Nutrition is a crucial aspect of long-distance running. What you eat before, during, and after training is a critical element of any running program, and if you’re going to do a long run, you need to have food to eat along the way.
This is something I learned the hard way. I used to ignore (and underestimate) the importance of eating the right things at the right times. As a result, my performance and fitness results suffered.
In fact, I once set myself a goal of completing my first half marathon and figured I could make it through without doing anything but hydration.
I got to about the 9-mile mark when all of a sudden things started getting a little hazy and my knees went wobbly.
Luckily for me, a friendly runner who was behind me handed me a packet of something called Gu. I had never heard of it but I ripped the pack open and sucked it down, and what a difference it made.
Afterward, I learned all about what I had done wrong, how dangerous it was to skip nourishment, and then I found the supplements that worked best for me.
Not used to eating on the run? Don’t worry. You can learn how to do it by embracing the minimal approach. How? Experiment by taking in as little as possible.
That means that instead of swallowing an entire packet, take one mouthful and remember to wash it down with water. See where that gets you. If you’re good, then have more.
As a rule of thumb, begin refueling about 30 to 45 minutes into your long runs. Doing so helps keep your digestive system functioning optimally.
In general, ingest 30 to 50 grams of carbs —roughly 100 to 200 calories—for every hour of runs longer than 60 to 90 minutes.
Remember: Calorie needs depend on many factors, such as speed/intensity, gender, and training goals. That said, what I’d recommend you do is always to have the extra nutrition to be safe. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Eat Real Food
Running nutrition is not expensive. Most of the performance perks of engineered sports products—such as gels and energy bars—can be found in your fridge.
For the record, natural foods are always the better option. These foods are rich in vital nutrients and everything else your body needs for optimal functioning.
Here are some of my favorite running snack:
- Animal crackers
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruits like raisins
Say No to Fiber
In essence, avoid high fiber or whole grain foods.
Though veggies, fruits, and beans are an essential part of a runner’s diet, these can cause digestive issues on a run, including gastrointestinal distress, bloating, and diarrhea.
Sports Drinks & Gels
Not a fan of real food on the run? Then get your carbs from a sports drink.
As already stated, you need between 30 and 60 grams of carbs for each hour spent on your feet, so pick the right sports drinks. Aim for products with at least 8 percent carbohydrate concentration.
Sodium is an essential mineral that we lose through sweat, and replacing it is vital for improving the retention of fluids in the body. Shoot for at least 100 mg of sodium per 8-ounce serving.
Be Your Own Guinea Pig
To master the art of fueling on the run, you’d need to experiment with different foods and products. Everybody is different and responds differently to different foods and brands. There’s no such thing as one size fits all!
Sooner or later you’ll find what works the best for you—as long as you’re willing to test it out. Once you’ve found what works for you, stick to it. There’s a lot of truth to the adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As you experiment with different nutritional methods during your training runs, keep track of the following:
- How much food did you take in?
- How did your body respond to the food?
- What were your energy levels?
- Did you have any stomach problems?
The answers to these questions will help you form the plan that will work best for you.
Bonus Tip – How Do I Become a Better Runner?
The answer to that question lies within my Runners Blueprint System.
My system was specially designed for beginners who either want to start running or take their training to the next level, but have little clue on how to do it.
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Here’s what it includes :
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- How fast (or slow) should you go on your first sessions
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And that’s it. The above diet guidelines are all you need to know when it comes to properly fuel for your long runs. I hope you find them helpful and clear.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep Running Strong!