TIP 1: Eating before the training

Some of you are probably feeling tired and lightheaded during the runs. The first nutrition tip will boost your trainings and delay fatigue.

Eating before the training is very important for you not feel tired and it guarantees that you benefit from the training.

If your run is in the morning:
You have to get up early enough to have a light breakfast at least 45 minutes before the run. What you ate for dinner the previous night has been already used, and your blood sugar might be low. If you don't eat, you might feel lightheaded when you exercise, especially that your runs are now are longer.

Keep the breakfast before the run a light one, focus on carbs (but not high fibers) and make it low in fat.

Some good examples are:
• A small bread sandwich with Labneh
• A small sandwich or toast with Jam
• Low-fat milk + 1 banana
• Yogurt + half a cup of fruits + honey
• Low-fat milk + half a cup of cereals
• Banana bread + honey
• 1Pancake + syrup
• Dates and dried fruits, raisins (super easy and fast to have)
*coffee and tea: 1 cup is ok before the run

If your run is in the afternoon/early evening:
You probably had a good lunch (focus on carbs, keep it low fat), but you still need to snack 1 hour before your run. Even if you are not hungry, think of it as fueling your body so it can perform better.

Some good examples are:
• 1 banana or any other fresh fruit
• One glass of yogurt
• One small glass of a fruit smoothie
• Toast with 2 spoons of jam
• Dried fruits and dates
• A small sandwich with 1 spoon peanut butter and 1 spoon of jam
• If you don’t have access to healthy snacks you can have an energy bar or a granola bar.

Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before exercise.

Three to four hours before you run, drink 2-4 cups of fluids. One hour before you workout, drink 1-2 cups of fluids (we will talk about hydration that also plays a role in delaying fatigue, in the next tip).

Dr. Lama Mattar, PhD
Nutrition Department. LAU

TIP 2: Hydration

As it has been very hot lately and your runs are becoming longer, it is very important to stay well hydrated. Water helps regulate your body temperature, reduces fatigue and keeps you at the best of your performance.

Keep in mind that hydration is very variable between individuals and is also affected by the pace and the air temperature.

Here are some quick tips to follow:

Hydration before exercise:
You can drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water during the 2 hours before your run. For those training in the morning please drink as soon as you wake up, because you are already dehydrated during sleep.

Hydration during exercise:
If your run is less than 1 hour, drink about 1/2 a cup to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your run, which is equivalent to 1 or 2 big sips. You may need more if your body is big or if the weather is hot. Plane water is good for exercise duration of less than an hour.  

When your runs are taking longer than 1 hour 30 minutes and you feel you are sweating, you can consider drinking sports drink. Do not abuse from sports drinks. Sports drinks can have an advantage over plane water because they give you back the “salts” you are loosing in sweating, only when it is a long workout (>1 hour). 

Hydration after exercise:
Drink a minimum of 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water after your workout.  
Do not over drink; this can cause what we call hyponatremia (low sodium in the blood).  
We will be discussing sports drinks in depth at later stages

TIP 3: Post-run Recovery

Now that your runs are becoming longer you need the proper recovery tools so you can continue the consecutive weekly trainings without injury or fatigue.

What should you eat after a run?

1-     Consuming mainly your muscle’s quick energy (glycogen) and when it is depleted you feel the fatigue.
2-    Working your muscles and therefore proteins will be needed to repair them.
3-    Sweating and loosing water.  

So after the run you need to:
1-    Replenish this used energy/Glycogen as soon as possible by eating carbohydrates [refuel with carbohydrates]
2-    Give your muscles the proteins to repair them  [rebuild with protein]
3-    Recover the water and salt lost by sweating [rehydrate with fluids]  
All this should be done as soon as you finish the run. The best is to  eat right after your run; if you cannot, you can have a small snack immediately within 30 minutes, then eat a proper full meal within the 2-3 hours after the run.  
What should the meals be composed of?  
1- Drink properly to rehydrate
2- Eat something immediately that contains mainly
carbohydrates + proteins (ratio carbs to proteins 3:1), so an after-run-snack.Examples of snacks:
- Simply a bottle of Laban Iran
- Sandwich with turkey or tuna or cheese/ Labneh
- Milkshake (or milk substitutes) (400-500 ml) with fruits and honey
- Yogurt, granola and mixed fruits
- Peanut butter on toast/rice cake with jam or a banana
- Nuts and fresh/dried fruit 
  Afterward eat a proper balanced meal within the coming 2 hours.  

