Carbing up 5 top tips to fuel your running performance

Carbohydrates are a vital source of energy for marathon runners.You've probably read a lot about carbohydrates over the years. Fad diets have come and gone, many with contradictory views about carbs. It can be very confusing.

The one indisputable fact is that the body turns carbohydrate into energy. When you eat pasta or potatoes, the body stores that as glycogen in your muscles. Glycogen is the body's most readily available energy source. When you start running, your body dips into it to keep moving.

Running a marathon requires an awful lot of energy. When that energy source is emptied, you'll soon be running on fumes. Your muscles will fatigue quickly and you'll soon find yourself in a lot of pain.

So what sort of carbs should you eat? And how much should you consume? Our 5 tips are here to answer your questions about carbohydrates for marathon runners.

Carbohydrate intake for marathon runners

Massive carb-loading is a bit of an outdated concept in marathon running. The idea of huge bowls of pasta in the build-up to race day might sound good, but it will only lead to bloated bellies and upset stomachs. These days the guidance is a little more sensible. At Full Potential, we've got 5 golden rules to esnure our runners get to the start line happy and healthy.

1. Don't pile your plate high

When we talk about increasing your carbohydrate intake, that doesn't mean adding an extra dozen roast potatoes to your Sunday dinner. It's important to find a balance between quality and quantity of carbohydrate. Brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta are all staple sources. And in race week pizza or risotto are great because they're often less rich than traditional pasta dishes, and make for a great social outing before the big day.

2. Eat little and often

Separate your day into smaller, more regular meals. It will take more preparation - and you may need to dip into your tupperware supplies - but it is worth the extra effort. You'll consume more food comfortably and you won't find yourself reaching for the sweet treats in the vending machine when hunger strikes.

3. Don't forget protein

Whilst carbohydrate is the primary source of energy, don't neglect your protein intake. Protein will help repair your muscles from the pounding they have taken during your marathon training programme.

4. Find your flavour

Don't be fooled into thinking that all your food must be artificial, bland or boring. This is one of the few times in your life that you have a perfect excuse to eat a little more. So use it as an opportunity to spend more time being creative in the kitchen.

5. Nothing new on race day

However, don't let that creativity or experimentation extend to race day. Eat foods you know you can digest comfortably. You want to be on that start line feeling energised and not wondering whether you might need to find a toilet halfway round.

Quick tip: lunges for runners

Lunges are a vital exercise for any aspiring - or experienced - runner. They build strength and endurance in your hamstrings, allowing you to run faster for longer.