Eat to power your long runs the right way

Firstly, I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not here to give you advice like that.  But what I can do is share some really useful techniques I’ve worked out over the last few years of training, hopefully you’ll find them beneficial like I did.

Running  shorter distances doesn’t usually mean you’ll need to take food on board.  Things can change however when we look at long runs and those changes occur for 2 main reasons:

 

  1. You are likely to run for so long that you will need to replace depleted glycogen stores
  2. You are likely to run at such a speed that the distance might not be so long, but you will be out for longer than you are used to

So, the simple question is, what do you eat if either of these apply to you?

Let me start by saying if you’re looking for advice to run an ultra, or a mountain run, this isn’t the article, I’m concentrating on road runs in this piece, probably marathons (but not exclusively), the bottom line is, if you think you’ll need food in your run then this may help so read on!

 

  1. Think first about what you will drink. Water is of course fine, but don’t overdo it prior to the race or you might suffer from needing excessive toilet breaks once you pass the start line. One thing I think affected me a couple of years ago was drinking so much prior to a long race that my body was over hydrated and I felt this might have contributed to cramping the following day.
  2. How much space do you have? If you’ve only got limited pockets then what else will you need to carry? Some foods pack a big carbohydrate punch in a small space, so shop wisely.
  3. Speaking of carb counting – not all foods are created equal! I’ve found comparing the carb count per 100g helps to level the playing field as a first step.
  4. Your next step once you’ve narrowed your selection down is to look at the amount of the food in front of you, which gives you the greatest weight AND the highest amount of carbs per 100g?

In the words of the Knight from Indiana Jones ‘You should choose wisely’

  1. Ok, so what actual foods should I eat?! Well that is a personal choice, and it’s hard to be specific but there are some foods that you should definitely consider. Dried fruit gives a powerful boost, it’s quick to get in and often (check your ingredients here) gives you a good amount of carbs. Experiment, I spend time checking labels and finding what’s best, you should give this a go too. If you want a really quick boost then a chocolate bar would do the trick, as would things like jelly babies/jelly beans (this is the only confectionary option I’m including!). For a slightly longer burn home made flapjacks are good – I supercharge mine by adding honey, golden syrup, and raisins. This adds to the flavour too, they really seem to work a treat and they taste great too!   Check out my blog for the recipe, coming soon! Finally, many runners use sports gels, this is a subject that could easily run to a separate article all of its own, but they have a job to do and seem to do it, don’t forget, there are bars which offer a similar performance benefit, but I said I wouldn’t mention confectionary again, does this count?

What works for you? Have you noticed a significant difference?  Let me know in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Eat to power your long runs the right way

  • Hi Geoff, thanks for this…
    I’m doing my first Ultra next Saturday, a 32m mountain route, and then the 100k Race to the Stones in July. So I’ve been experimenting a bit. In preparation. I can’t tolerate gels, but I’ll probably take a blockshot in case I run out if jam sandwiches and flapjacks! I’ve also found that I’m less likely to cramp if I use electrolyte rather than plain water, I use High 5 zero because I hate the taste of most of the others! Finally, my essential bag of tangfastic sours 🙂 I’m hoping this’ll work for me…but any other suggestions gratefully received. 🙂

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