· If you fail to refuel adequately, the process of recovery is hindered and you may find yourself dragging during your next runs.
· If you struggle to eat a post-run meal due to lake of time or appetite, try a fluid replacement drink that has carbs and protein like chocolate milk, a smoothie, or recovery beverage.
3-    Don’t drink alcohol (it hinders muscle building and recovery) and Sleep between 7 to 8 hours.

TIP 4: fighting fatigue: supplements or good nutrition?

Many among you are feeling very tired after their run, and are being concerned about taking supplements to help them recover or to decrease the fatigue.

Strategies that will make you feel less tired and recover faster:

1)    Hydrate! 
Dehydration is the number one cause of fatigue, cramps, dizziness and nausea especially after the run. Don’t fill your belly with water right before the run, but rather drink enough at least 2 hours before, take sips of water during the run. Your runs are becoming long on Sundays; consider sports drinks (if more than an hour). 
2)    Eat as we mentioned in previous tips, before your run. 
3)    Eat something right after your run. If you have nausea, choose a juice or a fresh smoothie that can be better tolerated compared to solid food. A good solution can be the “Laban Iran”. 
4)    GET MORE SLEEP: you might need to cut down on late night outings  

  You will be bombarded with information about various supplements that runners have to take. It is very difficult to give one advice that fits everyone, or to tell you to take or not to take a supplement as it varies widely based on what you eat, your needs, your age, gender, etc…

As you are seriously training, your requirements for energy (Calories), proteins, vitamins and minerals are surely increasing, and getting higher than what your body used to need.  However, with food you can still reach all these increased needs, and the best way is to get everything from food.  
•     If you feel you are not eating enough, or you are not covering all the food groups in your diet, you might fill the gap with certain supplements.   
In case you take a supplements, make sure it contains 100% or LESS of the Daily Value, (you can check this info on the nutrition fact of the product- example attached ).   
An example for today will be magnesium. Magnesium assists with energy extraction and muscle contraction, that’s why when it is depleted it is increases the risk for cramps. The magnesium need per day is 400mg for men and 310mg for women, which you can easily get from food: 
Green leafy vegetables (like spinach), Almonds (very rich in magnesium), nuts and seeds (pine nuts, peanuts), beans and whole wheat bread.

TIP 5: Sports Drinks

Why are sports drinks important during your long runs, and water alone is not enough? During trainings your body looses a lot of water but also salts (minerals and electrolytes). Also, depending on exercise duration, the performance and endurance are affected by the decrease in muscle sugar/energy (Glycogen).
Other than water, sports drinks can be a good and quick way to rehydrate and replenish the salts and give you a bit of sugar boost only if you are training for more than 1 hour;  they make an excellent fuel and hydration fluid.   
Most sports drinks offer a blend of:  carbohydrate  (sugars such as sucrose, glucose, fructose and galactose) +  electrolytes  like Sodium and Potassium (some contain Calcium, Magnesium or Phosphorus).

How to choose a sports drink?
Check the sugar content!  why?  because the sugar content affect how quickly you absorb the sports drink. If the sugar content is very high (More than 10% sugar) the beverage will become very heavy and slow to absorb. Sugar content should be ideally between 6-8% concentration or below (<15-18 g per cup 230ml). Sometimes it is written  “Hypotonic”   on the drink and this is the one that is good to have. 
Pick a flavor that you like so you can drink it easily and don’t try new drinks the day of the marathon!
 Do not abuse drinking sports drink. You can start drinking water the first 45 minutes then continue hydration with sports drinks (400ml to 1 L per hour depending how much you are sweating, the body volume, the heat, etc…). Sodas and cola drinks are NOT sports drinks.  Gatorade and Isostar are available in Lebanon and are ok.

 For those who want to create their own home made sport drink you can mix either plane water, Coconut water, or herbal tea (250ml) with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 teaspoon calcium magnesium powder, ¼ cup or more of juice (optional)- Can use grape, apple, lemon, lime, pineapple + honey or a sweeter depending on taste preferences.  

