Fit Food 2: Eating for your marathon.

September 22, 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s racing season, and I’m not talking about horses.

August-December seems to be the peak time for athletes (and “athletes”) as they shake of the winter dust and hit the tracks for marathons, triathlons and ocean swims. The starting gun at the August City to Surf seemed to kick off events, and then it was training time for last weekend’s Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon, where Kenyan born Isaac Serem was the first to cross the finish line in 2h 29m 30s. Now it’s all triathlons, half-marathons and fun runs up until the Bondi to Bronte ocean swim on December 5, and then begin the Christmas charity walks and social sporting events!

I make myself starving just thinking about it!

Admittedly I haven’t participated in any said athletic challenges, but I often find myself at the finish line to celebrate my friends’ achievements with a beer and a steak sandwich! Running may not be my thing but food and how it affects our training is right up my alley! So my involvement in getting our nation fighting fit will be from the sidelines and in the kitchen…if you’re in training this post is for you!


Hydration is the key to athletic performance, losing just two per cent of your body fluids during racing can lead to dehydration, which decreases physical and mental performance and you’ll feel like you’re working twice as hard. Even if you stop reading now and just follow this one piece of advice, you will have achieved the most beneficial effect of any single nutritional intervention.

A rough guide for hydration:

  • Drink 150-300ml every 15-20 minutes of high intensity exercise
  • Take breaks during long races to rehydrate, you will not be wasting your time
  • Drink up before: you know you’re well hydrated when your urine runs pale to clear 30 minutes before the race
  • Drinking sports drinks for races longer than 10-15 km is beneficial to rebalance the fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates in your system. (Running for under 10 km doesn’t require this and if you’re training for weight loss watch the carbohydrate and sugar count in these drinks) – Coconut water is also the best natural source of electrolytes, calcium, potassium and magnesium…plus eating a bit of the flesh will replenish your body with vital healthy fats


As for your pre-race week the new train of thought (no pun intended!) is to eat slightly fewer carbs than normal 4-7 days before the race and then eat normally + a little extra starch for the last 4 days while gently decreasing your running mileage to rest the body.

More in-depth information about the ratio of carbs to fat to protein can be read here


The night before a 10 to 15+ km race it is recommended to eat a low-fat, carbohydrate rich meal and again at least 2-3 hours prior to the start. This is what we call carbohydrate loading and ensures your muscles have enough glycogen (energy reserves) to get you to the finish line.

Spinach, mushroom and pine nut baked risotto

Serves 2

Preheat oven to 180C. Heat a non-stick frypan over low heat and gently roast 2 tbs pinenuts for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Increase heat to medium add 2 tsp olive oil. Add 1 small onion (finely diced), 1 garlic clove (crushed), and 10 medium field mushrooms (sliced). Cook for 4 minutes or until lightly golden.

Place 2/3 cup arborio rice, 1 ¾ cup chicken stock, and mushroom mixture into a baking dish and stir to combine. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until most of the stock has been absorbed.

Add 1 cup baby spinach leaves, freshly ground pepper and half the pinenuts, stir gently to combine. Divide risotto between two plates and sprinkle with reduced-fat fetta and remaining pine nuts.

(Note: You could turn this into a chicken risotto by cutting 4 thigh fillets into large chunks and half cooking in the frypan after the pinenuts. Set aside and return to dish at step 3 with the rice, stock, mushrooms etc).

Brown fried rice

Serves 2

For the best fried rice I like to cook the rice the night before and leave it in the fridge. This dries it out a bit and stops the dish going soggy when you add sauces.

Heat 1/2 tsp rice bran oil or vegetable oil in a non-stick wok. Pour in 2 eggs (lightly beaten) and cook for one-minute, swirling gently. When egg is almost cooked take the wok off the heat and slide omelette out. Roll the egg up and slice into rounds.

Return wok to heat, add 1 tsp oil and saute 1 garlic clove (crushed), 2 tsp ginger (finely chopped), and 1 small onion (diced).

Add 2 tsp Shaosing (Chinese cooking wine) and 60g lean smoked ham, bacon or pancetta (sliced). Stirfry for 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup cooked brown rice, stir to combine. Add 2 tbs light soy sauce2 sliced spring onions and 100g green beans, green capsicum (sliced) or frozen peas. Add egg and stirfry until heated through.

Divide between two warmed bowls. Serve with lime wedges.


Get off to a good start with an energising breakfast. Bananas are carb-dense, easily digestible and a great source of potassium – awesome pre-race food!

Wholemeal crumpets with grilled banana and honey

Serves 1

Spray/brush a non-stick frypan with olive oil and set over medium-heat. Slice 1 medium banana in half lengthways and cook it two minutes each side or until golden.

Meanwhile, toast 2 wholemeal crumpets until browned to your liking.

Top crumpets with banana, 60g reduced fat ricotta and 2 tsp honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.

Why don’t you complement your breakfast with an energy smoothie?! Always have your favourite fruits chopped and frozen in the freezer to make it nice and thick without icecream!

(recipes and images courtesy of Fitness First Online)



Take the time to stretch.

Refuel with a protein based meal.

Crack open a beer! Well done!

Read an interview with a racing cyclist/chef here for the low down from the kitchen and the track.


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