Running a marathon is a major accomplishment of physical and mental endurance. Training is rigorous, but the satisfaction of completing a marathon is worth it. The benefits of training for a marathon include increased muscle tone, decreased fat, lower blood pressure and increased energy. Running is one of the most efficient exercises and a runner can burn an average of 100 calories per 1 mile run. Since training for a marathon involves increasing mileage over an extended period of time, it is an ideal way to lose or maintain weight when combined with a sensible eating plan.
Find a training schedule or program that is appropriate for your level of fitness. Most major marathons, such as the New York City and the Chicago marathons, offer on-line training schedules for beginners. Many local running stores offer marathon training programs at a nominal cost. Major charities offer marathon training programs. Stick to your training schedule, especially the weekly long run. Your long runs will increase gradually to 20 miles or more, depending on your training schedule. The long run is crucial to running a successful marathon and the long runs are great for weight loss.
Eat a small meal with a mix of protein and complex carbs to fuel your body properly for the task at hand before the run. Oatmeal and an egg or peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread are healthy choices that will fuel your run. Avoid bagels and other white flour items that are filled with empty calories.
Eat some protein and complex carbs as soon as possible (optimally within 30 minutes of finishing your run) after a run, especially a long run. The proteins will help repair muscle tissue that naturally tears during a long run and the complex carbs will help even out your blood sugar levels. A turkey sandwich on whole grain or tofu and brown rice are two healthy choices.
Do not think you can eat anything just because you are running. If you burn an average of 100 calories per mile run, in a 14-mile run you will have burned 1,400 calories. If you celebrate that run with a deep dish personal pizza, you will have eaten more calories than you burned. Eating lean proteins like fish or chicken and complex carbs like brown rice and wheat pasta are smarter choices.
Remember to stay hydrated. Do not just drink water on the run, but increase your overall water intake daily. The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Drink water instead of fruit juices and sodas. Reserve sugar-laden sports drinks for training runs and recovery.
Eat multiple small meals, rather than three large meals. This will maintain your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full. You might feel like you are more hungry and need more food as your training intensifies.
Start to taper your training mileage two weeks prior to the marathon. The taper phase allows your body to rest before the big marathon push. When you taper your mileage, be sure to taper your caloric intake. Do not worry too much if you gain a pound or two during the taper phase.
You do need carbs in your body for energy on race day, but do not go overboard the day before. Eat a salad with your meal and incorporate some protein, like chicken, into your pasta meal. Do not try any new foods. Stay away from creamy sauces or overly spicy foods.
Runners and athletes do need carbs and proteins, but choose the right ones. Lean proteins, like fish, chicken and tofu will give you the protein your muscles require for recovery without the fats of red meat.
Mix up your carbs. Try brown rice, quinoa and wheat pastas.
Sports drinks are loaded with sugar and salt. While great for an instant replenishment of fluids, sugars and salts during an intense workout or run, do not drink them on a regular basis.