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Pro Runner Emma Bates on Nutrition for Marathon Training

Pro Runner Emma Bates on Nutrition for Marathon Training
Emma Bates is one of the top marathon runners in the United States. She represented Team USA in the 2022 Marathon World Championships and finished 7th, running a personal best by over a minute. She finished 2nd at the 2021 Chicago Marathon and ranks 9th all-time on the list of fastest U.S. women's marathons. We had a chance to chat with Emma about her love for the marathon and how UCAN is solving some of the fueling challenges she's faced.

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How did you get into running?

Emma Bates: The interest started in kindergarten. Even when I was three years old, I was running around all the time, but once I got into kindergarten, when we started running the mile in gym class, I would to try to beat everybody in class and beat the boys. I just had such a competitive nature about me and I was a very hyperactive child.

My parents knew that they needed to wear me out a bit more, so they put me into distance running. I went to the first day of practice and I just fell in love with the community and how much fun everybody was having. The friends that you make, that was what kind of stuck with me and that's why I continued my running career into college, just because I had so much fun with it in high school. The rest is history from there, I was able to win a national title and then get a professional sponsorship with Asics.

What do you like about being a marathon runner?

EB: I think it's mostly the training. I mean, you're training for about 12 weeks for this one race. I just love going out there for 20 plus miles and finding a different side of myself. I have learned so much about my motivation, my dedication, and all the qualities that you can transfer into real life. It's such a cool experience. It's a great way for me to meditate as well and get my thoughts in order and go after something that not a lot of people are able to do.

Everybody that does train for a marathon, especially the people that are working full time and have kids, is trying to better themselves. They have certain PRs and goals that they're going after or just health related things, and I think that's so special about the marathon. You can come into this race and be surrounded by so many different facets of running, from the competitive nature to the joy of running. I love it so much more than I thought I would just because of that atmosphere and the joy and tenacity that people have for the goals that they have in hand. I get so much more motivated to go after my goals seeing that.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve had fueling your runs?

EB: I’ve run five marathons now and in every one of them I’ve struggled with gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, and stomach cramps. The biggest challenge for me is just getting down enough nutrition because of the flavor. I struggle with the way most gels taste and I’ve struggled with some of the carbohydrate drinks too. The sugar content wreaks havoc on my stomach, but with UCAN I haven't had any problems.

How do you incorporate the different UCAN products into your training routine?

EB: I’ve always had PB&J before a run. Now I’ve been having toast with almond butter and jelly and I’ve been loving that. I have that with some coffee, sip on some of the Hydrate for electrolytes and then after that, I'll go for a run. I've had my fair share of stomach issues with a lot of electrolyte products and especially when they have alternative sugars, but with UCAN, I’ve never had a problem with my stomach being upset. So that's a big deal, especially if I'm drinking it beforehand.

I use Edge during my long runs, especially when I’m focusing on marathon training. I really enjoy the taste of it so I actually look forward to taking it every time I need it. With UCAN having such a steady release of energy, I've felt so much better throughout the runs compared to taking other gels, where I would feel this burst of energy, but then it would be so short-lived. What I really like about UCAN is that I don't feel an immediate change, but I notice my body just feels better for longer.

Based on if it’s a workout day or a training run day I’ll decide what I eat afterwards. If it's just a training run, I typically eat one of the Chocolate Almond Butter energy bars. If I'm lifting weights after a workout, then I'll do the Cookies & Cream Protein + Energy. It’s a great way to fuel me because I don’t like to eat a lot before I lift. Taste is just like such a big thing for me. I’ve always hated protein powders and the flavor profile and I’ve just had to choke it down.

With UCAN, I look forward to taking it between my workout and my lifts. When I start the lift, I have so much more energy and I feel like my recovery process after that has been greatly improved. Granolda is the best snack ever, so I just eat that whenever I can.

What’s your overall approach to nutrition? Are there any principles you try to follow?

EB: My outlook is kind of boring, but it’s just to be balanced.I don’t deprive myself of anything that I really want, especially running 120 miles a week during marathon training. I’m not hyper-focused on how many calories are in things, I've never really kept track of that. It's more about making sure I’m fueling myself. If I eat something and I feel better, then that’s what I'm going to do. It ebbs and flows too, depending on where I am in my training cycles in terms of how much I'm eating or what I'm eating.

I've listened to a lot of coaches, a lot of peers, a lot of nutritionists, and I've kind of picked things up from them and have administered that into my daily routine. I’ve also tried to focus on people that have found success. Deena Kastor is a big person that I've kind of modeled my career after and I've adopted a lot of her habits. Even my training partner Emma Coburn, just seeing what she eats every day and knowing that we just need to fuel ourselves is something that has really stuck with me. Through a lot of trial and error, I've been able to figure out what works best for me.

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