Fueling up for the New York Marathon

In Blog by Frances Largeman Roth

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer! As we enjoy the last few sweet weeks of summer, I wanted to update you on a project that’s really special to me.

I’m working with the Seleni Institute to help get their 2013 ING New York City Marathon team fueled up and ready for the race this November. Team Seleni is helping to raise $25,000 for the Institute, which is a nonprofit that was founded to help provide women with comprehensive, evidence-based reproductive and mental health care.

I’ll be providing the team with tips on fueling up for long runs, what to eat to recover, and how to stay hydrated along the way. And I’ll be working in tandem with fitness expert Joanna Paterson, my partner in Fuel for Fitness. Needless to say, I’m excited to be part of the team!

Whether you’re training for a marathon, a 5K, or simply staying fit like most of us, it’s vital to go into your workouts with enough fuel to get you through. And it’s equally important to refuel afterwards for proper muscle repair and recovery.

Use these tips for your next workout and you’ll start to see the difference in what you’re getting out of your training sessions.

Eat an hour before your run/workout:  So if you’re heading out at 7 a.m., fuel up at 6 a.m. Of course, when time is tight, you may not have the luxury of eating that far in advance. In that case, a good old banana is the best thing you can munch on. It’s easy to digest, portable, requires no utensils, and you can down it quickly. I always have a bunch sitting in a bowl by my front door so they’re easy to grab.

The ideal mix for a pre-workout snack/meal is a mix of carbohydrates with a bit of protein and healthy fat, totaling no more than 200 calories. And the food should be easy to digest and not something you’ll be burping up 20 minutes into your run.

Here are some ideas:

  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt, with 1 teaspoon honey and 2 tablespoons muesli.
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup cubed cantaloupe and 2 tablespoons of low-fat granola. Swap out the cantaloupe for an equal portion of watermelon in the summer and diced apple or pear in the winter.
  • 1 frozen waffle, toasted, topped with 1 tablespoon of natural almond or peanut butter and 1/2 banana, sliced.

(For a gluten-free option, use 2 brown rice cakes instead of the English muffin.)

For runs or workouts that are longer than an hour, you’ll want to experiment with bars, gels or blocks and see what works best for you.


Eat within two hours of your workout for muscle recovery. The faster you can take in carbohydrates after a workout—ideally within 15 to 20 minutes—the more quickly you’ll be able to replenish muscle glycogen (stored energy), which is the fuel your body uses during exercise.

The components of a post-workout meal or snack vs. pre-workout food are similar: You want a mix of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, but since you’ll have more time to digest the food, you can be a bit more adventurous and can go heavier on the protein. Also, intense exercise creates oxidative damage to your cells, so I like to include an antioxidant-rich food in my post-workout mix to help combat the added stress on my body.

In terms of calories, if you’re just grabbing a quick recovery snack before another meal, stick to 200 to 250 calories. But if you can actually sit down and take a bit of time to refuel, you may want to take in up to 400 calories.

If your goal is weight loss, make sure that your total calorie intake per day is still creating enough of a deficit to shed pounds. However, skipping recovery fuel by thinking that it will help you lose weight is counterproductive— you won’t be able to build muscle, and your next workout will suffer because you haven’t replenished your stored fuel.

Here are some favorite post-workout options:

  •  1 whole-wheat English muffin, toasted, with 1/2 avocado, mashed, and a spritz of lemon juice: 250 calories.
  •  2 mini pitas and 2 eggs, scrambled, with 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan and 1 cup baby spinach: 330 calories.
  •  1 cheese stick or mini cheese round, 1 orange, and 1 energy bar or fruit and nut bar (180-200) calories: 380-400 calories.

Don’t forget to keep drinking water after your workout and throughout the rest of the day. If you’re training for a race, always make sure to test out a new fuel (bars, gels, etc.) before race day to make sure they’ll agree with your stomach.


In addition to drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, you’ll also want to take in 4 to 8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of intense exercise. On days when you’re doing a morning workout, you want to start hydrating as soon as you wake up. If you wait to drink until you’re actually exercising, there won’t be time to fully hydrate yourself. Even when it’s cold outside, it’s still crucial to drink water!

Maintaining your core body temperature is vital when you’re exercising in hot or cold weather, and it’s tougher for your body to keep your core at a constant temperature when you’re not properly hydrated.

Do you need an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink? Only if you’re exercising for more than an hour, or in hot, humid weather. Otherwise, your body will be able to replace any lost sodium and potassium through the food in your next meal.

So fuel up, drink up (water, that is) and look out for more posts about Team Seleni!

Stay healthy and happy,