How much do you need to eat to fuel your running habit?

Hannah Hillyer is training for her first marathon. Read her weekly running diary at IMAGE.ie where she'll be taking you on her journey. This week, she got the scoop on how to fuel your training at Reformation's Running & Nutrition Workshop...


Last week I finally secured my entry into this years marathon, and on Monday my 16-week training plan began in earnest. So now that the race countdown has started ticking (so loudly I can't sleep), it's time to look at more than just pace and mileage per week and examine my diet.

Running 26.2 miles requires a lot of energy but it's not just race day we need to think about. All the weeks of training to prepare for this mammoth task also need a lot of fuel.

Luckily I got to attend Reformation's Running & Nutrition Workshop with Carla Bredin hosting a talk specifically aimed at us runners. As a registered associate nutritionist, Carla has a wealth of knowledge, not just on what we should be eating but when and how much. It is however, important to note that if you have specific dietary concerns it may worth visiting a dietician for more detailed advice.

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Are you eating enough?

A misconception for many people is that they think they're eating too much, but more often the opposite is true.

"One of the most common things that I see consistently in-clinic is people under-eating as their mileage goes up, and as their training increases," she says. "This very much ties into the idea of diet culture and of using exercise to shrink our bodies."

Carla has such a positive attitude towards food and training, her message really focuses on enjoying your food and using it as the fuel for the exercise you love to do, not to lose weight. Personally, whenever I have upped my training I have found it goes hand in hand with restricting my food. But generally, the more activity we do the more calories we need to consume.

This goes for anyone, whether you're training for a 5k or a marathon.

I have felt many times that I don't need to be thinking much about nutrition as I'm not an athlete, I'm not looking to complete my marathon in under three hours, I just want to cross the finish line.

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There was a smile in the room when Bredin mentioned a favourite quote "If you run, you're a runner" as I'm sure most of us experience some imposter syndrome whilst training. But she firmly believes we need to fuel ourselves adequately even if we are only sticking to our 5k runs during the week and not aiming for anything bigger. "What we want to do is embrace what we're capable of and really fuel our bodies so that we can thrive, whether it's a five 5K or 42k."

Run for joy

Often, when we are looking at training for something big like a marathon, weight loss can be a motivator. I know for me this is definitely true. However, if you are trying to cut calories and up your mileage you will not be able to sustain this for long. Bredin is very vocal about the damaging effects of this, especially if you are training hard, as it can really damage your body.

Her outlook is that we must move away from thinking of exercise as solely a means of losing weight, and instead as a way of filling our days with joy. She invites us to "...remind yourselves that it is an incredibly powerful thing to allow your body to pound the streets with abandon, with freedom. It doesn't have to be about distance. It doesn't have to be about pace. It can be about joy".

"One of the things that I see really, really often in the clinic is people using exercise as punishment, not as what I was describing - joy, freedom and freedom of capability. Instead they use it as a punitive method for shrinking their bodies.

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So we're going to reclaim running and nutrition, from diet culture.

It is no longer ethical, or satisfactory to talk about reduction of energy for the pursuit of shrinking one's body because it has such a detrimental effect on performance, and on capability."

So however long you're out pounding the pavements for, make sure to give your body the fuel it needs. As someone in the class rightly said, whats the point in running if we don't get to eat more because of it?

I couldn't have said it better myself.

For more information on nutrition, or for advice on more specialised dietary concerns visit Carla's website: wildhealthy.com

To learn more about Reformation Studio visit: reformation.ie


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