TIP 6: Carbs

What are Carbs and what do they become in our body? Why are they the best fuel? 
Carbohydrates are found in various foods (bread, cereals, grains, pasta, fruits and vegetables, dairy, sugary goods). Once in our body, carbs can be stocked as  
Glycogen in the muscles and Liver.
Muscles use glycogen for energy (during running for example) and the liver uses glycogen to regulate blood sugar levels. When the storage of glycogen is full, the excess of carbs becomes fat.     
The muscles love using glycogen during long and intense running. Once glycogen is depleted you will feel the fatigue. However the more you train, the more your muscles will delay glycogen depletion and therefore fatigue.   
Eating carbs BEFORE your training will allow you to go to higher intensity (more speed in running) and for longer duration.   
How much Carbs should you eat? 
Depending on your training duration, the amount of carbs you have to consume per day will vary. For long races, you need to ensure your glycogen stores are full at the start line.    
For your type of endurance training (1-3 hour intense run) you need between 4 – 6 g per Kg of Body Weight. So if you are 70 Kg, you need between 280-420 g of carbs per  day of training.  
   If you go for an easy or short run you don’t need to load with carbs.   
Here are a few examples to show you the quantities of carbs in certain common foods: 
1 cup of cooked rice: 45g 
1 cup of cooked pasta: 45g 
1 medium slice of Lebanese bread: 30-40g 
1 cup of milk: 12g 
1 cup of yogurt: 12g  
1 apple: 15-30g 
1 banana: 30-45g 
12 cherries: 15g 

TIP 7: Proteins

At this stage you want to recover very fast from your runs and decrease injuries; Proteins are extremely important for our body as they are the building material of the muscles and the immune system.
Without proper intake of proteins your muscles will neither grow nor get repaired, therefore you will have injuries and won’t be able to improve your performance. Also your immunity will be low and you will get frequently sick.  

Recommendations for runners for proteins are proportionate to your weight: 1.2 to 1.4 grams/ Kg Body Weight. So for example, if you weigh 70 Kg, you will need between 84 to almost 100g per day. No need to consume high protein diets, because the excess will be stocked as fat and will not be converted to muscles!  

How to get proteins from your diet?
Proteins are widely spread in foods from animal and non-animal sources. Fish, poultry, meat, eggs and all dairy products and also plant sources like beans, lentils, quinoa, cereals, nuts and vegetables are rich in proteins.  

To make it simple:
•      Almost every 100g of fish, poultry or meat contains around 27-30g of proteins
•      1 egg contains around 6 g of proteins
•      1 glass of milk contains 8 g of proteins
•      1 cup of yogurt or Labneh contains 12g of proteins
•      1 tablespoon of peanut butter contains 7g of proteins
•      1 cup of lentils, black beans or edamame contains approx. 18g of proteins
•      1 cup of quinoa, peas or spinach contains approx. 7-8 g of proteins
•      30 g of Nuts contain 10 g of proteins

  When to eat the proteins: before or after the run?
It is better to consume proteins throughout the days rather than eating all your proteins in one meal. However, if you have training that day, focus on carbohydrates before the training to get the maximum of energy and proteins after the runs to repair the muscles and recover.  

The best is to have a high proteins + carb meal/drink right after the run, within 1 hour.  

Try to drink for example Ayran Laban or Milk chocolate or nuts as soon as you finish your run. After that, you can go and have a full meal made of proteins and carbs. Keep in mind that carbs help in the absorption of proteins.

TIP 8: Digestive symptoms

Some runners are experiencing digestive concerns during long runs.
It is very common in long distance running to experience gastrointestinal symptoms; up to 80% of runners report having experienced nausea, malaise, bloating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence while running. This is due to the decreased blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract,  because the blood is redirected to the muscles.

  What to do in order to avoid nausea and vomiting before, during or after a long run:
-        For people experiencing heavy nausea/vomiting: switch to liquid breakfast at least an hour and a half before the run; as it is quickly digested (milkshake, juice, etc)
-        Try not to eat high fiber foods before a long run such as whole bread, fruits and vegetables, because their digestion is slow (except for banana)
-         Do NOT  snack on  high fat food before your runs  (like Nutella, chocolate bars, big portion of peanut butter, etc)
-        During the run, if you are taking gels please make sure you  take them with water, and NOT with other sports drinks.  Because you will overload your digestive system with sugars.
-        Also make sure you are taking the gels (if you do take) slowly rather than at once.
-        Do not use anti-inflammatory drugs before the run.
-        Do not drink big quantities of water at once before a run, take rather small sips.
-        Make sure you are not overheating during the run, wear appropriate clothing that keeps your body cool and hydrate well! 

TIP 9: Gels

Energy gels are used to replace the sugar stores that are consumed during the run. Sometimes gels contain other compounds such as caffeine (booster) and minerals/ salts which are important to replace sweat salts that are lost.

When should you take energy gels?
For runs longer than 1 hour and a half energy gels might be effective. The absorption rate of carbohydrates varies from one person to another; some can feel the effect within minutes others need 15 mins to feel the effect.

How often should you take energy gels?
You should be careful not to overload your stomach while running, therefore it is preferable to wait around 45 mins minimum between the consumption of each gel or else you would have digestive problems.
If your are used to process gels while training it is going to be easier for you to process them during the marathon because the body learnt not to shut down completely your digestive system during the race.

