How to Fuel for Back-to-Back Races

Q I have never run back-to-back events before. My question is how to do I eat between races so I am ready for the marathon on Sunday after running a half-marathon on Saturday? Any suggestions? – DAVE


A Thank you for your question! Nutrition is an important part of our training and you are wise to be thinking about how to deal with this issue now.

One of the physiological adaptations our bodies make to distance training is an increased glycogen storage capacity, allowing most runners to store between 6300 and 8400 kilojoules of glycogen. Eating the right diet along with distance training can increase glycogen storage capacity a bit more, pushing it up to between 8400 and 10,500 kilojoule. However, that amount is still not quite enough to get most runners through a marathon, never mind a half and a full marathon, making nutritional supplementation during the run necessary. If glycogen stores run low, we feel it right away and our performance and mood deteriorate quickly.

A typical runner’s diet consists of about 60 per cent carbohydrate, meaning that about 60 per cent of daily kilojoules come from carbohydrate sources. When running long distances, we need to increase our carbohydrate intake to 70 to 90 per cent of our total kilojoule intake to help ensure that our glycogen stores are adequately stocked. Eat your normal diet up until the last three days before your events and then switch to a very high (70-90 per cent) carbohydrate diet.

When doing back-to-back events, not only is it important to go into your race well stocked, it will also be important to use plenty of nutritional supplements during the race and to stay hydrated so you are not depleted for the second event. If you normally use two packets of run nutrition during a half marathon, plan to take three or even four packets during this half to be ready for the next day’s event. Run smart in the first event by keeping your pace very comfortable. Bring along extra run nutrition for your second event as well so you are equipped should your tank run low. Start taking your run nutrition earlier in the race and more frequently than usual on the second event to stay ahead of demand.

After the first event, eat high-glycemic index foods immediately to help replenish your glycogen stores quickly. If you can’t eat, use sports recovery drinks to help you refuel quickly post-race. Don’t delay, it will be important to get nutrition in you immediately, preferably within about 20 minutes. Foods like potatoes, rice, cake, breads, bagels, sweet potatoes, corn and pasta are all excellent sources of high-glycemic carbohydrates. It takes about 24 to 48 hours to completely replenish your glycogen stores, so it’s really important that you eat immediately upon finishing your first race to be ready for the next morning.

In other words, you have a license to eat all weekend, but avoid fatty or fried foods. Stick with carbohydrates and lean protein sources.

Enjoy yourself!



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