Must runners eat more

Diet in competition - you have to pay attention to that


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“And at kilometer 35 the man with the hammer was waiting. I just couldn't walk anymore! " Such a statement can often be traced back to the fact that you simply ran out of energy for the remainder of the marathon. The last kilometers are torture. Because a marathon consumes a lot of energy. And you get it: through food! You can find out the basics of nutrition before, during and after a competition here.

With regard to nutrition in running, what applies first and foremost is what should also be taken into account in everyday life: diversity over one-sidedness and nutrient over energy density. And: be aware of what you are eating!

Firstly, that means: Eat a variety of foods, try different recipes. Second: The energy density of a food indicates how many kilocalories it provides per 100 g. The nutrient density indicates the amount of micronutrients (vitamins, trace elements, minerals, essential amino acids) per 100 g of the food.

As a rule, the rule of thumb can be used here that foods with a high nutrient density have a low energy density and vice versa.

Thirdly: Secondly, in order to be able to take into account, you should always have at least a rough idea of ​​what you are consuming and how this food is doing in terms of energy and nutrient density.

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Running nutrition - carbohydrates and fats

This knowledge is especially important if you are in an immediate phase of competition, especially if the competition is a marathon. A marathon lasts between two and seven hours, so the body needs energy for a longer period of time. Energy is available to the body in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). When ATP is broken down, energy is released. And the body receives ATP by breaking down nutrients. Carbohydrates and fats are of primary importance here.

Carbohydrates provide the body with 4.1 kcal per gram and are quickly available to the body; the metabolism here has a higher energy flow rate than the fat metabolism (how much energy is provided by the metabolism per unit of time?) And is therefore particularly important. The human body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates with a maximum of approx. 600 g in a trained endurance athlete. As a rule, these reservoirs are sufficient for 90 to 120 minutes of exercise (maximum 2400 kcal) when optimally filled.

Since the fat metabolism is much slower, much less energy can be provided here per time. In concrete terms, that means: you slow down. In theory, the body has unlimited fat reserves: One gram of fat contains 9.1 kcal. Even with a body fat percentage of 6% (and here the body is already at the critical limit of malnutrition) a man with a body weight of 70 kg would still have energy reserves of 38220 kcal.

That's enough energy to run several marathons in a row. But only very slowly. Fats do not have to be additionally supplied for a fast competition.

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Before the run

In order not to stand at the starting line with empty carbohydrate stores, it is advisable to eat a high-carbohydrate diet in combination with plenty of water in the days before, as carbohydrates are always stored in combination with water in the liver and muscles. Pasta, potatoes, bread or rice are common foods here. Ideally, they are combined with steamed vegetables in order to provide the body with the necessary micronutrients in sufficient quantities.

On the eve of a marathon you should also eat high in carbohydrates and a high carbohydrate and low fiber diet is also advisable on the morning before the race (attention: digestion!). However, this should be done at least three hours before the starting gun.

During the run

Carbohydrates are also on the menu during the race: Anyone who is on the road for more than two and a half hours must expect that the carbohydrate stores will be used up at a certain point. This can be prevented with the help of highly glycemic and easily digestible foods. That means: sugar in combination with water and minerals. Highly glycemic means that the energy supplied is available to the body as quickly as possible. The glycemic index shows how quickly the blood sugar level rises after ingesting the food.

Long chain, d. H. complex carbohydrates have to be digested before they can provide energy to the body. Short chain carbohydrates, e.g. B. Grape or fruit sugar provide direct energy. However, if these are not taken with sufficient water, there is a risk that the blood sugar level will skyrocket and then drop dramatically due to increased insulin secretion.

This results in a sharp drop in performance. You are hypoglycemic. In endurance sports one speaks of a so-called hunger branch or - in marathon slang - the man with the hammer. If you experience hypoglycaemia in a marathon, you usually won't get very far.

The ideal ratio of sugar and water here is 7%. I. E. You should not consume more than 7 g of sugar per 100 ml of liquid. Some manufacturers offer ready-mixed drinks or gels here. These are easy to digest and easy to supply. Solid food should be avoided during the marathon. Chewing and digesting are activities that don't make much sense here.

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Try out!

With regard to nutrition before and during the competition - regardless of what goals you pursue - experiments are not recommended. If you want to eat pasta before the marathon, you should try it out in training beforehand. Gels that are intended to be absorbed during the run must be tested during training.

Many organizers can provide self-catering, i. H. you clearly mark your food and hand it in the evening before the competition. During the run you can find them at the previously selected refreshment point. Alternatively, you can of course also take your own food with you. Or you can rely on the drinks and gels offered by the organizer. But these should also be tested for compatibility beforehand.


With the confusing range of power gels, bars and drinks on offer, it is often forgotten that the classic apple spritzer or cola certainly fulfill the main function of supplying energy during a marathon. They are often offered at the edge of the route. At most, the carbon dioxide it contains can be problematic.

And then?

Eating and drinking after a strenuous marathon that you may have spent months preparing for is tantamount to breaking the fast for many runners. Basically, after such a run you should definitely treat yourself to something and enjoy it. But of course, high-fat food is difficult to digest and less conducive to regeneration than a varied meal with a mix of long-chain carbohydrates and protein.

Particularly after a marathon, you should at least take care to supply carbohydrates and protein as quickly as possible in order to counteract the so-called open window: After such an effort, the body is weakened and the door and gate are open to infections and diseases. The quick supply of energy is definitely helpful here.

You have to decide for yourself whether you have to choose the “fitness salad” in the restaurant later, if you also have a choice of pizza, rump steak with baked potatoes or French fries. And whether the dessert has to be a fruit salad or the ice cream parlor is looted is also up to personal taste. In such moments you can indulge yourself in peace, but in the long term, of course, pay attention to a balanced diet.