If you have an upset stomach an effective way is to consume smaller portions of the gel at closer intervals, for example you can consume ¼ of the gel every 20 mins; that way you do not stress your stomach and give it enough time to process the gel.

Note: take energy gels with water to facilitate their digestion and flow to the blood stream and for best results. Do not consume them with energy or sports drinks you will be pouring too much sugar into your blood at once.
Plus energy gels differ in viscosity, digestibility and flavor. One kind might suite you more than another kind, so it is a subjective matter and highly dependent on your digestive system.
Usage of energy gels is not a must if you are not used to it and your body is not trained to accept it. Water and sports drinks can be enough for your hydration and energy needs.

TIP 310: Lipids

Congrats on your first 21 km!
I will be discussing the importance of lipids and fats in your diet.  

Fats give the food a better taste and that’s why high fat foods are usually the best and the tastiest! But they are also VERY important for the body: involved in many hormones, transport of vitamins (A, D, E & K) and give you essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6).   

For long distance runners, fat constitutes an important energy source along with carbs. Every time you are running you are using a lot of fat for energy in parallel to the carbs.  For those among you who are experiencing weight loss; consumption of fats with a good nutrition will help you reverse the unwanted weight loss.   

Keep in mind that fat is important and too little fat in the diet is not recommended. The trick is to know what type of fat to consume.   

What type of fat should you consume?   

You probably heard about good fats and bad fats;   

The fat intake should be primarily coming from the good healthy fats (poly and mono unsaturated fats), that we find in food coming mainly from plant sources, or from fish:
Avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts, almonds, peanuts, seeds, vegetable oils, flaxeeds, canola oil, fish (cod, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout…)   

The fats that we have to limit are the saturated and trans fats that come mainly from animal sources and that are usually “hard/solid” fats such as:
The fat in red meat, the fat in pastries and desserts, the fats in processed foods, bakery sweets and fried foods.   

Remember, it is highly recommended NOT to consume fats right before your trainings, since digestion of fat is very slow and it will lead to gastrointestinal discomforts while running. 
So for example, don’t eat a Nutella/chocolate spread or peanut butter before your run because you won’t digest it well.
Therefore, fat consumption should be reserved to your post-run meal or in meals far from training sessions.

TIP 11: Alcohol drinking, sleep and performance

Today I would like to highlight 2 major lifestyle factors that can affect your running performance at trainings and the day of the marathon: alcohol and sleep.

To start with the good one: get good quality of sleep! 7 to 8 hours minimum! Make sleep your priority over social events.
Sleep becomes increasingly important with longer runs. It is essential to have good quality of sleep to allow your body to repair and grow the muscles and their capacity, and to restore the glycogen (sugar stores are related to sleep duration).

Concerning alcohol, runners that usually drink should start decreasing the amount of consumed alcohol, and keep it really sporadic (once per week on your rest day not more than 1 drink for this coming period until the marathon).

Alcohol affects negatively your running performance because it:
1. Makes you more prone to injury
2. Suppresses muscle repair (poor recovery)
3. Dehydrates the body and the muscle (diuretic)
4. Decreases the ability to synthesize glycogen (sugar stores) so you feel tired quickly
5. Decreases blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
6. Decreases the quality of your sleep

TIP 12: recovery

Today’s focus is on recovery especially after the long runs.

It is important to know that recovery starts the minute you cross the finish line of any training or race.

Steps toward a proper recovery:
Make sure to rehydrate and eat a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes of finishing the race or maximum by 2 hours:
1.Refuel the muscle and liver sugar (glycogen) stores; you need 7-12 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight at this stage of training.
2. Drink a lot of water and add salt to your drink or in the food consumed this will enhance drinking more fluids.
3. Try to consume 15-25g of high quality protein in the first hour after the race in order to rebuild and repair their muscles.
4. Generally, the immune system gets suppressed by intensive activity. So many nutrients or dietary factors have been proposed as an aid to the immune system: vitamins C and E, glutamine, zinc and probiotics.

