The ins and outs of how to taper are well documented but now we’re digging deeper. What should your taper nutrition look like? What food will set you up for a PB, and what will hinder you?
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We wrote an article all about how to taper for a marathon, Ironman or ultramarathon but here we dive deeper into taper nutrition. Taper nutrition has three important goals:
- To repair damage caused by training
- To ensure energy stores are topped up
- To avoid unnecessary weight gain
Taper nutrition - repair the damage
Early in your taper, focus on repairing the damage you’ve inflicted over the past few weeks, which was probably your biggest training block.
Recover from training with a combination of rest and correct nutrition
Taper nutrition - avoid excess weight gain
As training load decreases, it’s easy for the body to fall into a false sense of security. “Ah, we’re in recovery mode, time for a break” and the subsequent cravings for all the badness you’ve so determinedly deprived yourself of the past few months can be intense.
But stay strong.
With fewer hours training, you’ll be burning fewer calories so, in a bid to avoid unnecessary weight gain before your endurance event, make conscious food choices and reduce your calorie intake just slightly.
During the early taper, keep fibre high as it aids bowel movements and increases satiety, but you might want to reduce this as the race approaches.
I deliberately included “excess” in the heading, as a little weight gain is totally normal during the taper phase as energy stores replenish, fluids are replaced and muscle fibres heal, but the overall message is to apply controlled eating to avoid excess weight gain.
Get ready for a strong performance from start to finish
Taper nutrition – how to avoid gaining weight
If you really want to get into the nitty gritty, you can calculate roughly how many fewer calories you’ll burn than during training. You can then reduce your intake by about the same amount.
For example, if you typically consume ~3,000 cals during training but, two weeks from your event, reduce training volume by 75%, aim to reduce your calorie intake by the same amount, to approximately 2,250.
Taper nutrition - pack in the antioxidants
As training decreases in the final couple of weeks before a marathon or endurance event, your immune system weakens and you’re more susceptible illness.
Despite reducing calorie intake, ensure the food you are consuming is nutrient dense and packed with antioxidants, so tuck into:
- Nut and seeds – walnuts, almonds, flaxseed, cashews and chia seeds
- Berries – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and goji berries
- Vegetables – artichokes, kale, cabbage, beetroot, spinach
- Legumes – chickpeas, kidney beans, soy beans and lentils
- Dark chocolate – hurray!
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Taper nutrition - don’t carb-load
Depending on your general diet – whatever that may look like – make sure your carb stores are full come race day.
But remember, this doesn’t mean you need to scoff three bowls of pasta the night before a marathon! Your body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrates anyway so excess carbs will only add weight and leave you feeling bloated and sluggish.
Taper nutrition - hydrate
Probably the most overlooked aspect of good taper nutrition, the importance of correct hydration is even greater during this period.
Drink little and often and load up on electrolytes before the race.
Don’t worry about hitting a certain quantity per day, just be cognisant of drinking to thirst and check your pee is a satisfactory colour!
Keep a water bottle to hand
Taper nutrition – have a plan
You’ve likely invested a lot into this marathon or endurance event, so being a little anal with your taper nutrition isn’t a bad thing.
Plan meals in advance and have a strategy - particularly in race week - to ensure you’re giving your body everything it needs to fire on all cylinders come race day. With a plan of attack, you’ll avoid making schoolboy errors like trying new nutrition strategies.
Taper nutrition - summary
None of the above is rocket science. The overarching messages can be summarised into five points:
- Recover from your training load
- Maintain a high quality, nutrient dense diet
- Reduce calorie intake, just slightly
- Don’t carb-load
Packed with antioxidants and alkalysers, our Ultimate Daily Greens are a great taper week companion. Just one daily spoonful will help you achieve optimal health and performance.
Ultimate Daily Greens - perfect taper week nutrition