New York City Marathon, Nutrition Nerd

Nutrition Nerd: New York City Marathon Tip 3: Pre-Race Nutrition


Sunday is fast approaching for all of you running this year’s ING New York City Marathon. Since there is probably a lot of different thoughts swirling in your minds concerning various aspects of the race, today I wanted to provide some last-minute advice for something you CAN control – your nutrition and fueling strategies. Essentially, what my advice today boils down to is the same advice Scott and Coach Jerry have been sharing in their last few posts – “Don’t deviate from the plan” and “Trust your training up to this point”. Furthermore, I would like to emphasis the point of PREPARATION in regards to your pre-race nutrition habits these next few days. With those as our overarching themes for the post, I do have some advice and tips to share for those of you traveling to New York for the race, for everyone who plans on checking out the expo, as well as tips for everyone related to fueling the night before, the morning of, and during the race!

Traveling Runners:

For those of you who are making a trip to come to New York City, preparation is going to be key. Bring familiar foods with you if possible, or else stop at a grocery store as soon as you arrive to stock up on what you will need. If cinnamon raisin oatmeal, a banana, and peanut butter are what you eat for breakfast each day, BRING IT WITH YOU! Do not decide now that you will be fine with eating “whatever is provided by the continental breakfast at your hotel”. Who knows if they will actually serve what they say they will or if they will run out or not by the time you get there. Don’t leave things to chance.

Along these same lines, if you have a certain brand and flavor of gels, drinks, bars, etc. that you typically consume pre-race or during, make sure to pack those as well. The chances of every Vanilla flavored Clif gel packet being sold out in NYC is probably slim to none, but 1) why risk it and 2) why spend needless time tracking it down? Finally, and this one might seem a bit odd, but I highly suggest bringing your own water with you, or buying bottled water of choice. I have been to cities and hotels whose tap water just tastes off or unfamiliar and makes me drink less than I should during the day or even feel slightly ill. Again, the whole point of this preparation is to eliminate anything going wrong and throwing you off mentally or physically from your established nutrition routine.

(As a non-nutrition side note, I recommend bringing your own pillow if you will be staying in a hotel the night or two before the race. Having a pillow I dislike ruins my sleep even more than my roommates blasting reruns of “Who’s Line is it Anyway” at 2 am – well maybe not THAT much, but it disrupts my sleep nonetheless!)

 Expo Hall:

The biggest advice I have to manage the expo is to “Load up your swag bag and not your stomach with samples”. There will be different companies with food product samples at a majority of the booths. Limit how many of these you actually try at the expo hall. Save the taste testing for after the race. Last year I worked a booth at the Austin Marathon Expo recruiting subjects for a research study I was involved in. Unfortunately, we did not bring lunch with us and I ended up stuffing my face with various bars galore. My stomach was not pleased with this makeshift meal!

 Night Before and Morning Of:

At this point, so close to the race I am not going to talk to you about “the best” pre-marathon meals. We will get in to the science and research behind these recommendations another time, in the “off-season” and during training. For now, your plan should be to stick with what you have been doing up to this point, what you know works for you, and what your body is accustomed to. If a pre-race pasta dinner is your thing, do it! If eating a half gallon of Rocky Road ice cream works for you, have at it!

The night before and the morning of the race is not the time to experiment with a new fueling strategy or to try unfamiliar foods. Aka – do not allow family or friends to talk you in to using your Groupon for the new Indian restaurant on Saturday night! Now you may be thinking, “Tanya, obviously I’m not going to eat a totally different cuisine style than I am used to the night before the race”, but the point I am making with that overly dramatic example is to keep things as similar as possible to the routine you have developed at this point.

On the morning of the race, again follow your typical routine, but keeping in mind the time difference between when you will have to board the transportation to the start line and when the race actually starts. If this requires you to bring food with you, then have it prepared and ready to take along. I also recommend that everyone pack an extra snack in their bag. As unlikely as it is that the race will be delayed, again why risk it? This way, should something odd happen and you are stuck waiting around for a few hours, you have back up food to consume!

During the Race Fueling and Hydration:

Take the time to review all of the race information if you have not yet done so, especially learning where water and fuel stations are located. (In case you have not thought about this, here is the link) If you are comfortable with this station set up, then plan which miles you will take water and/or Gatorade and write them on your hands if you have to. If you are more comfortable running with a fuel belt or pack of choice, then do that instead. This allows you to avoid the congestion at the water stations and also take on fluid/fuel on your own schedule.

I hope this post has gotten you to trust that what you have done so far in terms of your fueling strategy is appropriate, as well as to encourage you to prepare what you will eat in advance just as you will most certainly prepare and pack your outfit and running shoes! Have a GREAT race.

What is your pre-marathon dinner of choice? Do you plan on running with a fuel belt/pack or will you be relying on the water stations? If you are a water station user, what methods do you use to avoid the congestion that can often occur at these spots on the course? Any last minute nutrition questions you have for me? Or tips you use that you want to share with others?

- Tanya

(Tanya is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and is pursuing her PhD in Nutrition and Exercise Science at Virginia Tech. After graduating with her Bachelor’s in Dietetics, Tanya completed an American Dietetic Association (ADA) approved Dietetic Internship through the University of Houston. She has completed many road races from 5k to 25k. Follow her on Twitter @nutritionnerd and at her personal blog Dine, Dash & Deadlift.)

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