Ease marathon pain
Sunday, more than 20,000 people will participate in the 29th Honolulu Marathon. Both well-trained and not-so-well-trained participants will experience fatigue the way few people ever do. For most runners, the challenge won't be over at the finish line. Recovery from stiff and sore muscles and joints will take several more days.
The good news is that marathoners can do a variety of things before, during and after the event to reduce muscle damage and enhance recovery.
During training, and especially during the week before the marathon, runners need to eat plenty of high-carbohydrate foods. These include starchy foods such as breads, rice, pasta, poi, and sweets such as fruit juices and drinks, bananas and other fruit.
Carbohydrate is the main fuel used during a marathon. Most of it is stored in the muscles in the form of a substance called glycogen. When glycogen runs low, runners slow down and their muscles increase their use of protein as an energy source. Most of this protein comes from breakdown of the muscle tissue itself, which may lead to more soreness and longer recovery time.
Including fruits and vegetables in the diet also may shorten recovery time. Some research indicates that antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, E and beta-carotene help reduce muscle damage during exercise. Fruits and vegetables have these and many other antioxidant substances.
A great deal of water is lost in sweat during the 26-mile marathon. Depending on running speed, weather and personal variability, sweat losses range from 1 to 3 quarts per hour, or 4 to 8 quarts during the event. On hotter days, some individuals may lose more. To run safely and perform well, 85 to 90 percent of these fluids must be replaced during the marathon. That works out to drinking 4 to 9 ounces of fluid per mile.
Salt also is lost in sweat. During a marathon, runners lose 2 to 4 teaspoons of salt (10 to 20 grams) in their sweat. Consequently, they need more salt in their diets and should not restrict salt during serious training or before a marathon.
During the marathon, balancing sweat loss by drinking plenty of the marathon sports drinks will not only enhance performance during the race, but help recovery go smoother and faster.
The official sports drink, for the third year in a row, is Amino Vital Water Charge. Made in Japan by the Ajinomoto Co., Water Charge contains half the sugar of most American sports drinks. Runners who use concentrated carbohydrate supplements such as Power Gel and Gu should drink at least 3 to 4 cups of Water Charge for every 25 grams of carbohydrate in the gel.
Another feature unique to Water Charge is the inclusion of five specific amino acids thought to help reduce muscle protein breakdown during and after endurance exercise. In addition, three of these amino acids (called branched-chain amino acids) are theorized to help reduce the perception of fatigue during exercise by reducing the levels of a brain messenger called serotonin.
After the marathon, recovery can be enhanced by continuing to drink fluids, along with eating a variety of foods, especially those high in carbohydrate, protein and salt.
One more thing, pointed out by the Hawaii Ultra Running Team (HURT): "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."
Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a food and nutrition consultant
and owner of Exploring New Concepts, a nutritional consulting firm.
She is also responsible for the nutritional analyses
indicated by an asterisk in this section.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a sports nutritionist in the
Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Science,
University of Hawaii-Manoa.