Weeks 14 - 17 of a 20 Week Plan
As we start week 14, the marathon is now less than 50 days away. Over the next few weeks, we will increase the mileage of our long runs to include an 18 and 20 miler. It’s important that you continue to practice the recovery strategies I have previously discussed. Additionally, proper nutrition and a positive mindset are essential to your success. In this post, I’ll review the basics of a nutrition and hydration plan that will ensure your body is properly fueled for performance and recovery. I will also discuss characteristics of successful marathoners. Of course, inside this post, you can find my workout recommendations for weeks 14-17 of a 20-week plan.
Marathon Training Nutrition
Proper nutrition during marathon training requires that you (a) consume enough calories, (b) consume the right calories and (c) properly time your consumption. According to the ADA (American Dietetic Association), at least 55% of a marathoner’s diet should come from carbohydrates (my body performs best with 60%). Your body uses carbs much quicker than fat and protein. Fat is used at lower intensities because it can't keep up with the body’s high energy demands. Protein is best for muscle recovery, and is relied upon when carbohydrate stores are fully used up.
Carbohydrates assist in water absorption. When you take in water during a long run, the carbs that you’ve eaten will help the stomach empty faster, allowing your body to more efficiently use the water. Carbohydrates and water work hand-in-hand. Think of water as the highway that most efficiently gets the energy from the carbs to your muscles.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Consumption of simple carbohydrates should be minimized. These come from refined grains (enriched breads, pasta and rice), soda and other processed foods. Instead, your goal should be to consume complex carbohydrates, such as beans, vegetables and whole grains. You will get more value from complex carbs than simple.
Since your body doesn't store many carbohydrates, it's essential that you replenish them daily. Proper carbohydrate consumption provides the backbone of your nutrition plan during your marathon training. Without sufficient carbohydrates, your body won't tolerate any significant volume of mileage or level of intensity.
Fat is also an essential ingredient in a marathoner’s diet. If you minimize fat intake, you won't be eating enough calories. Fat has approximately twice as many calories per gram as carbs, so a little fat goes a long way in keeping you full. To optimize your results, your daily diet should include about 20% fat. Good sources of fat include nuts, fish, seeds and avocados. Limit consumption of fatty and processed meats.
Consumption of protein should be only slightly less than fat. Both should be around 20% of your overall caloric intake. Protein plays a major role in repairing damaged muscles after running, it also can serve as an energy source when you don’t have sufficient carbs. Protein helps your body manufacture anti-bodies and hormones. It also helps you get essential vitamins and minerals from fat into your blood.
How many calories does a marathoner need?
On days where you are resting or only workout/run for 45-60 minutes at an easy pace, calorie requirements are lower compared to days with longer-tempo track workouts and longer runs scheduled. Use the following guidelines.
Endurance athletes' nutrition needs (1)
- Total calorie needs: about 19 to 26 kcal per pound of body weight – multiply your weight in lbs x 19 for easy days and weight x 25 for days when your activity level is high.
- Carbohydrate needs: 7 to 10 g per kilogram of body weight
- Protein needs: 1.2 to 1.4 g per kilogram of body weight – 18 to 20% of total calories
- Fat needs: 20% to 22% of total calories *Use this site to convert your weight in pounds to kilograms, or vice versa.
Timing of Calories
The rule of thumb is that the more time you have before you run, the more you should eat. As the workout time approaches, get in more of what your body needs. Specifically carbohydrates and fluids without getting too full. Use the following table as a guide.
By eating protein at the same time as carbohydrates, right after you exercise, you can minimize the damage done to the muscles and speed your recovery.
Proper hydration is essential to your success. Fluid intake during exercise should match losses. Runners can ensure they have taken in adequate fluid during training runs by weighing themselves before and after an hour long run. After the run, measure your weight loss and compare it to your before run weight. The difference is fluid loss and tells you how much needs to be replaced per hour to adequately rehydrate. For every pound of weight lost, runners should take in an extra 16 to 24 oz of fluid gradually over the course of the day. On runs longer than 45 minutes, runners should consume between 6 to 12 oz every 15 minutes. If your exercise session is more than an hour long, use a sports drink.
A marathon training plan schedule for weeks 14-17 could look like the following:
Refer to previous post for program/workout definitions.
Characteristics of Successful Marathoners
- Balance: To get the most out of your training you need to find balance between your stress and your rest cycle. This means identifying the cycle where you have one positive workout followed by another positive workout. Ultimately this daily success leads to successful weeks and months. Finding this balance can be challenging. If you experience numerous poor workouts or are injured, this may be a sign that your training is too strenuous and adjustments are needed. Don't blindly follow a training plan. Instead make minor adjustments if there's something in your plan that's not working for you. If you're coached, talk to the coach and let him or her know how you feel and what workouts typically work best for you.
- Support Network: Successful marathoners realize they need other people's help to achieve their goals. Some of these very important people include: a coach or a training plan, running store experts, friends with whom to train, a physical therapist or massage therapist and above all a supportive spouse, family and friends to keep motivated.
- Consistency: When you have balance and support in place, the next critical component for success is that you must train consistently week after week in order to get the best results.
- Train and Learn What Works Best: Treat every long training workout as a rehearsal for race day. During these training runs you can determine which foods and fluids give you the best results. Proper nutrition pre- and post-workout as discussed above are critical to your long term success.
Join me next month for details of the last 3 weeks of our 20-week plan. In the last post of this series, I’ll review the importance of the taper, pre-race and race day fueling, and finally I will discuss post-marathon recovery.
- Marathon Fueling — Runners Need Proper Nutrition and Hydration for the 26.2-Mile Stretch. Today’s Dietitian, J. Dada, March 2010
- Hansons Marathon Method:- L. Humphrey 2016
Author Bio: Dan Lyne is a long distance runner from Camas, WA. With over 36 years of running experience, he specializes in coaching long distance runners and helping them achieve their half and full marathon goals through his website, middleagemarathoner.com.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is based on the author’s personal experience and thorough personal studies. The information provided here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist. All forms of exercise pose some inherent risks. The author advises readers to take full responsibility for their safety and know their limits. There is no guarantee that you will experience the same results & benefits as presented and you accept the risk that the results can differ by individual.