The effects of dietary factors such as carbohydrate (CHO) on endurance-running performance have been extensively studied under laboratory-based and simulated field conditions. Evidence from “reallife” events, however, is poorly characterized. The purpose of this observational study was to examine the associations between prerace and in-race nutrition tendencies and performance in a sample of novice marathoners.
Forty-six college students (36 women and 10 men) age 21.3 ± 3.3 yr recorded diet for 3 d before, the morning of, and during a 26.2-mile marathon. Anthropometric, physiological, and performance measurements were assessed before the marathon so the associations between diet and marathon time could be included as part of a stepwise-regression model.
Mean marathon time was 266 ± 42 min. A premarathon 2-mile time trial explained 73% of the variability in marathon time (adjusted R2 = .73, p < .001). Day-before + morning-of CHO (DBMC) was the only other significant predictor of marathon time, explaining an additional 4% of the variability in marathon time (adjusted R2 = .77, p = .006). Other factors such as age, body-mass index, gender, day-before + morning-of energy, and in-race CHO were not significant independent predictors of marathon time.
In this sample of primarily novice marathoners, DBMC intake was associated with faster marathon time, independent of other known predictors. These results suggest that novice and recreational marathoners should consider consuming a moderate to high amount of CHO in the 24–36 hr before a marathon.
The authors are with the School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.