November 30, 2009

Guest Post: Melissa of FitnessNYC


I’m Melissa from FitnessNYC. Diana asked me to say a few words about fueling and nutrition while training for endurance events, such as marathons.

While I am certainly not a nutritionist, and I will link to some pointers and tips from nutritionist and my coaches at the end, I thought this would be a good time to express my personal thoughts, experiences and reflections on eating while training for marathons. That being said, everyone is different and has a different intensity level, caloric expenditure and trains slightly differently.

1. If you have a diet that works for you before you start training, you probably won’t have to change very much. I think this was the biggest lesson I learned after my first marathon and before and during training for my second. Many people think they are going to have to drastically change their diet to fuel a marathon leading to several conclusions that can be misleading.

a. I will be hungry all the time and gain weight, therefore I am nervous to gain weight and bulky muscles. This is a valid fear, but if you are good at listening to your body’s needs now, you will be fine during training. You won’t turn into Cookie Monster or Hulk Hogan simply because you add some long runs to your workout routine.

b. I will be running so much that I will lose a ton of weight! Awesome. While some people do lose weight while training for marathons (typically if they have it to lose), this is not always the case. I don’t know that you will find marathoning particularly satisfying if you are doing it solely to lose weight. However, because you are working so hard to train, you may take the opportunity to improve the quality of fuel you chose to put in your body and clean up your diet, which of course will be beneficial regardless of weight loss or gain.

c. I am running so much that I can eat anything I want! We all want this to be true, so badly. But just like working out at the gym doesn’t give you license to gorge, marathon training doesn’t necessarily either.

Let me justify by saying that if you have a really intense, advanced training schedule or you are a man, it might. But the beginner schedule is usually pretty moderate and you will certainly need a bit more than usual, but I wouldn’t reserve a table for dinner at The Golden Corral after every long run. Again, the key here is to listen to your body, if you are extra hungry—and some days you will be, eat more, please don’t try to maintain some rigid diet or meal plan. But don’t force food down your throat just because you think you have earned it.

How to put those points into practice?

Add a little or a lot, but it’s not about the numbers!

So going back to the initial point, if your diet is working for you, your best bet, IMO, is to just increase portion sizes of your favorite meals as your mileage and appetite goes up, don’t feel you that pasta and bagels are you only options—brown rice sushi is actually my preferred pre-race meal J. If you love oatmeal, you might find you need to increase your serving size or even double it as training goes up. You don’t necessarily have to replace every calorie burned, if you listen to your appetite your body will help you nutritionally balance and repair throughout the week. Your body strives for homeostasis; you don’t have to worry about the math just your hunger cues. You might find yourself a bit ravenous after an intense 6 mile tempo run or a 15 mile long run than after 40 minutes on the elliptical, so go ahead and add the extra helping of sweet potato to your dinner, or bit more to your nightly dessert or a snack or two to keep you feeling strong and energized.

Carbs, Protein, Fat

Again, the prescribed regimen is typically 65% carbs, 15% protein, 20% fat. I tend to do what works for me in my normal life, which is not paying that much attention to numbers and percentages. But I do recognize that I don’t really eat much protein, so the one time I try to be conscious of getting some protein in me is after a long run. Your body immediately goes to work repairing your lean tissue after a long run, so I make sure that I give it at least some almond butter or some yogurt to work with. Most research says a half an hour after finishing, that is really tricky, but I do make an effort to sneak it in there sooner rather than later.

Fueling on the go, keeping it real

There are a lot of energy/sports products out there and they range from having fairly recognizable ingredients to being straight from the science lab. Most bloggers love Clif Shot Blocks as they are organic and have only a couple ingredients. Gu Chomps aren’t bad either. While I definitely use commercial products on occasion, I find the gels and gus do provide a great and easy source of energy, I have also found plenty of more natural sources of fuel to keep me going on the run. Most sources say to consume roughly 100 calories per 45-to an hour of running depending on intensity and your size. This can be through sports drinks or food.

My favorite items include:

-larabar broken into chunks

-dried fruits, particularly dates, figs and dried strawberries

-kashi tlc bars, broken into chunks

-coconut water

And just for fun, two of my favorite training season meals.

Mango Berry Parfait—from

Raw bliss—perfect for breakfast a snack or dessert

4 Cups Fresh Red Mangos

4 TB Virgin Coconut Butter (AKA Coconut Oil)

1/2 of a Vanilla Bean

2 TB Lime Juice

1 TB Lime Zest

1/2 Cup Agave or Maple Syrup

Pinch of Salt

1 Cup Berries

Combine everything in a blender except 1 cup mango and the berries. Blend and then top blended mixture with berries and mango. Note: you can decrease the amount of butter and sweetener a little bit.

Favorite recharge meal:

Yogurt mess--Simple, but worked every time.

· Vvanilla or plain chobani

· ½ banana, ½ peach, 1 plum, chopped

· A couple generous handfuls cereal—I admit, sometimes I used my favorite kids cereals in combo with healthier ones

· A wee sprinkle of trail mix—I like Enjoy Life mountain mambo

· Cinnamon

Link to professional opinions on training nutrition:

Tips to Get You to the Finish Line Part 3


VeggieGirl said...

Yaaay, Melissa! :-D

Kate said...

Great post! I love the idea of dried fruit on long runs, and I am glad to have this to reference as I get deeper into my marathon training! Thanks Melissa!


Dori said...

You so smart.

I do love these tips. Thank you!

Marina said...

That berry parfait looks delicious!

Gena said...

Woohoo! Two of my favorite ladies in a blissful collaboration. Thanks, Mel, for the tips, which are useful and intelligent as always.

Michal said...

Great post! Super informative :)