With the Chevron Houston Marathon 10 days away, novice to elite marathoners are in the final days of training and preparation. An experienced Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital nutritionist and author is encouraging those in training to take nutrition seriously.


"Based on years of study, we know nutrition should take center stage for these athletes,” said Monica Bearden, RD, LD, CSSD, director of sports nutrition, Human Performance Team. “Months of training without proper nutrition can cause even a seasoned marathoner to fall short.”


A study from 2005-2016 on 400,000 marathoners from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon shows that just under 10 percent of runners “bonk” or “hit the wall,” a sudden feeling of fatigue and loss of energy, before finishing.


“By now you know which foods work and don’t work for you. This is the time to stick with the foods, beverages, and supplements you know work well with your digestive system,” Bearden said. “This is not the time to try anything new. Leave that for your training prior to your next marathon."


In an effort to help marathoners reach their personal best, Bearden provides practical advice that all levels of runners can use.

  1. It is all about the carbohydrates – Carb loading along with tapered training will ensure your muscles have all the stored carbs (glycogen) needed to finish the race. Starting strong is important, but so is finishing. It’s the carbs that get you there. The recommended amount of carbs is 10-12g per kg body weight. While carb loading, you may gain some weight since stored carbs are stored with water. It is a sign that you are increasing your muscle glycogen.
    Example carb amount: 150 lb. athlete = 150lb/2.2kg = 68kg * 10g carbs = 680 g carbs/day
  2. How many carbs? – For the 150 lb. athlete, 680 g carbs a day the week you taper your training is ideal. You could distribute the carbs into approximately three 200 g carb (and 15-25 g protein) meals and two 30 g carb snacks. The meal below is low fiber and low acid for easy digestion. Remember to only eat the foods that you know work well with your digestive system. If this is too much food, then try and double your typical carbohydrate portions, so if you typically eat ½ cup pasta, try and eat 1 cup.
    Example 200 g carb meal: 10 starches and 3 fruits - 1 cup pasta, 1 large sweet potato, 2 rolls, 1 ½ oz. pretzels, 1 medium banana, 1 medium apple and 3 ounces ground turkey (21 g protein)
  3. Know your hydration strategy – While training, weigh yourself before and after and subtract amount of fluid consumed during training. The amount of weight lost is fluid weight. Rehydrate with 16-24 oz. of fluid per pound lost and keep your urine a light yellow color.
    Example hydration recovery and sweat rate: 150 lb. athlete loses 2 pounds (32 oz.) and drinks 32 oz. Gatorade during 2 hour training. 1.) He needs to drink 32-48 oz. fluid over the next 6 hours to regain lost weight. 2.) His sweat rate = 32 oz. (2 lbs.) body weight + 32 oz. Gatorade = 64 oz./2 hrs. training = 32 oz./hr., so to stay hydrated he needs to drink about 8 oz. every 15 minutes of the race
    Knowing your typical fluid loss per hour will help you take in the right amount of fluid during the race – under and over-hydrating can negatively impact performance.
  4. The night before the race eat early and eat easy to digest carbs that work well with your digestive system. The example meal above could be a night-before-the-race meal. Also, make sure your urine color is a light yellow color.
  5. Day of the race – Prior to the race, eat only foods and supplements that you know you can stomach prior to exercise. This is not the time to be adventurous. Easy to digest, fast-acting carbs that you trained with are the best – think white and refined. Also, make sure to take in 30-60 g of carbs each hour of the race. This can be a combination of solid and liquid sources of carbs.


For a customized and detailed menu plan, call 281.737.0466 to schedule an appointment with Monica Bearden at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at Willowbrook.




About Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

Utilizing the latest research and state-of-the-art technology, Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine has become the leader in orthopedic care in northwest Houston. Setting new standards and raising the bar in quality of care, an elite group of orthopedic surgeons with subspecialties in foot and ankle, hand and wrist, hip and spine and sports medicine collaborate with primary care sports medicine physicians and rehabilitation therapists to offer patients of all ages the least invasive, advanced treatment options available.


About Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital is a 312-bed, not-for-profit, faith-based hospital, which is part of Houston Methodist. The hospital has expanded in Northwest Houston to serve the comprehensive health care needs of the growing community.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has been named a Magnet recognized health care facility by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program®.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook is ranked No. 5 in the Houston metro area and No. 12 in Texas by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” in 2017.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital is a regional referral center specializing in cardiology and cardiovascular services, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, and comprehensive cancer services. Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has a Breast Care Center, Cancer Center, Imaging Center, Infusion Center Sleep Center, Surgical Weight Loss Center, and operates the largest Birthing Care Center in the Greater Northwest Houston area.

For more information on the comprehensive services available on the Houston Methodist Willowbrook campus and to learn about upcoming events, please visit houstonmethodist.org/willowbrook. To find a physician, call 281.737.2500.