8 Last-Minute Nutrition Tips for the Boston Marathon

7. Eat the morning of the marathon.

You'll need this fuel to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Although your muscles are well-stocked from the foods you've eaten the past few days, your brain gets fuel only from the limited amount of sugar in your blood. When you nervously toss and turn the night before the event, you can deplete your blood sugar and, unless you eat carbs, you will start the event with low blood sugar. Your performance will go downhill from there.

Plan to replace the energy lost during the (sleepless) night with an early breakfast, as well as a pre-marathon snack around 9 a.m., as tolerated. You'll have time to digest this food before the 10 to 10:40 a.m. Boston Marathon start. This fuel will help you avoid hitting the wall.

Stick with tried-and-true pre-exercise foods: oatmeal, cereal, bagel, toast, banana, energy bars and/or juice. These carb-based foods invest in fueling the brain, as well as staving off hunger. If a pre-event breakfast will likely upset your system, eat extra food the night before. That is, eat your breakfast at 10 p.m. before you go to bed.

8. Consume carbs during the event.

During the marathon, you'll have greater stamina if you consume not only water, but also some carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, gels, bananas or dried fruit. Depending on your body size and how hard you exercise, you should target about 150 to 350 calories/hour after the first hour to avoid hitting the wall. For example, that's 24 oz. sports drink/hour.)

The slower you run, the more you need to fuel yourself during the event. Some athletes boost their energy intake by drinking diluted juices or defizzed cola; others suck on gummi candies, mints, chomps, gels, or eat chunks of energy bar, dried pineapple, and other easily chewed and digested foods along the way. Your muscles welcome this food; it gets digested and used for fuel during the event. And hopefully, you will have experimented during training to learn what settles best.

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Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual and competitive athletes at her private practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners, and Cyclist's Food Guide and  are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. Also see www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com for information about her online workshop.

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