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5 (Must Do) Tips to Prepare for the London Marathon

Posted by | Fitness, Sport Nutrition | 3 Comments



With the 34th Virgin Money London Marathon kicking off this Sunday (13th April 2014), there is an incredible buzz in the capital! Over 36,000 runners have signed up to take on this amazing challenge; having put in the miles week in, week out, the days ahead is their time to relax and recover. However, if you are running the Marathon or know somebody that is, there are some important considerations to make to fully prepare for the 26.2 miles this Sunday morning.

Here are my top 5 things to tick off the ‘to do list’….

1. Get your Head Down

With just 6 days to go, you may have scaled down your training hours, this combined with a common case of pre-race nerves; has started to impact your usual (habitual) nights sleep. Poor sleep has been shown to alter ‘perceived effort’ during endurance exercise, which means if you’re not able to get your usual zzzz’s in the week leading up to the Marathon; the race may feel (even) harder to run than normal! Of course, I would recommend the usual sleep enhancing rituals before bed; turn off electronics (at least 2 hours) before, optimise room temperature and take time to relax.
TIP: Adjust your normal bedtime hours early this week, so that you are going to bed at the same time you plan to on Saturday evening, allowing a full nights sleep, prior to, an earlier than normal start on Sunday. Adjusting bedtime hours now will reset your body clock, increasing the likelihood of a much needed deep sleep before the race.

2. Stay well Hydrated

Dehydration is cumulative, which means if you start the week dehydrated and fail to drink enough to adequately hydrate; you may end up starting the race in a performance compromising state. It’s therefore, important to ensure you drink well all week. The easiest way to do this is to drink regularly throughout the day, particularly with meals (the natural salts within your food, further enhance hydration). You don’t need to go crazy on the fluids, just enough to ensure that you are peeing regularly and that your urine is a pale straw colour.
TIP: With that said you might want to stop drinking larger volumes the closer you get to bedtime, as needing the loo during the night is certain to scupper your perfectly implemented sleep prep!

2. To Load or not to Load

The carb loading strategy has changed considerably over the years, with research suggesting a less aggressive, non-depleting and more realistic approach is sufficient to saturate muscle glycogen stores (the energy we store in our muscles from carbs). With the aim of going from 5-7g carbs per kg of body weight per day to 8-10g, two-three days before the Marathon. Your plan should look a little like this….

Monday – Training day -eat and drink normally (i.e. High fibre carb based meals and snacks, with lean protein and lots of veg’)
Tuesday – Same as Monday – with slight taper in training
Wednesday – Same as Monday – with slight taper in training
Thursday – Rest day – Start to adjust the proportions of protein (meat/fish) and carbs (pasta, rice, potato) at meals, so that you are slightly increasing your carb serving whilst at the same time decreasing your protein serving (maintain a large serving of veg’ as usual)
Friday – Light training day – Repeat Thursday’s serving sizes.
Saturday – Rest day – Repeat Thursday’s serving sizes.
Sunday – The Marathon-  Large carb based breakfast about 3-4 hours prior.

The aim here is to eat more calories from carbohydrate not more total calories! This is why I recommend reducing serving sizes from protein such as meat and fish to counteract the extra calories from bigger servings of carbs. Eating regular meals and snacks based on wholegrain carbs (sweet/old/new potato, brown pasta, basmati rice, cous cous, wholegrain bread, oats and muesli) are perfect!
TIP: If you are struggling with your appetite, then you can always add honey and dried fruit to your cereal and yoghurts or drink extra carbs by replacing some of your daily fluid intake with low fat milk and/or fresh fruit juice.

3. Bland isn’t boring, it’s reassuring!

The last thing you need on race day is a dodgy tum! Stick to foods you know, like and tolerate. Friday and Saturday are not the best days to try the new local Indian restaurant and while the local Italian might offer a reliable serving of pasta to help satisfy your of carbs, steer clear of chilies and spice. In fact, I would highly recommend cooking at home where you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that you are eating a well planned meal with all the ingredients you need, minus the ones you don’t.
Tip: If you are susceptible to runners tum (diarrhoea and cramping) before and during your event, swap your wholegrain carbs sources with white refined options from the Friday. Reducing the fibre in your diet could help to ‘slow things down’ a little and reduce the symptoms you commonly experience.

