JOHANNESBURG – Many runners missed their Comrades Marathon targets a fortnight ago thanks to poor nutrition. It is road running’s most neglected aspect, says nutritionist Nontuthuko Mashimane, who completed her fourth Comrades this year.
“I often get asked to give talks about nutrition late in May to help runners prepare for Comrades and I always say no because that is way too late. It is very important that runners consider their nutrition from the onset when they start preparing for a race, any race.”
With preparations for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon coming up in September set to begin soon, the Pietermaritzburg-based Mashimane advises that runners give serious consideration to their eating habits.
“Eating accordingly is part of training. Of course, we acknowledge that people are from different backgrounds and will thus eat differently. But the basics remain the same, eat more veggies, drink lots of water and avoid junk food and acidic drinks.”
For long distance running such as marathons, it is important to take foods rich in carbohydrates, she says.
“Fill yourself up with carbs, and they will range from pap and rice for others, and sweet potatoes for some. Those carbs are like fuel for a car, because they will get stored up as glycogen, which is the energy that will be released when you are running.”
That though is more for racing, as you prepare for September 23 she advises that you continuously repair your body as you punish it through training.
“The importance of protein for runners can never be overstated. Proteins repair the muscles that we break during intense training and it is very important for runners to take their protein shakes or drinks soon after a workout. Take it within 20 minutes after training because anything after is a bit too late. Often if you take protein properly, you will find that your muscles are not too painful the next day.”
How you eat and drink on race day will also be key.
“When you are running, you are losing sodium, magnesium, natural salts. It is important that you replace those at intervals during the run. A mistake many make is take it too late. So, I always advise my clients that they must take whatever supplements or foods that work for them in the first half of the race even though they are still feeling good.
Those foods will be stored and the body will use it later when the ones they had in the build up are finished and that is how you will avoid what we call hitting the wall.”