Training for a marathon is one of the most physically exhausting things you can do.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the best way to train, and they can cause harm if you fall into them.
Here are five myths about training for marathons and why they're wrong. (by LiveStrong.com)
Myth #1: Drink as much water as possible on the run to prevent hypernatremia (a dangerously high concentration of sodium in the blood)
In fact, drinking too much water can lead to Hyponatremia, which is an imbalance of the fluid-electrolyte levels in the blood. Basically, blood sodium levels plummet because of excessive fluid intake — and if treated incorrectly this condition could lead to death!
To make sure that runners are not over-consuming water, they should weigh themselves pre and post runs and make sure that there is no weight gain from excessive fluid consumption. Try to drink only enough to replace lost fluids and consume sports drinks containing sodium rather than plain water. Post-run, runners should ideally weigh within 2 percent of their pre-run weight, and not more. They should also aim to drink between 16 to 32 ounces of fluid during every hour of running.
Myth #2: You must carbohydrate load before a marathon or long run
Actually, rather than loading up on plates and plates of pasta the night before a long run (which can cause stomach distress or make runners feel sluggish or tired during the run), runners should consume their usual carbohydrate rich diet and focus on tapering their exercise regimes during the week before the run to maximize glycogen stores. A trainer can provide specific distance benchmarks that should be followed closely in preparation for the day of the marathon.
Myth #3: "I am running so much that I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight!"
If you are using your long runs as an excuse to gorge yourself on anything you want, do not be surprised if you start to slowly pack on the pounds. A 10-mile run can easily be undone with a bean and cheese burrito from your average Mexican fast food joint, as an example (close to 1,000 calories). While your calorie needs are going to increase as you increase your mileage, use your hunger level as a gauge on how much to increase your intake by, not your eyes! Add extra calories through healthy snacks, preferably around your workouts, not in the form of indulgent treats late at night — which also won't help with recovery.
Myth #4: Energy bars and gels are much better for refueling than actual food
While energy bars and gels are convenient, there is nothing extra special in them that you could not get from ordinary foods. For example, instead spending extra money on gels, you could simply make your own by watering down some jelly and putting it in a small ziploc bag. Instead of an energy bar, you could make your own trail mix or eat a few Fig Newtons or some pretzels and peanut butter. Either way you will get the nutrients you need to fuel your body on your long runs. As for those special recovery drinks for after your runs, good old chocolate milk will do the job just as well!
Myth #5: You don't need to consume any fat when training for a marathon; your diet should consist of mostly carbohydrates with some lean protein
Fats are an essential component to any diet. They provide essential fat soluble vitamins and fatty acids, provide a concentrated source of energy, are needed to protect vital organs, used for insulation, are components of cell membranes, improve the taste and smell of foods and increase the satiety we get from foods. Consumption of fat should never fall below 15 percent of one's daily calorie intake because doing so many hinder performance and health.
[Image via AP Images.]