Eating to Train or Training to Eat?

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Eating While Training

Eating to Train or Training to Eat?

It’s no secret that I’m getting ready for my 9th TCS NYC Marathon — and eating is a huge part of my preparation.

If you’re like me, you can get obsessive about caloric intake and weight while training for a big event. I try not to obsess over my weight too much and focus more on the consistency of my training. That said, if I’m running 60 miles a week, I’m going to be hungry enough to eat everything in sight so I need to be conscious of what I’m eating, how much of it I’m eating and when I’m eating it.

I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to keep a food diary and try to gain an understanding of where my calories are coming from (and if I were to be 100% honest, how many I’m consumer per day).

But I rather than rely on the site to tell me how many calories I need to consume in order to maintain my weight and not over, or under eat, I wanted to talk to a real live person. And not just any person, but someone who’s studied this and has a very specific understanding of nutrition.

I’m lucky enough that an old friend of mine, Rebecca Blake is a registered dietitian and administrative director for medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC, so I had a quick conversation about it with her last week.

According to Becks, if I’m running 60 miles a week, I’m burning an average of an extra 800-900 calories per day (on top of the 2,200 to 2,500 we NYers burn on a normal day). So, in order to maintain my current weight, I need to consume about 3,000 calories per day (taking into consideration my age and activity level and I’m sure a bunch of other things that she didn’t tell me because I wouldn’t understand). This is perfect as I’ve been eating around 2,800 calories each day according to my diary (which is clearly off since I’m not losing weight – but I’m not gaining weight either!).

I’ve been thinking about dropping another 4-5 lbs before race day and if I was serious about it I would pay closer attention, but after speaking with Becks, I got to thinking, is that much weight going to make any difference on a 160 pound frame? I’m thinking not.

Eating the Week Leading to the Race

Eating to Train or Training to Eat? Tapering means I’m going from an average of 60 miles a week to less than 30 a week for the last two.

The dramatic change in mileage means I can no longer eat everything in sight lest I blow up 10 lbs. before I hit the start line. I’ll need to drop about 500 calories a day from my diet and increase my carbohydrate intake at the same time.

One of the biggest mistakes a runner can make is the myth of the carbo load. Almost everyone I speak with thinks that eating one huge pasta meal the night before the big event is the right way to load up your glycogen stores (which in turn helps to keep The Wall at bay).

What I do is add ~20% more carbs per day every day for the week leading up to the race. In practical terms this means I’m eating a grain-based cereal for breakfast (rather than just fruit), sandwich for lunch (rather than salad) and some sort of lean protein and rice for dinner (rather than everything in the fridge). I’ll snack on apples and salty nuts throughout the day if and when I get hungry. The nuts help build up salt (an essential electrolyte) and will help keep me evenly hydrated through the day and on race day.


Eating to Train or Training to Eat?Speaking of hydrating, I’ve almost doubled my water intake. I’m at the point where I’m thinking about just setting up shop in the bathroom since that’s pretty much where I spend most of my time anyway. The payoff will be on race day when I can hit every other water station and not worry too much about dehydration.

And since I’m increasing my electrolyte intake, it’s the perfect excuse to drop a few Nuun Watermelon flavored tablets into my water a few times a day. I’m not a huge fan of sports drinks (I think they have way too much sugar).

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