


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:39

phew - me - 6ft and 79kg
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:42

thanks Nick
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:44

.lovelylovelygorgeous (???).....and in comes the stupid question ..................do you HAVE to use gels /  energy chews / jelly babies etc ? My longest run to date is 16 miles and I've not crashed and burned (yet)You don't have to use anything at all. However, if you asked me what my advice would be I would say that it would be beneficial if you could find a awy to consume something. My rationale for that is:The marathon is an immense challange that tests our resolve. It relies heavily on carbohydrate to which you only have about 2000 kcal stored. If you run reasonably well this could deplete significantly after 90 min or so, maybe sooner or later, but certainly before you reach the 26 mile mark! Add to this the stats from last year where people showed huge trends for reducing pace toward the end of the marathon, well in fact from 20 km, suggests we need to do everything we can to help youTherefore, some carbohydrate every hour will be better than none! Also, you still ahve 10 miles to go after the 16th mile. That is not to scare you but that is still a long way!Good luck!
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:44

Any idea about how much carb per jelly baby - 4 an hour enough?
Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:47

mouser12

The wine gums i took at the wekend were basically 4 grams for every sweet... i'd work on that


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:52

Hi Nick,

This will be my first marathon and I am hoping to do it in about 4.30.  My problem is that the gels make me retch and while I have used Jelly Babies - a couple every couple of miles - without any problems I don't know whether that plus a bit of Lucozade Sport (have never been able to drink the whole bottle) will be enough to get me round.   Also do I need to drink water every time I have the jelly babies? and could I do 3 x every 3 miles instead? 

very many  thanks.


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:54

Hi Nick,

When should i take my first sports drink of the day, an hour or so before the race or once i have started running? If I have one say half hour before will my blood sugars spike?

 What is the best thing to eat at the end? Nothing is really that appealing but know i should shovel something down? Is a lucozade rehydrate enough or should I take on food as well?


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:55

 Interesting answers about gel/water etc.  How does this work for a 16 stones 6ft man aiming for 5h FLM?

 I have problems knowing what size food to eat the night before or the morning before.   And also I have difficulties with Fruit and Veg - I have a "phobia" of eating them - it was the way I was brought up.....Should I be concern on lack of other nutrition etc

 Thanks


Posted: 03/04/2009 at 13:58

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