If you read my bio, you’ll learn that I LOVE carbs. Pizza, pasta, and pastries (a triple threat) are staple items in my diet. My carb obsession probably stems from the fact that I’m Italian, and very few meals in my family are served without noodles and bread. But, there’s another reason for my madness. I’m a runner. (I can now say that with confidence after 18 weeks of rigorous training for the Chicago Marathon.)

There are many lessons to learn when training for a marathon – when to run, where to run, what to wear, but most importantly, you have to learn what to eat. Without proper nutrition, you’ll be running at a tortoise’s pace less than half way through your race.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way, and few tips from the experts. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – No, water is not a carb, but it’s the most important part of training for a marathon. Be sure to drink plenty of water during the entire week before a long run, and always carry water or a sport drink with you. (I wear a hydration belt.) When you dine out, order water. In  fact, ask the waiter/waitress to bring a pitcher of water to your table, and give them an extra tip for being a “cheap” guest. 🙂

Carboload – Carbs are arguably the most important source of energy for runners. I’ve found that it’s best to carboload the week to two days before a long run. If you’re worried about the energy wearing off too quickly, don’t be. The energy your body absorbs from a big pasta dinner, for example, stays in your body until you exercise. A beloved Italian restaurant of mine in Chicago is called Bivona. If you’re in the area, I recommend checking it out. You better believe I’ll be making a visit to this neighborhood favorite before (and after) the marathon.

Don’t forget the protein – A lot of runners spend so much time hydrating and carboloading, that they forget to eat an adequate amount of protein – an essential nutrient for muscle recovery and strength. Try to work eggs, nuts, yogurt and lean meats, like chicken and fish, into your daily diet. I boil a carton of eggs at the beginning of each week and eat two every day for snacks. When you go out for your pre-marathon dinner, order meat with your pasta – chicken parmesan perhaps? (This post is making me hungry!)

If you’re a runner, please share your own nutritional habits or advice for other runners below. From novice to advanced, we runners need to fuel up together!