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Food for distance runners
From theory to practice
Wageningen - April 12, 2007
Theory in a nutshell
Sports drinks
Basic nutrition
Theory: carbohydrates
• Most important substrate for performance
(faster energy delivery than fats or
• Not just pasta, but also:
– Rice
– Potatoes
– Cereals
– Banana’s, etc.
• Energy bars
Theory: fluids
• More important than carbohydrates?
• Most important reason for decreased
performance: dehydration (starts at ~ 2%!)
and rise of core temperature
• Average max uptake per hour: ~ 1 liter
• Combination of water, carbohydrates and
minerals: sports drink
Theory: sports drinks
• Before and during exercise: isotonic (or
slightly hypotonic) thirst quencher: 60 - 70
g/l of CHO, minerals
• After exercise: higher concentration of
CHO possible (‘energy drinks) - possibly in
combination with peptides
• Uptake of at least 150 - 200 ml promotes
gastric emptying
Theory: basic nutrition
• Fats and proteins are important, too!
• Basics first: it’s no use to spend time on
details when the basics aren’t taken care
• Enjoy good, fresh foods; enjoy your meals!
Theory  practice
• Marathon
– ‘Normal’ CHO (glycogen) stores in body are
not sufficient for 42 km
– More than 2% of body weight is lost by
–  Drinking is necessary!
– ‘Carbo loading’?
Practice: carbohydrates
• Variation in CHO sources. As mentioned:
grains, pasta, bread, rice, bananas,
• Fluid foods: ‘carbo loaders’ and fruit juices
• Mix soluble CHO with tea, yogurt, etc. E.g.
‘Fantomalt’ (maltodextrin); tasteless,
colorless, soluble.
• Do not ‘over eat’
Practice: (sports) drinks
Cool, not cold
Drink during training runs
Race: use the same drink you have been
using in training
• Coffee (caffeine): only when you are used
to drinking coffee, timing
Practice: (sports) drinks
• Temperature of drink: use warm water in
winter, ‘old sock’.
• Concentration of drink: dilute in warm
weather, concentrate when cold (within
certain limits!)
• Marathon:
– Start fully hydrated
– Start drinking at first refreshment station
• Overwhelming choice, little proof
• What I use:
– Low-dose (50% RDA) multivitamin/mineral
– Extra B- complex (50% RDA)
– Fe, when indicated by blood tests
Final recommendations
• Timing: know when to take last meal
• Never try new foods/drinks in a race; use
what you have been using in training
• Never try to loose weight during last days
prior to a race
• Abroad: bring your own foods. E.g. Japan,
March 2007: bread, cereal bars, sports