Fueling for the Marathon

October brings thousands of runners from all over the world to run the Chicago Marathon. On race day, 45,000 runners are treated to an epic 26.2 mile tour through 29 neighborhoods, witnessing diverse cultures, historic buildings, and renowned architecture. For many, training for an endurance race is not just about the long, grueling months or training runs leading up to the event, it’s also about correctly fueling your body with adequate nutrition – something that can directly affect your race performance and finishing time.

One of the more popular methods of nutritional preparation – carbohydrate loading – is also one of the more misunderstood nutritional concepts. Carbohydrate loading is more than a single pasta meal the night before a race. Instead, 72 hours prior to race day, it is best to maintain a diet of 75 percent carbohydrates based foods that have adequate protein and healthful fact. In addition, runners should begin tapering their training at least two weeks prior to race day in order to help replenish glycogen stores that have been compromised from the volume of training miles. Some exercise scientists also recommend reducing your exercise time to 30 percent of normal and doing little exercise in the last seven to 10 days before the race. Correct carbohydrate loading and disciplined tapering helps runners regain depleted energy stores, allows the body time to heal, and ensures miles of smiles on race day.

Here’s a great quick and easy recipe that includes three different food groups (grain, protein and vegetables), creating that well-balanced meal to fuel you to the finish line!

Chicken with Pasta and SpinachNancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook
Yield: 5 servings

1 lb pasta, such as fettuccine
2 tbsp oil, preferably olive or canola
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 to 4 garlic gloves, finely chopped, or ¼ to 1 tsp garlic powder
1 10-oz can chicken broth
1 lb fresh spinach, washed, drained and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 10 ox mushrooms, sliced; ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
2. While the past is cooking, in a large skillet hear the oil and sauté the sliced chicken breast for 30 seconds.
3. Toss in the garlic (and mushrooms) and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Pour in the chicken broth and bring it to a simmer. Add the spinach, stirring until it wilts.
5. Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot. Pour in the chicken and spinach mixture and toss well. Heat for 2 minutes.

Nutritional information: 2,800 calories; 560 calories per serving; 75 g carbohydrates; 40 g protein; 11 g fat

Erica Varner, RD, CPT
Registered Dietician
Certified Personal Trainer