As we head into late fall, another marathon season is nearly over. What athletes, to be able to run such distances, and smile at the finish line. It is truly inspiring. Clearly, they didn’t just get up that morning and run, a lot of thought and training went into successfully finishing a marathon. One has to wonder what kind of diet and nutrition is necessary to force a body to run so far?
For Kristen Ebert, there is a whole training/nutrition cycle that starts many weeks before a big race. It all starts with increasing her carbohydrate load by 55-60% and increasing her daily calorie intake when she starts to increase her mileage. During her training cycle when she is increasing her mileage, she feels hungry all the time, so the extra calories help curb this hunger and the extra carbohydrates provide the extra fuel her body needs to continue on with her day.
A few weeks before a big race, when she is starting to reduce her mileage, she will reduce her calories, but maintain the same percentages of carbohydrates. The only carboloading that happens for her is the night before the race, which is usually pasta.
During a training run she will eat a little something before going out the door and is very mindful to eat again about 30 minutes after finishing a run. She emphasizes that re-fueling after a run is critical to keeping the body in top form.
The rest of the girls interviewed agreed with everything Kristen had to say, but adjusting some things to fit their body’s requirements.
Unlike Kristen, Monica Palese cannot each much before a run, but always tries to eat a little something, like an apple. She also carries those packets of goop that she will use every 3-5 miles to keep her body from shutting down, due to lack of calories. Monica also stressed the importance of eating again after a run. A big carbohydrate meal happens for Monica two days before a race, and a small meal the night before a race. She also mentioned that she increases her water intake during the training cycle and that it is important to start this early to maintain this throughout the training cycle. She states that you cannot hydrate the night before, it just doesn’t work, it takes weeks.
Betsy Mastoris also has a slightly different approach. She doesn’t really change her eating habits, except to increase her calories. But, she is very mindful about the extra food she is putting into her body, sticking to added whole grains and lean proteins. She also cuts way down on the caffeine, replacing it with water. She considers herself lucky that she is able to eat a substantial meal before and after a run with little problem.
For Shayla Dvorak, former UW-Madison rower and now marathoner, finds that her body performs best when she keeps the food she eats very streamlined, having very similar meals for each meal, like a bagel every morning, a sandwich for lunch, etc. She is also mindful of the calorie and carbohydrate increase by having pasta and vegetables, with some added protein, like chicken, for dinner every night.
It is interesting to note that all three love a chocolate milk after a big race. Noting that calcium is so important, and vitamins with iron are a must, especially for women who are susceptible to Female Athlete Triad syndrome. While training for a marathon, it is easy to not get enough sleep and more importantly, not get enough vitamins or calories. While the most severe cases involve osteoporosis and amenorrhea, any bone loss or changes in the menstrual cycle can be dangerous. This can be prevented with proper training that involves proper nutritional and calorie intake. All three were also very clear to mention that marathon training should not be thought of as a way to lose weight. Your body is always hungry and it shouldn’t be starved.
The important lesson here is that each one, with their own thoughts on the best way to train, they listen to what their bodies need, there is not one training guide that fits all.
For more information on Female Athlete Triad syndrome, visit www.femaleathletetriad.org.
A special thanks to Kristen Ebert, Monica Palese, Betsy Mastoris and Shayla Dvorak for their candid input. Go girls!