  • Vitamin C rich foods: dark leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, tomatoes…
  • Vitamin E rich foods: almonds, raw seeds, plant oils, spinach, kale…
  • Glutamine a protein found in animal source foods like meat, chicken, fish or parsley, spinach and cabbage for vegetarians…
  • Zinc rich foods are beef, shrimps and flaxseeds, kidney beans and spinach for vegetarians…

If you are eating adequately, healthily and not missing meals, there is absolutely no need for supplementation; nutrients from the intake of food are enough. N.B: some runners are following a strict low carb high fat diet. These diets may put you at risk of injury and poor recovery. Tips on foods that you can consume: Options for Nutritious carbohydrate-protein recovery snacks (contain 50g CHO + valuable source of protein and micronutrients)
  • 1 glass of milk shake or fruit smoothie
  • 1 glass of milk
  • 2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping + peanut butter
  • 1-2 sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
  • 1 large bowl (2 cups) breakfast cereal with milk
  • 1 large or 2 small cereal bars + fruit yogurt
  • 1 bread roll with cheese/meat filling + large banana
  • 300g (bowl) fruit salad with 200g fruit-fruit yogurt
  • 300g (large) baked potato + cheese filling + glass of milk
Foods providing approximately 10g of protein.

Animal sources:
  • 40g of cooked lean beef/pork/lamb
  • 40g skinless cooked chicken
  • 50g of canned tuna/salmon or cooked fish
  • 300 ml of milk/glass of Milo
  • 200g of yoghurt
  • 300ml milk
  • 1.5 slices (30g) of cheese
  • 2 eggs
Plant based foods
  • 120g of tofu
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 200g of baked beans
  • 60g of nuts
  • 2 cups of pasta/3 cups of rice
  • 1 cup cooked lentils/kidney beans

TIP 13: Carb Loading IMPORTANT

With the marathon coming up in a month and the long runs you are having on Sundays, I would like to introduce the concept of carbohydrate loading, the cornerstone of delayed fatigue.

Carbohydrate loading is a technique used to increase muscle glycogen (sugar stores) for full energy during your endurance competition. Carb-loading will allow you to run at your optimal pace for a longer time, and not to hit the wall too early.

Start trying the carb-loading before your long runs to get used to it for the marathon.

How to carb-load properly?
You are expected to start the carbohydrate loading 3 days before the Marathon while decreasing to the minimum your training (normally you will not run during these last days before the marathon).
To load your muscle properly, you need to consume between 7-12g of carbs per Kg of body weight. So if you weigh 70 Kg, you have to consume during these 3 days around 500- 800g of carbs, which is a very big quantity.
How do you reach this quantity?
1. Cut back on high fiber foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits with their skins, whole bread…
2. Cut back on high fat food as they make you feel full very quickly.
3. Consume carbohydrate coming from compact sources such as white bread, refined flour, sugar, soft drinks, sports drinks, jam, honey, jelly, etc.
Carbohydrate loading would cause body weight to increase by approximately 2kg. But this extra weight is due to extra muscle glycogen and water, not extra fat (so you will lose them by the end of the marathon), do not get worried about this weight gain!
Carb Loading is only to be done 3 days before a marathon, and is NOT a diet to follow outside this period.
The night before the marathon eat a normal meal, Do NOT OVER eat!
PLEASE have your breakfast before the marathon!
What a high carbohydrate diet would look like:


  • 2 or 3 cups of low-fiber breakfast cereal with 1 cup of reduced fat milk
  • 1 medium banana
  • 250ml orange juice

  • toast or cake with honeyv
  • 500ml sports drink or juice

  • 2 sandwiches (4 slices of bread) with filling as desired
  • 200g low-fat fruit yoghurt
  • 375ml can of soft drink or juice

  • banana smoothie made with low-fat milk, banana and honey
  • cereal bar

  • 2 cups of cooked pasta with red sauce/ or white rice
  • 3 slices of bread
  • 2 glasses of sugared beverage (soda, juice, etc)

Late Snack
  • muffin and jam
  • 500ml sports drink

This sample plan provides ~ 3500kcal, 630 g carbohydrate, 125 g protein and 60 g fat. Your fuel is your way to the finish line!

TIP 14: Electrolytes and sodium

I would like to stress on the importance of electrolytes during your long runs and the marathon especially with the current hot weather conditions.

Electrolytes (salts) losses from sweating become a major concern in long races, especially in hot weather. The “stay hydrated” statement for marathon does not include only plain water but also salts!

As you know by now, you should not drink only plain water through the race. Water should be mixed with salt tablets or you should take sports drinks. Salts help retain the water in your body and therefore helps you stay hydrated. It also prevents a dangerous condition called hyponatremia (low sodium in the blood).

Some of the main signs of low electrolytes are decreased performance, muscle cramping or spasms, muscle weakness, decreased or dark urine, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, constipation and dry mouth. Please note that not all muscle cramps are related to low electrolytes.

Stay hydrate! Take your salt tablets (you can get them from the pharmacy, usually named ORS-oral rehydration salts) before or during the race, or your sports drinks that contain salts! Also post-race add salt to your breakfast.