Essentia Health

Essentia Health: Fueling your race and recovery

Essentia Health dietitian offers nutrition tips for marathon runners

By Valerie Clark

Whether you are gearing up for a training run or refueling after a big race, your nutritional choices can have an impact on your performance and your health.

Heather Pitschka, a dietitian with Essentia Health who specializes in performance nutrition, says it's never a good idea to try new and different foods right before a race. Stick with what you're used to, she says.

“Don't do anything different than what you've normally been eating,” Pitschka says.

The notion of “carb-loading” with a vast amount of pasta the night before a race is outdated, she added. “You want to eat carbs, but you want it to be things that you're familiar with and not huge volumes.”

The same holds true for the morning of the race, Pitschka says.

“Don't try anything fancy,” she said. Stick to simple foods that will settle well, and avoid anything with lots of fat or fiber, as these can have unintended consequences during the race.

While you are running, your consumption will depend on the length of the event. Ultra races that last all day will require protein consumption during the race, but for an event like Grandma's Marathon, you'll just need fluid and carbohydrates. Sport beans, gels or tablets are highly portable and convenient ways to replenish your carbs on the run.

“For every hour you're out there, try to get at least 30 if not 60 grams of carbs,” Pitschka says.

Of course, you'll want to stay hydrated with water, or if you drink Gatorade or Powerade you're getting some carbs at the same time too.

Refueling after the race can be difficult if you feel nauseous, but it's very important to ingest plenty of fluids, carbs and protein right away, Pitschka says. A simple turkey sandwich is a perfect example of a post-race food, she said, because it contains essential protein and carbs all in one bite. Fruit and string cheese are also simple options to refuel your body quickly, she adds.

Surprisingly, Pitschka also recommends chocolate milk, which contains protein and carbs.

“Chocolate milk is the perfect post-workout food,” she says.

Runners who would like a personalized dietary analysis can sign up for Essentia Health’s Runners Injury Prevention & Performance program. A dietitian who focuses on sports nutrition will make recommendations to maximize nutrition for peak performance during training and competition. The program also offers components that include a running gait analysis and an exercise profile. Please call (218) 786-5410 to learn more.