6 Tips For Eating During Long Runs

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.

  1. Start Small

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.

  1. How Much

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.

  1. 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:

  • Peanuts
  • Honey
  • Animal crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Pretzels
  • 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

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Why ?

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Here’s what it includes :

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Conclusion

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!

David D.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi David, great article thank you!

    I have defaulted to using chewable fuel gels, given their convenience and being ‘built for purpose’ but have always suspected instinctively that real foods are the better option, but didn’t know where to start… so I just had a few questions I was hoping you could answer;

    In your list of possible options, you don’t mention banana? Is this a deliberate omission, and is there a reason you don’t personally use it?

    One of the ‘selling points’ for gels are that they provide carbohydrates etc in a format that maximises the absorption and utilisation by the body. Is this a drawback of using ‘wholefoods’? Does the body have to work harder/longer to convert the fuel from wholefoods?

    I’m reading from New Zealand, so am not so familiar with animal crackers – are you recommending the sweet, sugar cookie style? Or the salty cracker ones? Are they good for the carb/sodium boost, or something else?

    Same with pretzels, do you mean the little hard ones that come in packets like potato chips, or the bigger, baked doughy ones? Is this for the carb and salt boost too?

    Many thanks, looking forward to trying some stuff out and saving my wristwatch from the mid run gel disasters!

    S

    • Thank you for reading my post. And yes it’s a deliberate omission. I love bananas, but I only eat them pre-workout. I tried having them while running and my stomach wasn’t that happy. However, different people different folks.

      I don’t know much about what kind of pretzels you have in New Zeland, but I think you should try them all and see which one works the best

      Thank you again

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