Fox News—October 11, 2013
As runners prepare to conquer 26.2 miles at the Chicago Marathon this Sunday, one of the most crucial elements contributing to whether or not they reach the finish line will be how they fuel themselves before and during the event.
“I’ll tell you, we’ve done a lot in the past number of years to make marathon running more pleasant,” Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, told Foxnews.com. “And a big part of that has to do with nutrition and learning the importance of fueling.”
Metzl, who will compete in his 31st marathon in New York City on November 3rd, says one of the keys to making it through a race is to start fueling properly the week before the event.
In a tradition many runners are fond of, Metzl advises participants to start ‘carbo-loading’ – increasing their carbohydrate intake by 15 to 20 percent – days before their competition. Carbohydrates are stored in the body's muscles as glycogen – a source of energy – and many believe that increasing glycogen stores pre-race can help ensure runner's have enough energy to finish their event.
Beyond filling up on pasta and bread, Metzl also said that athletes should increase their salt intake and concentrate on hydrating prior to their event, in order to prevent injuries and muscle cramps.
And fueling is just as important during the race.
“People used to not take anything, but now we have a lot of options including gel packs, Gus, and ways to ingest electrolytes and carbs together,” Metzl said. “Make sure you try different stuff beforehand, so you’re not doing it just on race day. Then, I have people take it every 45 minutes to an hour; that will help you keep your blood sugar levels up in the workable range during the race.”
Furthermore, hydrating with either a sports drink or good old fashioned water is essential. According to Metzl, when muscles get dehydrated, they can strain or tear, which could make reaching the finish line painful or close to impossible.
“You can do water for the first half, sports drink for the second,” Metzl said. “If you’re someone who loses a lot of salt when you sweat, or if it’s a hot day, you should probably be doing sports drinks the whole time.”
This story originally appeared on foxnews.com.