Nutrition plan for rest days and easy training (under 60 mins at low-intensity)
Lighter training, less carbohydrate
Carbohydrate is a main fuel for endurance training, therefore on easier training days, less carbohydrate is required. This may mean that only one meal (e.g. breakfast or lunch) needs to be carbohydrate-based.
Easier training days give the flexibility to have a protein-rich breakfast, which may also reduce hunger for the rest of the morning. Intakes of protein from meals (and snacks) should still be high on these days to support ongoing muscle tissue growth and repair (as your muscles are constantly remodelling over 24 hours).
Including polyunsaturated fats (e.g. omega-3) can help to reduce inflammation and aid the recovery process. Fat also acts as a fuel for lower-intensity training. Increased vegetable intakes with each meal (especially those high in antioxidants) help to reduce the (‘free radical’) damage from the previous day’s training, and may subsequently reduce muscle soreness.
Finally, easier training days are a great time to experiment with different fruits, vegetables, grains, flavours and spices – without worrying about GI (gut) symptoms during training.
Training timing – when to eat
For easier, low-intensity training sessions (e.g. 35-minute, easy run), it is not vital to fuel the body with carbohydrates. For lower-intensity training, the body uses fat as its primary fuel to produce energy. Indeed, many elite endurance athletes will either train fasted (before breakfast) or using a higher protein, low-carb breakfast. This is called ‘training low’ (reducing the availability of carbohydrate to the muscles) to increase the stress on them, so that they adapt and become more efficient for endurance training.
This strategy also primes the body to break down fat and use it as fuel for training, so can so form part of an effective weight management strategy. It can take a while to get used to ‘training low’ and it shouldn’t be used for harder, high-intensity training sessions (alongside an overall calorie deficit).
Morning snack suggestion:
Chinese spiced seed mix
More training and nutrition tips for runners
- Now you’ve perfected your training nutrition, make sure you eat right in race week with our marathon meal plans.
- Get to grips with eating before, during and after running with our guides.
- Our marathon nutrition hub will teach you how to hydrate properly, carb-load and even how Mo Farah fuels for training.
These meal plans were reviewed on 6 September 2021.
James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade, he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.
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