Contemporary Nutrition Approaches to Optimize Elite Marathon Performance

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Trent Stellingwerff
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The professionalization of any sport must include an appreciation for how and where nutrition can positively affect training adaptation and/or competition performance. Furthermore, there is an ever-increasing importance of nutrition in sports that feature very high training volumes and are of a long enough duration that both glycogen and fluid balance can limit performance. Indeed, modern marathon training programs and racing satisfy these criteria and are uniquely suited to benefit from nutritional interventions. Given that muscle glycogen is limiting during a 2-h marathon, optimizing carbohydrate (CHO) intake and delivery is of maximal importance. Furthermore, the last 60 y of marathon performance have seen lighter and smaller marathoners, which enhances running economy and heat dissipation and increases CHO delivery per kg body mass. Finally, periodically training under conditions of low CHO availability (eg, low muscle glycogen) or periods of mild fluid restriction may actually further enhance the adaptive responses to training. Accordingly, this commentary highlights these key nutrition and hydration interventions that have emerged over the last several years and explores how they may assist in world-class marathon performance.

The author is with the Canadian Sport Institute–Pacific, Victoria, BC, Canada.

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