Marathon Nutrition

It’s Derby Festival in Louisville, KY now.  And that means all sorts of fun activities for the family and tourists that come to this great city over the next couple weeks.  It all starts off with Thunder Over Louisville, and before finishing with the infamous Kentucky Derby there are several of family friendly events such as parades, hot air balloon shows, concerts, the chow wagon (full of carnival food such as elephant ears and corn dogs), and several other activities.  The one that attracts one of the biggest crowds is the Derby Festival mini and full marathon.  About 17,000 athletes run in the mini and full marathon, and then add all the family and friends lined along the course and the number probably triples.  This coming weekend, I will be taking on the full marathon.  It will be my third stand-alone marathon that I’ve run.  I’m looking forward to running the streets of my hometown and feeding off the local support.  But, just with any race distance longer than 90 minutes, nutrition is key.  It can make or break the race.  The longer the race, the more important in-race nutrition become more important.  A marathon is no different.

So how does one fuel for a marathon race.  There are several schools of thought, but they all boil down to taking into consideration how much someone weighs, how fast they run, and their goal time.  Of course, one will never be able to completely replace the amount of calories they are burning at an equal rate.  The key is damage control with adequate caloric intake and pacing.  The formula that I’m going to present isn’t perfect because it can’t take into account a person’s running economy.  For example, two people weighing the same amount may not run with the same efficiency at their marathon race pace.  One of them may bound more (up and down movement) or possibly over stride causing the brakes to be put on slightly with every step.  That being said, it should give an athlete a rough idea of how many calories to consume during their marathon race.

Step 1: Determine running calorie expenditure per mile
0.63 x body weight (pounds)

Step 2: Determine goal race pace or how many miles per hour you’ll cover
Example: An eight-minute miler will cover 7.5 miles/hour

Step 3: Calculate hourly expenditure based on goal race pace
Example: An eight-minute miler would multiply 7.5 by the figure from step 1.

Step 4: Determine hourly calorie replacement needs
0.3 x the figure from step 3 (Note: Research shows runners can physically absorb about 30 percent of what they expend.)

Here’s an example:  A 175 pound athlete wants to run a 3.5 hour marathon.  To determine the amount of calories needed to complete the race this athlete would start calculating his caloric needs after 90 minutes into the run since he/she should have eaten an adquate enough breakfast to fuel his body for this portion of the race.  The athlete would take 0.63 x 175 to figure out how many calories per mile they will burn.  It comes out to about 110 cals/mile.  Since he’s wanting to run a 3:30 marathon, that comes out to an average pace of just under 7.5 miles/hour.  So multiply 110 calories by 7.5 to get your cal/hr burned.  That comes out to about 825 cal/hr.  Since we can only absorb about 30% of the calories we burn while exercising, multiply 825 by 0.3 and the hourly requirement for after 90 minutes til the end would be about 250 calories/hour.  So for the final two hours of racing, this athlete would need to consume about 500 calories in order to give their body the correct amount of calories to make it through this race.

After figuring out my goal time, weight, and pace, I will need to consume about 300 calories per hour for the final 1:10 of my race.  However, I’m planning on taking some calories in about 35 minutes in and again at the 1 hour mark.  I plan on using NAPALM by Infinit for my calorie intake during the race.  a 6 ounce flask will carry 300 calories.  So if I supplement with some one course nutrition to get some additional calories, I should be fine.

Be sure to supplement with water and electrolytes if needed if it’s going to be hot.


Infinit Nutrition Review

A little over a year ago, I became a little disgusted with the overly sugary “sports” drinks that were on the market.  My personal feeling is that most of the sports drinks on the market are just well marketed, glorified kool-aid (especially Gatorade and Powerbar Perform).  The amount of sugar in these sports drinks not only made my stomach cramp, but by the end of a race 70.3 or longer I felt like my teeth were rotting!

In 2011, I went to the first year for the Giant Eagle Race in Columbus, OH (before WTC bought it).  Infinit Nutrition was on site during packet pickup and also had their product on the run course (no aid stations were on the bike since it is an Olympic Distance race).  I sampled their run formula and instantly fell in love with the subtle sweet taste and a hint of saltiness to it as well.  No food coloring in it or anything else artificial in it either.

When I returned home from the race, I began doing some research on the product and was very impressed with the nutritional content of it, the price, and the amazing ability to customize it for my own personal needs.


I bought a bag of the custom bike mix and noticed that my need to supplement during training rides with salt tabs ceased to exist.  I felt no more stomach problems or cramping while cycling.  I also tried the bike formula for long endurance runs on trails.  It seemed to work extremely well for that too.  However, if doing high intensity running I would recommend trying the run formula.  The carbohydrates are a little easier to digest and there isn’t any protein in the it to slow down digestion and cause bloating.

After trying the custom formula a few times, I wanted to try to making my own mix.  If you desire to, you can even have a free nutrition consult with one of the experts at Infinit Nutrition to help you find something that will work for you.  You have options to control the following variables to make your sports drink special to you:

  • strength of the flavor
  • the carbohydrate blend for the specific race distance
  • calories per serving
  • Electrolyte blend
  • Protein per serving
  • Amino acid blend
  • Caffiene

Infinit allows you to control just about every aspect of your nutrition based on your specific body needs and race distance.  If you’re a smaller person, then you may want to tone back the calories because you don’t need to replace as many as someone of average size or larger.  If you’re doing an ultra marathon, you may want to increase the amount of protein and and electrolytes in your formula.  You may also consider different bags for races in different climates… one for cool to warm weather and one for hot weather so you meet your body’s needs on those specific days.  The options are limitless (or infinite).

