By: Bianca Cordeiro
Cameron Levins is the record holder for the Fastest Canadian Marathon Male with the record time of 2:09:25 and Lanni Marchant carries the record for Fastest Canadian Marathon Female at 2:28 and the Fastest Canadian Half-Marathon Female at 1:10:47. With a long laundry list of accomplishments, both of these runners must have some excellent nutrition advice for improving your running.
We spoke to these two elite athletes, for their pre-race meals, mindful nutrition and found out what they enjoy post-race too. As always, these runners were very enthusiastic about giving away some of their nutrition secrets.
iRun: What do you typically eat leading up to races?
Cameron: “The last thing I eat, before racing, will be about 3 hours before (at the latest) and it’s generally a bagel with peanut butter plus a banana. The day before I try to continue eating as close to my normal as possible, so I don’t upset my stomach with something strange. As long as my diet [is] balanced, it’s not too difficult to eat similarly no matter where the race is located.”
Lanni: To compare, Lanni explained that she doesn’t eat much before her shorter races. She generally eats a rice cake with a banana or a cliff bar. For the longer races, she does more carb loading with toast and jam, or a breakfast consisting of toast with almond butter and eggs.
iRun: What do you eat and drink during races?
Cameron: “The only race I’ve consumed anything has been the marathon. I just drank a lemonade mixture every 5km for the entirety. Currently practising and trying some new choices, but [I] haven’t used anything else in a race.” Cameron’s go-to is “Country Time Lemonade Black Cherry”.
Lanni: Lanni, in comparison, uses electrolyte and carbohydrate tablets. Lanni has even experimented with using gummy bears during a race in the past.
iRun: What do you put in your bag for after the race?
Cameron: “Often I would put a Clif bar in my bag after track races because I sometimes would continue to workout post-race so eating lots was not a good option for me. Lots of road races have food available afterwards, and I’ll usually grab a banana and muffin if I can.”
Lanni: Lanni says that she typically has a Clif bar after her race, or she will have a banana with peanut butter. She also often enjoys a carbohydrate-based recovery drink; she tries to have one with a little bit of protein, when possible.
iRun: Do you have any nutritional strategies for overcoming injuries?
Cameron: “Basically err on the side of eating too much vs too little. I think there can be a fear that weight gain will lead to future injury risk, but starving yourself of the resources your body needs to heal seems to be the more immediate concern.”
Lanni: Lanni, in contrast, spoke to her recovery nutrition that was used to overcome her hip surgery recovery period. Lanni increased her protein intake to ensure she was maintaining her muscle. She took gelatin and collagen for cartilage repair and prioritized calcium for bone repair. Also, Lanni ensured she ate enough carbs, minerals and vitamins to meet her nutrient requirements for healing after surgery.
iRun: If you were to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cameron: “I love pancakes. Clearly not the healthiest choice, but I can’t imagine ever getting tired of them.”
Lanni: Lanni enthusiastically professed her love for Fuji apples and how her favourite snack can be sidelined depending on her training location. She lamented that it is tough to find apples when she is training in Kenya and that even her favourite nutritional supplements are tricky to source in this African country. As a result, Lanni travels to Kenya with her go-to products tucked into her suitcase.
iRun: How has your nutrition changed since you first started running?
Cameron: “[Initially], I just ate what my parents gave me, and now I think about the benefits or repercussions of whatever I consume.”
Lanni: Lanni said that she has been doing a complete overhaul with her nutrition recently; she explained that she “had some holes” in her past nutrition practices that needed to be addressed to maintain her physical health. Lanni reported that previously she did not fuel sufficiently around exercise. Recently, she has been fixing this weak link in her training nutrition by getting more carbs during her runs.
iRun: What is the number one nutrition tip you would give a marathon runner?
Cameron: “Make sure you are consuming carbohydrates and fluids early in the race because it’s already too late if you’re responding to your thirst/hunger.”
Lanni: “Eat more than you think you need to during training cycles. [Otherwise,] You can get sick or injured before the start line. And be mindful not to overdo carb loading before a race”
iRun: What did Lanni fuel with during her Mount Kilimanjaro climb? What it any different from her race day nutrition?
Lanni: Lanni explained that she ate food at all stops along the way up the mountain. She also reported that hydrating with fluids was necessary because of the sheer amount of fluid loss that occurs at high altitudes. To keep her energy levels high, she used portable carb powders and mixed them with water while trekking, and of course, she made sure to pack some snacks.
iRun: What nutrition tips do you have for NCAA long-distance runners?
Cameron: “I know it’s difficult with their schedules, but try to stop for an actual meal whenever possible instead of opting for a quick snack.”
While there is something valuable to be learned from the losses, we can’t help but marvel at the wisdom that comes from the champions at the top who are winning. Cameron and Lanni revealed their practical and valuable nutrition secrets and tips to their running success. Now all that’s left is to try and implement some of these nutrition tricks.
Bianca is a summer student with Gazelle Nutrition Lab, a Toronto sports nutrition practice. She is also University of Guelph Master’s of Applied Nutrition student with an interest helping athletes fuel their journey.