I’m crapping myself about tomorrow’s marathon. It’s ‘the wall’ that’s worrying me; that dreaded moment when your muscles finish off the last of their fuel and your legs turn to jelly, stopping you dead in your tracks. I don’t want to end up like this pair.
You can avoid this horrible fate by loading up on carbs in the days leading up to the big one. “Carb loading is ‘a thing’ because it’s the most efficient way of topping up your stores of glycogen, the fuel the muscles use when exercising,” says Alexa Briggs at On The Run Health & Fitness.
“Research has shown people on a high carb diet store up to seven times as much glycogen in their liver, blood and muscles as those on a medium carb diet. So it’s there ready to use when you start exercising.”
Trouble is, I’m off the carbs. A low carb diet helps me keep on top of my type one diabetes; it means my blood sugar level is less prone to plummeting during longer runs. Running long distances on few carbs has involved a lot of trial and error. I’ve hit the wall; I’ve also finished three and a half hour outings feeling as fresh as a daisy.
I’m no dietician (see the disclaimer below) but the past year of training has given me a fair idea of what foods can keep me fuelled for longer without causing my blood sugar level to spike and then crash. Here’s my pick of five dishes for low carb marathoners. Dig in…
Peppered mackerel, eggs & avocado
I’m an avocado addict. I eat at least one every day. They’re packed with potassium and, being more than three quarters monounsaturated fat, help keep my body in ketosis (the process by which the body burns fat rather than glycogen for energy) and counteract all those pork scratchings. Combined with the peppered mackerel, another source of ‘good’ fat and anti-inflammatory compounds, they’re delicious. Eggs are a great source of protein. There’s just one downside: fishy burps.
Granola, Greek yoghurt & berries
I use my homemade Nut Job granola for this one. Packed with hazelnuts, coconut, walnuts and almonds, it’s nuttier than a squirrel’s turd, full of b vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium. The Greek yoghurt packs plenty of protein, vitamin b12, calcium and potassium. Mixed with the berries (this is low carb, not no carb), some off the lowest sugar fruits there are, this is a thick, creamy, crunchy start to the day.
Brussel sprouts, Brazil nut & bacon omelette
Some might say it’s anti social eating brussel sprouts before a marathon – no one wants to be running behind someone with sprouty flatulence for 26 miles. Sprouts are little green bombs loaded with vitamins c, k, b1 and b6 and omega 3 fatty acids, among a host of other goodies. The brazils are rich in selenium and provide a delicious crunch to the omelette. I fry the bacon until it goes really crispy before putting the steamed and seasoned sprouts in. Four eggs usually sees me through my long runs.
Surf & turf with rocket salad
I need no excuse for eating this. It’s food of the gods. I use a nice, well marbled rib eye steak and the juiciest, plumpest king prawns I can get my hands on. Marinade the steak in olive oil and pepper before frying. Give the rocket a good slug of olive oil too. I suppose I should be eating all this protein after the race to help repair my muscles, but I’m having it tonight. In the past its proved the perfect pre long run feast. I can’t wait!
Bacon, mushroom & cheese omelette
It was this little beauty that kept me bounding up and down the hills of Dorset on my final long run before the big one. I used four eggs, some MASSIVE field mushrooms and a lot of cheddar on top. Kept me full and feeling strong for the whole run – and, crucially, my blood sugar only needed topping up with gels twice. Think I might opt for five eggs if I go for this one tomorrow morning…
Disclaimer: I have no medical training. I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, a physio or a sports therapist; I doubt they’d even give me job handing out oranges at half time of a football match. I am just a type-one diabetic and former fat bloke with a stupid idea. This blog is my account of following that idea to its conclusion. Do not attempt anything similar without seeking prior medical (and psychiatric) advice.