The Blog

A Marathon Runner's Diet: Steak, Chips and Cocktails

I'm constantly asked by people if they really have to eat bland, boring food just because they're taking part in a sports event. Does it have to be pasta dish after pasta dish, followed by sports drinks?

As we enter the summer months, the sunshine is dragging people out of their homes to take part in the hundreds of sporting events all over the country.

From this weekend's London Marathon through to various triathlons, Ride 100 and the regular Park Runs, the great weather is the best incentive to get involved in sport.

But one thing people always seem to struggle with is their diets while training, competing and even recovering post-event.

I'm constantly asked by people if they really have to eat bland, boring food just because they're taking part in a sports event. Does it have to be pasta dish after pasta dish, followed by sports drinks?

The short answer is no! And people are always surprised when I tell them they can eat steak and chips and even drink cocktails after the race, all while helping their body get itself back to fighting fitness again.

The key is just to know what it is your body is craving, and provide it.

Of course the value of food first and foremost is to provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs, and when it comes to an enormous feat of endurance such as completing a marathon, the importance of food as part of a demanding training regime is even greater.

Marathon runners need to ensure they replace lost nutrients, water and energy, and it can be difficult to cook a meal that does all of that AND tastes great.

However, it strikes me that many devoted runners tend to opt for plain, dare I say, boring foods to complement their regime.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are many exciting ways to prepare really tasty yet balanced dishes whilst retaining nutrients that help to replenish the body after training.

It's well known that runners should stock up on slow-releasing carbohydrates the night before a big race, and specialists say that you should consume a balanced meal of protein and carbs, as well as drinking plenty of fluids including electrolyte drinks after a big run.

Experts recommend runners consume at least 20g of high-quality protein to help repair and re-energise sore muscles, as well as 1g per kg body mass of carbohydrate, and any other vitamin-laden foods you can lay your hands on.

So why opt for a plain grilled chicken breast and a lump of boiled potato, when you could eat a juicy broiled steak teamed with crisp sweet potato fries baked lightly in olive oil, along with a side of herby chimichurri sauce, and still give your body exactly what it needs after running?

An Aberdeen Rib Eye Steak contains around 27g of protein - just what your body needs - so is brilliant at helping to repair your body's fatigued muscles. Cook it on a broiler or something similar, and there's no added fat, so it's an incredibly healthy piece of meat.

Team it up with a healthier sauce, such as horseradish or chimichurri, both of which are low in fat, and top it with mushrooms (a great source of selenium, vitamin E, B-vitamins, vitamin D and they're also very high in fibre) and you won't feel like you're on an athlete's diet.

Pasta is famously good for Marathon preparation, but that's not the only carbohydrate worth eating. Sweet potato is also a great source, as is mac 'n' cheese. It might not be the lowest fat snack, but when you're running so much your body is burning fat at an alarming rate.

After a huge feat like running a marathon, people want to let their hair down and celebrate, rather than jump in an ice bath and sip water all afternoon. So we always try and find a way of making your celebration as good for your body as it can be.

If you're gasping for pudding, dark chocolate has plenty of good qualities, including boosting heart health and reducing the risk of potential blood clots. And fruits like red berries contain anti-oxidants and anthocyanins, which assist with muscle repair and aid post-run recovery. So you can have your cake and eat it. Besides, you've earned it.

And let's not forget that when you meet up with friends afterwards, the last thing you want to do is sit and watch them celebrate your success with a bucketload of booze.

Luckily, there are cocktails that contain electrolytes that will assist your body, even if you are dampening their effects slightly with the alcohol.

The head bartender at our acclaimed G&Tea bar, Robert created the 'Runner's Treat', which is my favourite. It contains electrolytes such as strawberries, green tea, honey, citrus fruits and Hayman's Dry Gin. It's very refreshing, tangy and fresh.

So it really is possible to go all-out with steak, chips, mac 'n' cheese and cocktails while still being a marathon-running legend this weekend.

We'll be at the Manhattan Grill in Canary Wharf this weekend - right on the marathon route - serving up all this and plenty more, so pop in and see us whether you're taking part, or just need a pick-me-up after all that cheering.

Here's wishing the best of luck to everyone taking part in the marathon, and I hope to see you at the G&Tea bar for some energising electrolyte cocktails.