5. Plan Race Day Nutrition

You’ve done all you can to ensure you are ready; you’ve slept well, maintained hydration, you’ve saturated your glycogen stores and avoided foods that may cause you tummy upset. Don’t fall at the last hurdle; plan your race day nutrition! Plan to: -

  • Consume your breakfast 3-4 hours prior to the race (~6am), it should provide you between of carbohydrates, either wholegrain or refined options (depending on your usual gut symptoms).
  • Carbs in Pictures, 160g breakfast ( for an 80 kg man, might look a little like but like this (all of it)….
55g Oats, 150mls SS milk, 1 tbsp of raisins & 1 tbsp of honey

55g Oats, 150mls SS milk, 1 tbsp of raisins & 1 tbsp of honey


2 x thick slices of toast with strawberry jam

2 x thick slices of toast with strawberry jam

200 mls Fresh Orange Juice

200 mls Fresh Orange Juice

Check the scheduled Marathon fluid and fuel stops (pages 16-17 of your Final Race Instructions), cross-reference this with your planned fluid intake (adjustable depending on the weather) as well as your carb intake throughout. The race organisers are offering Lucozade Sport drinks and gels throughout. If you plan to use another brand of products (preferably a range you have used during training), then think bout how you’ll carry them and when you will take them. Ideally, you will have measured your fluid needs and practiced your fuelling strategy within training, however if you haven’t the general recommendations are as follows;

  • Aim to drink ~ 4-800 mls of fluid/hour (gradually) during the race, most of your drinks should contain electrolytes (sodium), to replace those lost in sweat.  Check your sports drink contains sodium (ideally > 0.5 g/litre).
  • Aim to consume 30-90g of glucose/fructose containing drinks or gels gradually, every hour, after the first hour.

Tip: Do not try anything new on race day! If you haven’t tried out any particular sports nutrition drinks or gels, try them now. It won’t be the same as race day (as you won’t have trialled them during a long training session) but at least you’ll know you like it!

As with all big sporting events, its vital that the final days are well planned.  The Virgin Money London Marathon is no exception and with many participants running 26,2 miles for the first time, the smallest of details could have the biggest impact on their performance. After months of blood, sweat and tears, these extra considerations should if nothing else help runners to feel prepared, in control and ready to smash it on the day!

I’ll be cheering you all on from the busy, spectator lined streets of London! I’d love to hear how you are getting on, with your marathon planning in the comments section below?





Burke, L. Nutrition strategies for the marathon : fuel for training and racing. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) 37, 344–7 (2007).

Burke, L., Hawley, J., Wong, S. & Jeukendrup, A. Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of sports sciences 29 Suppl 1, S17–27 (2011).

Noakes, T. Fluid replacement during marathon running. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine 13, 309–18 (2003).

Oliver, S., Costa, R., Laing, S., Bilzon, J. & Walsh, N. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. European journal of applied physiology 107, 155–61 (2009).

Stellingwerff, T. Case study: nutrition and training periodization in three elite marathon runners. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 22, 392–400 (2012).


Rugby – Big Hits and Tackles; Recovery Nutrition is Key

Posted by | Fitness, Recovery, Rugby, Sport Nutrition | 2 Comments

Getting your recovery nutrition right within rugby is a key factor in ensuring players are ready to train and/or play well in the days following an intense session. Read on to find out why recovery is so important, why it is often overlooked and how you can easily implement recovery nutrition strategies into your routine.

Whether its recovery from the last training session or a number of strong tackles on the field, consuming the right nutrients can help enhance overall performance, by improving adaptation; the body’s response to exercise ‘stress’, whilst also reducing the likelihood or extent of muscle soreness and fatigue experienced.

Since rugby is an impact sport, players often carry multiple injuries throughout the season thus making tissue repair and full body recovery even more important to the ongoing development of a player.

Yet, within all levels of Rugby Union it’s the one area that’s often overlooked. Whether it’s due to:

  • A lack of nutrition knowledge – are fresh orange wedges still given to players after a game? I’m aware of a team that have are given doughnuts post match!
  • Poor preparation – there is so much for players to think about before a big game, the last thing on their minds are postgame nutrition strategies.
  • Accessibility – elite teams have the luxury of support staff that offer them protein containing shakes, snacks and fluid after the game.  Followed up by a hearty meal in the player’s canteen.  However players in lower leagues need to cater for their own recovery needs.
  • Conflicts between recovery strategies – such as ice baths or massage, elite teams need to ensure a seamless routine post match to ensure players include recovery nutrition within the full recovery plan.
  • Cultural habits – Many players enjoy celebrating/commiserating with fans in the clubhouse after a game over a few pints.  This isn’t the best plan for recovery since excessive alcohol intake can have a negative impact on a players sleep and resultant nutritional intake in the days following, but can also ‘blunt’ muscle protein synthesis and therefore adaptation, as recent research has shown.
  • A lack of appetite – In my experience, many players report a lack of appetite or feeling nauseous after a match, a ‘lighter’ food/drink alternative for these players is a way of satisfying recovery needs without causing digestive discomfort.

Whatever the reason, one way to directly improve a player’s performance and game form is to ‘be prepared’ and practice effective recovery nutrition after each training session and game. 

