a chef's guide to marathon training with george mendes

When we think about training for a marathon, we often think only about the physical training. It starts easy, but then as things get closer, runs get longer, stamina gets pushed, and that weekend long run starts to take over other plans. But what about the nutritional aspect of training? We hear time and time again that it’s what you put in your body that counts and we think that matters even more so in preparation for 26.2.


George running the NYC Marathon, 2018

So what should you eat? How should you balance your meals to fill you up after burning all those extra calories while still enjoying mealtime in the process? We wanted to know, so we sat down with famed chef George Mendes (Aldea) to get the scoop on his nutritional routine in prep for the London Marathon this April. Here are our takeaways.

  1. When you commit to a marathon, you’re going to burn a lot of calories and you are going to sweat a lot. Proper nutrition (with adequate balance) and hydration are key to success, much like they are in any other workout.

  2. Coffee: In George’s words, “Coffee is number one.” George always starts his morning with coffee. The bit of caffeine gives him the wake-up call and burst of energy he needs to get out the door and get running.

  3. Take In some Carbs: A typical pre-run breakfast for George is lightly toasted bread (preferably sourdough or wholegrain) smothered with almond butter and a little smear of jam for sweetness: “I typically don’t eat or drink too much before going out for a run to avoid bathroom breaks”

  4. During the Run, always make sure to have fuel with you and in particular electrolytes. The easiest, most efficient (not to mention light) way is through gel packs, and George’s particular favorites are Maurten (neutral and flavorless with very little sugar), followed by Huma and the well-known Gu. He recommends 1 packet for a ten-mile run. For longer runs, a snack is essential for George, his go-to being a small bag of mini pretzels or Picky Bars, which “have great flavors, are very dense and chewy and pack a punch”. Whatever you choose to consume, just make sure you are also drinking enough fluids to keep yourself hydrated throughout your runs, both short and long.

  5. Cool Down. When George gets back from his run, he likes to wind down with stretches and a shower and like clockwork, within 30 minutes he is ready for some sustenance. “There is a window where you should give your body protein and it is very important for recovery. After 30 minutes your body takes more time to recover if you don’t give your body the nutrients it is screaming for.” That being said, a hearty meal comes next for George, typically consuming egg whites in olive oil, chicken or turkey sausage, toast and nut butters, as well as avocado to ensure he’s getting his healthy fats. George also recommends smoothies post-run if you don’t have the time to cook a full meal, a personal favorite being Aloha, which is a plant-based protein smoothie mix (banana and the green smoothie being the clear favorites).

  6. Nutrition for the rest of the day isn’t anything out of the ordinary. In fact, we should all probably be eating this way more often than we care to admit. Geroge typically tries to pile on the leafy greens (favorites being kale and collard greens) as well as sweet potatoes and broccoli. He looks to stay away from pork and beef (essentially anything with marbled fat) while training and focuses more on leaner proteins that still pack a punch such as chicken, turkey and oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc). His mentality: Don’t get bored and keep things colorful. Words to live by.

  7. Snacks. If you’re running 26.2, chances are you are snacking throughout the day to make up for calories burned. Keep things healthy by choosing quicky, easy but healthy snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, or George’s favorite, Picky Granola Bars. Make sure you are getting your fluids and drinking a lot of water throughout the day. Hydration is a key part of nutrition.

  8. Moderation. We’re all human and that means we aren’t perfect. Keep things in moderation and keep it real. If that means you have the occasional late night pizza while training (much like George), that’s okay. Get your shoes back on, clock those miles, and keep training.

To follow along with George's training as well as his pursuits in the culinary world, follow him on Instagram: @geomendes
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