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  • Writer's pictureChloe Davis Giraldi, MS, RD, LDN

Fueling the Half, the Whole Way

For my first "NutriTraining" post I will feature the 13.1 mile race otherwise known as "half-marathon". Combining two things that help everyone thrive, being active and nourishing your body, I decided to test my "land athlete" abilities with a trial run.

Two weeks ago I and about 10,000 other runners descended upon the banks of the Potomac, and upper hills of Georgetown Washington DC to run The Navy-Air Force Half. For my first ever organized race the amount of energy was beyond motivation in itself. Fellow runners provided patriotism, support and encouragement to each other, and honored those who may not have been able to run that day with words of remembrance pinned to their bibs. Wounded warriors led this race of endurance and mental fortitude as some of the strongest athletes I have seen.

Many hours and miles of preparation go into training for even a distance such as a half marathon. For many, this may be a "trial-run", if you will, to test whether they believe their bodies may be able to handle greater distances, or more grueling events such as marathons, Ironman triathlons and more. With the hours clocked pushing through mental and physical barriers. The other half of the training routine is maintaining adequate nutrition to fuel the body. Without this piece, performance cannot be improved, or achieved.

Endurance running, requires fuels from foods primarily in the form of fats. Carbohydrate can fuel the body's energy requirements only for so long during the race until fat kicks in to provide a majority of that which remains. Also, while it does not provide substantive fuel for the workout directly, protein is needed to ensure that recovery occurs quickly in order to aid the body in readying itself to train again and prevent injuries from occurring.

During training: Pre-Run snacks were key! When going out on a quick run a snack of Greek yogurt with fruit or a piece of toast with natural PB and craisins helped to kick some energy into gear and keep my stomach content. As I went on to longer distances more was required to stay energized, this was a trial and error session in theory to check-in with my body on what worked best. Turns out, similar snacking pre-long run, just adding a bit more protein such as a quick-grab trail mix, yogurt parfait, fruit with nut butter, toast with poached egg helped keep me going...As well as a new friend, my Nathan Quickshot handheld water bottle. This helped train me into noticing my hydration cues in preparation for the water stops in the actual race.

Pre-race: Pre-race you want to make sure that you maintain as close to your normal routine as possible. This includes eating, sleeping, and overall activity. When travelling for a race different factors may become what a coach once referred to as "uncontrollables". You have to mentally prepare yourself to deal with situations that are out of the norm, yet treat them as if they were a part of your plan all along. Don't change anything right before you race, even at the race Expo, be cautious around new energy bites, beverages, samples etc. You never know how your body will react to those, don't risk your training!

During the competition: Hydration, hydration, hydration. This race was at 7am, however 80 degrees with high-humidity was definitely a factor. My 10oz Quickshot would only end up helping me out between the water-stations (which was planned), however I am 110% thankful I carried that little extra weight with me for 13.1 miles. Depending on the race, you will likely see both water and sport drink stations. Since it is recommended during aerobic exercise to consume 3-8oz every 12-15 minutes you should aim to be grabbing something at each station to match the water and electrolytes you lose in sweat. Since you are likely going to be running for over 60min, you should replenish with carbohydrate sports drinks that they offer as well these not only provide sugar to replenish glycogen stores, but also potassium to prevent cramping, sodium and other electrolytes.

Knowing I would need fuel during the race I packed some snacks in a zip-pouch waistband for some quick carbo-bursts, apple sauce, fruit leather, or even in this case Gerber Squeeze Organic Baby food. Choose foods that you are familiar with eating, that can be carried easily and also that are easy to swallow while running.

Post-race (recovery): 4:1 Protein to Carbohydrate Ratio is recommended to improve muscle recovery and healing. Oftentimes bananas will be given as a post race snack, these provide the body with potassium to relieve cramps, and quick sugars to stabilize blood glucose levels. Take advantage of your snack box within 30min of finishing your race in order to prevent dizziness, fainting, and also to improve your overall race recovery. Fluid replenishment of 20-24oz. water or sports beverage provided (or mix your own with water and diluted 100% fruit juice) is recommended after the finish.

Keep in mind, trial and error is part of the process. These options worked for me but may not work for you, every body responds differently to training. It is important when trying new routines to be supervised by a Registered Dietitian in order to make sure the choice you make will provide your body with enough energy!

Give me a shout for help figuring out what your ideal fuel is! Let's make your next race golden!


Instagram: @nutritrain_rd

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