Increased calorie intake is vital to performance when training for a half marathon.
Training for a half marathon requires dedication to training, including anaerobic and aerobic exercises and a solid nutrition plan. Nutrition is the foundation for a training program due to the fact that calories fuel your body with energy. Consuming the appropriate number of calories is an art -- too little and you will feel lethargic and possibly lose weight -- too many and you can gain unwanted weight and feel sluggish.
Calorie Estimation and Factors that Influence Needs
Calories should be based on the individual athlete. Calorie needs change depending on gender, age, body composition, training regimen and daily activities. Petite athletes in light training may need fewer than 1,600 calories per day, while larger athletes during intense training may need more than 5,000 calories per day. There are many products on the market that can help you determine and track your individual calorie needs, such as running watches with calorie-tracking features or an app on your phone, tablet or computer.
Additional calories should come from a variety of sources consisting of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Carbohydrates are easily digested and provide quick spurts of energy. During high-intensity training your body needs 3.2 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound in body weight. Fat is a source of energy for lengthy training; choose fats low in saturated fat such as nuts, seeds or avocados. Protein builds and repairs muscles and aids in fluid balance; during intense training you need 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound.
Consume a meal balanced in carbohydrates and protein the day of training. Carbohydrate-rich foods will help to build up glycogen stores and protein may help reduce post-training muscle soreness. Three to four hours before training consume a snack high in complex carbohydrates and protein like cottage cheese and fruit. Thirty to 60 minutes before training focus on quick carbohydrate sources for fuel such as sports gels, goos or bars.
Nutrition during prolonged training requires a mix of fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Dehydration can lead to poor performance due to fatigue. Excessive fluid loss is classified as more than 2 percent of body weight lost in fluid, and with fluid loss you are also losing electrolytes. Both fluids and electrolytes can be replaced by sports drinks, which also contain carbohydrates. It's important to continually replace carbohydrates to provide your body with an easy-to-use energy source.
The most important things to focus on when recovering after training are restoring fluids and electrolytes that were lost while sweating, replacing carbohydrates that were used during training and providing protein to help aid in the repair of damaged muscles and development of new muscles. Begin the recovery process by consuming a snack approximately 15 to 60 minutes after training. Good snacks might be a frozen yogurt and berry smoothie or graham crackers with peanut butter, chocolate milk and a banana.