How to Fuel for Back-to-Back Races

Before you toe multiple start lines, follow these nutrition strategies.

This sport has no shortage of crazies, or as I like to call them motivated… And it’s becoming more commonplace for runners to target back-to-back races, often as a bucket list item.

While training for back-to-back races is crucial (and challenging), fuelling is just as important and can get a little tricky. Tuck these tips in your fuel belt to make sure you’re ready to run, recover and do it all over again.


Fuel for Kilometres

Every runner, regardless of diet or fitness, can only cover a limited number of kilometres before muscle glycogen – the body’s major source of carbohydrate (running fuel) – depletes and slows them down. During marathon-length efforts, blood glucose and liver glycogen stores (secondary sources of energy that fend off mental fatigue and keep blood sugar levels steady) will deplete, which makes pre-run and mid-run absolutely crucial.


Carb loading can nearly double the body’s stores, allowing runners to run much longer before hitting empty. Slowly increase your carb intake in the days (three to five) before your marathon. For example, add an extra dinner roll to your plate, or snack on pretzels in the afternoon.


But carb loading alone won’t carry you to the finish line. Since it only takes a few hours of running to deplete every drop of glycogen, runners should be sure to aim for an intake of 30 to 60 grams of carb per hour (starting about 30 minutes into your run). This helps keep your muscles topped off.


In between your races, don’t stuff yourself. You’ll feel heavy and lethargic before your second race. Instead, in the interim, focus on eating four to six grams of carbs per kg and two grams of protein per kg per hour.


Recover or Suffer

Your recovery on race day should be no different than the recovery that follows long runs and hard efforts. If you don’t refuel properly, your muscles break down and aren’t repaired, making back-to-back races nearly impossible (and unhealthy).


Within 30 to 60 minutes following your run, get 30-50 grams of high-quality protein (turkey, chocolate milk, peanut butter) and one gram of carb per kilogram of body weight (more simply, aim for about two to four times as much carbohydrate as protein).


When you cross that finish line, grab a bagel (45g of carbs, 9g of protein) with a banana (30g of carbs, 1g of protein) and a healthy smear of peanut butter (6g of carbs, 8g of protein).


Can’t get food down yet? Try a protein shake (or a protein recovery drink often found in post-marathon goodie bags) and sports drink.


Rehydration is another key to proper recovery so aim to drink (non-alcoholic) fluids until your urine returns to being light yellow.


If the kilojoules required for recovery seem high, remember that you’re recovering the glycogen you burned as well as trying to restock these stores to power you through the next run, and ultimately, race. Even if you have a couple of weeks before your next race, recovering with protein right after your workout is crucial to keep those muscles strong.


Wait to All-Out Celebrate

Every runner has earned a right to celebrate after crossing the finish line. But if you’ve got your eye on successfully and comfortably completing race number two, avoid over-celebrating. After you eat something, have a beer and a sweet treat (unless your next race is hours away) and then return to post-race recovery and pre-race prep.




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