For endurance sports it is very common to have a diet rich in carbohydrates and in Kenya for example, the vast majority of runners live on foods that are grown and produced locally. This means a diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, maize, milk, eggs, meat; natural, fresh and nutritious products. Alongside these fresh fruits and vegetables is a veritable smorgasbord of carbohydrates; the usual candidates of potatoes, rice (and pasta) make regular appearances but local favourite and by far the most common source of carbs is ugali.
However, as healthy as this diet sounds, they are not without their sugary treats. Kenyan chai tea, a drink made by boiling tea leaves in milk (sometimes half milk half water) and adding anywhere between three to eight teaspoons of sugar per cup. It is drunk exceptionally sweet.
The athletes get their energy from a very carbohydrate-rich diet which allows them to get through the high mileage training sessions. and they’re not afraid to pile up their plates either when it comes dinner time.
Most Kenyan athletes train in a fasted state on a fairly empty stomach. Often first thing in the morning with just a few sips of water and a cup. of coffee or tea. With a good meal of ugali and beans the night before they will have plenty of fuel for the workout ahead, to increase fuel efficiency.
As a general rule, marathon running is primarily an aerobic race. The aerobic metabolism burns fat as its primary fuel and is cultivated by training at lower intensities where your muscles have enough oxygen to produce all the energy you need to perform. To intensify this effect, training fasted or a ‘carb-less’ state, at slower speeds, assists in the bodies adaptation in using fat as its primary fuel source.
For marathon specific Simulation Runs and the Marathon itself it is very common to practice the Rule of 15 starting each Simulation Run or Race fully loaded and not getting behind in calories with a breakfast of coffee or tea and toast or oatmeal and a small banana.
For the marathon distance you would aim to consume 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes with 150ml of fluids and for the ultra distance you would practice the Rule of 20 aiming to consume 20 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes with 150ml of fluids.