Rules on drinking and eating for a marathon have been fluid over the past three decades. Here's the latest advice from experts.
• When you feel thirsty, drink. "Listen to your body," exercise scientist Tim Noakes wrote in his book on overhydration, "Waterlogged." "It will tell you what to do."
• Eat a small amount of carbs the morning of a race. Stores of glycogen should be "topped up," said Tamara Hew-Butler, an assistant professor of exercise science at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. And don't worry if you weigh in a few pounds heavier. "Water is actually stored and then liberated when muscle glycogen stores get used during exercise," she said.
• Don't try anything new. On race day, drink the same liquids that you did during training. Chicago's Maureen Bolus Wilkey, 29, even uses paper cups during her training runs to practice drinking on the move. As you run, "take sips, not gulps," added Dr. Arthur Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a volunteer physician in the Boston Marathon.
• Be selective. "Just because there are 20 aid stations on the course doesn't mean you have to stop at each one," said Dr. George Chiampas, medical director for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. "If you are eating too much and can't tolerate the food, you may be vomiting the last 5 miles of the race."
• Spit out your sports drink. "Studies have shown that runners get a performance boost from periodically swishing a sports drink around in their mouth and spitting it out," said sports nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald, the author of "The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition." "The sugars in the sports drink activate carbohydrate receptors on the tongue that communicate directly to a 'reward center' in the brain. The result is that running feels easier."
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