Rehydration ‘Advantage’

Research has demonstrated that elite rugby union players often finish a match with a mean weight loss of 0.94kg this is equal to approx. 1 litre fluid loss.  To effectively rehydrate after the game, a player should drink with the aim to replace 150% of the fluid weight lost during the game.
1 kg = 1 litre
So, if you start the game weighing 100kgs and your post game weight is just 99kgs then aim to consume 1.5 litres of fluid within the hour after the match. Combine this with a sodium containing snack or as a commercially available sports drink (check that it contains electrolytes) to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat further supporting rehydration.

Reduce ‘Breakdown’ with Protein

Muscle tissue damage occurs during a game of rugby following, since muscle is made up of protein it makes sense that a high quality complete source of protein is consumed afterwards.  Rugby players have higher (than average) protein requirements, owing to their heavier mass and hypertrophy (muscle building) goals.  However, the optimal amount of protein required post match to satisfy recovery and stimulate muscle protein synthesis is about 20-25g.  A complete protein source is one that’s higher in the essential amino acids (the amino acids the body cannot make, thus is required from diet), one of the branched chain amino acids considered particularly important for muscle recovery is Leucine.  In this instance and in my experience, dairy foods and drinks provide the easiest, most accessible and palatable source of complete protein to satisfy a players recovery needs post game.

‘Use it or Lose it’ – Replenish with Carbs

A full game of rugby may not completely deplete a player’s glycogen stores (muscles energy stores).  However this will vary from player to player, depending on playing duration, effort level, as well as individual glycogen stores level at the start of the game.  Plus the added muscle damage caused by impact, and the isometric contraction in the scrum may increase a players need for a carb recovery source.  Players should consider consuming carbs very soon after a match to help optimise glycogen replenishment, in preparation for their next training session or game.

‘SCRUM’ptious Recovery Options

Post-match options need to be affordable, accessible, convenient and palatable for players to consume and coaching staff to provide.  Here are a few suitable suggestions:

Keeping it ‘Real’

  1. A pint of milk and a slice of malt loaf
    Provides:  444 calories, 67g carbs, 25g protein, 11.1g fat, 523 mls fluid, and 400 mg sodium/1g salt
  2. A large flask of homemade chicken and sweet potato soup, see our recipe here
    750ml serving provides: 353 calories, 51g carbs, 33g protein, 3.4g fat, 650 mls fluid and 974 mg sodium/2.4g salt


Homemade chicken soup

Homemade soup, perfect following a cold and wet rugby match!

Convenience at a Price

Maxinutrition’s – Protein milk
330mls Provides: 193 calories, 16.5g carbs, 30g protein, 0.7g fat, 277 mls fluid, 231 mg sodium/0.6g salt

MyProtein’s – One Promilk
330mls Provides: 251 calories, 19.5g carbs,3 8g protein, 2.3g fat, 277 mls fluid, 208 mg sodium/0.5g sodium

Kinetica – 100% Recovery
75g serving Provides: 267 calories, 41.3g carbs, 24.8g protein, 400mls fluid, 0.3g fat, 40 mg sodium/0.1g salt (you could add a small pinch of salt to this to increase sodium content)


Recovery banana shake

Homemade high protein banana shake


  • Banana ‘Blitz Defence’ shake – recipe available here 
    550ml serving provides: 345 calories, 39g carbs, 20g protein, 13.3g fat, 476 mls fluid, 397 mg sodium/1g salt
    Ingredients can be easily blended with a hand blender in a jug the morning before the game.  Store in a shaker (without the gauze) and in a cool bag for after the game.

Take Home Message

Whether you are a rugby coach or player, encouraging your team to practice effective recovery nutrition strategies is easier than you think. Just by being prepared and choosing the option that’s affordable and convenient to you means that you are ensuring optimal recovery, adaptation, reduced soreness and ultimately readiness to play.



AIS Sports Nutrition (January 2014), Rugby Union. Australian Sports Commission.  Retrieved from:

Burke, L., Kiens, B. & Ivy, J. Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal of sports sciences 22, 15–30 (2004).

Churchward-Venne, T. et al. Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men: a double-blind, randomized trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition 99, 276–86 (2014).

Fahey, T.D and Chico, C.A (1998). Adaptation to exercise: progressive resistance exercise. In: Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, T.D. Fahey (Editor). Internet Scociety for Sport Science: http// 7 March 1998

Meir, R. & Halliday, A. Pre- and post-game body mass changes during an international rugby tournament: a practical perspective. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association 19, 713–6 (2005).

Moore, D. et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. The American journal of clinical nutrition 89, 161–8 (2009).

Parr EB, Camera DM, Areta JL, Burke LM, Phillips SM, et al. (2014) Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88384. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088384

Prentice, C., Stannard, S. & Barnes, M. The effects of binge drinking behaviour on recovery and performance after a rugby match. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia 17, 244–8 (2014).

Stensel, D. Exercise, appetite and appetite-regulating hormones: implications for food intake and weight control.Annals of nutrition & metabolism 57 Suppl 2, 36–42 (2010)

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