Improve your time for the Reading half marathon



You wake up on race day full of excited anticipation for the road ahead, dreaming of a personal best and glad that the months of treadmill running are behind you. However, there is a slight doubt in the back of your mind; you can’t quite put your finger on it. Have you prepared thoroughly for the race? Have you done everything in your power to make sure you finish? You know that many people “hit the wall” in a full marathon, but could this happen to you today in the shorter version of this self inflicted torture? What about cramp as you have often seen runners paralysed by a stitch or calf cramps that makes the last few miles of a run agony. Surely not me, not today!


But today you are going to fly through the race. You have done everything right in terms of preparation and planning, your nutrition and hydration routine couldn’t have gone better. Your forethought and attention to detail, your preparation for this race, much like how Paula Radcliffe prepares for a race, will get you that elusive personal best today. Why? Because you read the following sports nutrition advice from PeakXVfitness…


Carbohydrate loading


To improve your time for the Reading half marathon it is a good idea to carbohydrate load for the race. Carbohydrate loading is a strategy to employ that involves reducing training volume whilst simultaneously increasing the amount of carbohydrates you consume in the 3-4 days leading up to the half marathon. Your aim is to cause the muscles to store higher than normal levels of glycogen, which will give you extra energy on race day.


Consider the example below of a carbohydrate loading diet modified from an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) diet plan that is suitable for a 70kg athlete providing approximately 630g of carbohydrate, 125g of protein and 60g of fat:


Breakfast  A large bowl of breakfast cereal with 1½  cups of skimmed milk
1 medium banana
250ml orange juice
Snack  toasted muffin with honey
500ml sports drink
Lunch  2 sandwiches (4 slices of bread) with filling as desired (meat or fish)
200g tub of low-fat fruit yoghurt
250ml orange juice
Snack  banana smoothie made with skimmed milk, banana and honey
cereal bar
Dinner 1 cup of pasta sauce with 2 cups of cooked pasta
3 slices of garlic bread
500ml sports drink
Late Snack  toasted muffin and jam
500ml sports drink


The trouble with carbohydrate loading is that many people get it wrong – they use it as an excuse to eat anything they want, usually food laden with fat as well as sugar, but you can see from the example above that the food consumed should be low fibre, high glycemic load sugary, starchy foods – not fatty junk food. Herein lies another problem – this food is not very good for the teeth; it’s certainly not very good for blood sugar control and could lead to excess body fat accumulation if done too regularly, and it may lead to high triglycerides, gout or liver damage that have all been associated with consuming high amounts of fructose, high fructose corn syrup and sugar in general. So only consume this type of carbohydrate loading diet in the 3-4 days leading up to your race.


Also eat foods such as tropical fruit, dried fruit and whole grains and use sports drinks instead of eating too much jam, honey and muffins. These foods also provide vitamins and minerals that help to turn your food in to energy. Once you have finished the race go back to your normal diet.




This is perhaps THE most important thing you can do on the day of the race. Dehydration can have a serious negative effect on performance. As little as 2% dehydration causes:


  • 8% loss of speed
  • 10% loss of strength
  • 20% loss of cognitive function


Dehydration occurs through the loss of water from the body, mainly in the form of sweat that is evaporated from the skin as the body tries to prevent overheating. Sweat volume and electrolyte loss varies from individual to individual and depending on the ambient temperature. If it’s a hot day, you’ll sweat more and dehydrate quicker.


Monitoring hydration status


Basing your urine colour against a chart of different colours has been used for some time to determine hydration status (see chart). A dark yellow / brownish colour indicates dehydration, whereas a clear light yellow colour indicates hydration. Just remember that if you take a multivitamin your urine will be bright yellow regardless of whether you are hydrated or not.


Hydration strategies for the race


Drinking water is usually the first line strategy to replace fluids lost through sweat, however consuming large amounts of plain water is not recommended to replace fluid or electrolyte losses and can lead to hyponatremia and even death. Consuming beverages that contain electrolytes is the most sensible way to replace salt and water lost in sweat. These include sports drinks such as Lucozade hydro, Poweraid or Gatoraid. Drinking between 2 and 4 bottles of these sports drinks interspersed with water is appropriate during the race. It is also wise to salt your food in the days leading up to the race, however if you consume any processed foods you will need to take in to account the amount of salt in these products.


Another good option is to use the product Elete which is an electrolyte add in (google elete). This can be added to water, juice, tea and other beverages that you consume throughout the day leading up to the race to improve rehydration. More simply you could just add a pinch of good quality salt to your beverages – this is less scientific but a good option for those who do not want to spend money of pre-designed products. Other naturally “salty” drinks such as Vita Coco are also very good.


Rehydration after the race


To replace fluid loss after the race the easiest thing you can do is to record your pre and post run weight (write these down on a bit of paper), adjust this for fluid consumed and urine passed (roughly) and drink 1.5 litres of fluid for every kg of body weight lost. Once again these beverages should contain electrolytes and should be consumed gradually after the race.


Australian Institute of Sport

Achten, J. Halson, S. L. Moseley, L. Rayson, M. P. Casey, A. and Jeukendrup. A. E. (2004). Higher dietary carbohydrate content during intensified running training results in better maintenance of performance and mood state. Journal of Applied Physiology 96: 1331-1340.

Bocarsly, M. E, Powell, E. S, Avena, N. M, and Hoebel, B. G. (2010). High fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. [Epub ahead of print]

Burke, L and Deakin V, (2006). Clinical Sports Nutrition (3rd Ed). McGraw-Hill Medical

Colgan, M (1993) Optimum Sports Nutrition. Your Competitive edge. Advanced Research Press. New York.

Elliott, S. S, Keim, N. L, Stern, J. S, Teff, K, and Havel, P. J. (2002). Fructose, weight gain and the insulin resistance syndrome. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(5):911-922

Kershaw, E. E. and Flier, J. S. (2004). Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 89 (6): 2548 – 2556.

Johnson, R. K, Appel, L. J, Brands, M, Howard, B. V, Lefevre, M, Lustig, R. H, Sacks, F, Steffen, L. M, and Wylie-Rosett, J. (2009). Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation 15;120 (11):1011-20

Khanna, G. L, Manna, I. (2005). Supplementary effect of carbohydrate-electrolyte drink on sports performance, lactate removal & cardiovascular response of athletes. The Indian Journal of Medical Research. 121 (5): 665 – 669.

Kohli R, Kirby M, Xanthakos SA, Softic S, Feldstein AE, Saxena V, Tang PH, Miles L, Miles MV, Balistreri WF, Woods SC, Seeley RJ. (2010). High-fructose medium-chain-trans-fat diet induces liver fibrosis & elevates plasma coenzyme Q9 in a novel murine model of obesity and NASH. Hepatology; 52(3):934-44.

Lê, K A Faeh, D Stettler, R Ith, M Kreis, R Vermathen, P Boesch, C Ravussin E and Tappy L. (2006). A 4-week high fructose diet alters lipid metabolism without affecting insulin sensitivity or ectopic lipids in healthy humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 84(6):1374-9
Wycherley TP, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Cleanthous X, Keogh JB, Brinkworth GD. (2010). A High-Protein Diet With Resistance Exercise Training Improves Weight Loss and Body Composition in Overweight and Obese Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care; 33(5):969-976.

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