Infinit, as mentioned before, does have stock versions of their product which include:

  • Go Far – dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, 4g whey protein isolate, BCAAs, L-Glutamine, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Go Fast/Speed – a higher percentage of glucose, plus sucrose and maltodextrin, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Jet Fuel – Speed plus 125mg caffeine
  • Isis Endurance – dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, 2g whey protein isolate, BCAAs, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Isis Hydration – dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Repair – whey, Soy and Casein proteins (25/25/50%), maltodextrin, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, BCAAs, L-Glutamine, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Mud – whey protein isolate, flax seed, coffee, chocolate, maltodextrin, sucrose, glucose
  • Napalm – a higher percentage of glucose, plus sucrose, fructose and maltodextrin, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, with or without caffeine

I highly recommend every endurance athlete to try to Infinit Nutrition while training this off season and see what you think.  Take note of how you felt before and after switching.



Vitamin B12 and Vegetarian Athletes

Many people know that vitamins and minerals are necessary for basic functioning.  There are two basic types of vitamins, fat soluble and water soluble.  The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.  the rest are water soluble.  It is possible to overdose on fat soluble.  But if someone ingests too much of the water soluble vitamins, the extras are dumped in the urine.  However, B12 doesn’t follow the same rules as other water soluble vitamins.  It can actually be stored in the liver with supplies that will last someone years.  One of the most common deficiencies in people that experience is actually a water soluble vitamin, Vitamin B12.  People most at risk are  athletes who are limiting calories or have specialized, consistent or restricted eating plans (avoiding meat, diary, and/or eggs).

Vitamin B12 plays an extremely important role in the body.  B12, along with the rest of the B vitamins, is a  ‘micronutrient’ and is used to convert proteins and carbohydrates into energy.  B vitamins are also used for cell repair and production.    Vitamin B12 specificially plays a role in red blood cell production and maintenance of the central nervous system.  A study at Oregon State University showed that even a small deficiency in B vitamins decreased the athletes ability to perform at high intensities and also delayed muscle recovery/repair after workouts.  With the knowledge of what B vitamins do for the body, its easy to see why a slight lack of these in the diet can result in drastic outcomes for athletes trying to perform well for race day, or even recover fast enough for their next working later in the day or tomorrow.

Since a vegetarian or vegan diets tend to limit or completely remove animal products, the natural sources for vitamin B12 are not going to be consumed by the individual.  These sources include eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products.   However, many fortified cereals contain all of, or most of the recommended daily intake of B12.  Additionally, if you buy a milk substitute, most of brands of almond, rice, soy milk are fortified with 50% of the recommended intake of B12 per 8 oz. serving.  With foods being fortified with B12, it is much easier than it was several years ago to consume enough each day.  However, many of the new “all natural” or “organic” cereals are not fortified.  So people that tend to buy these types of cereals are at a greater risk of a deficiency.

The daily recommended intake for B12 is about 2.4 mcg.  However, this number isn’t consistent across the board of experts.  A lot depends on the person’s ability to absorb the vitamin, their activity level, and many other factors.  Below are some common foods that contain higher levels of B12:


Sources of Vitamin B12
Food[58] µg vitamin B12/100g
beef liver 83.1
turkey giblets 33.2
pork liver sausage 20.1
Raw Pacific oysters 16.0
Cooked Alaska king crab 11.5
Raw clams 11.3
Simmered chicken giblets 9.4
Cheese 3.3
Beef (uncooked sirloin) 1.15
Egg (raw, whole chicken’s egg) 0.89
Whole cow’s milk 0.45


As mentioned above, only animal sources naturally contain B12.  So people eating a restricted diet should closely monitor their B12 intake.  But, even if their daily intake isn’t enough, the results won’t begin to show up for several years since B12 is stored in the liver.  Vitamin B12 deficiency is characterized by anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Neurological changes, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Additional symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. The neurological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can occur without anemia, so early diagnosis and intervention is important to avoid irreversible damage.  Some of the neurological changes caused from B12 deficiency can be irreversible.

For myself, after being vegan for nearly a year, I decided that it wasn’t a good thing for me to continue doing.  Personally, I feel like I’m cheating if I take multivitamins to replace nutrients (although I do take a multivitamin occasionally).  I decided to start including eggs and cheese again, and meat about once a week.  With the fortified cereals that I eat, I am getting enough B12.  I don’t drink milk, but rather make my own soy milk, so the soy milk I consume doesn’t have B12 in it either.  If someone is unwilling to change their diet to include animal sources of B12, another really good source of B12 (and all the B vitamins) is something called nutritional yeast.  Just a 1/4 cup of it contains 150% of the RDA of B12 for the day and 9 grams of protein.  It has a cheesy flavor to it, and if used correctly can be a tasty alternative to cheese on vegetables, in casseroles, and many other dishes or soups.


For more information on vegetarian diets and protein, click here.

For more information on vegetarian diets and iron, click here.