What Should You Eat During a Run?
Fueling is essential when you run, be it during a training program or a race. You can’t complete a long-distance run on just water. Glycogen stored in your body can power you on a moderately intense run spanning 60 to 90 minutes. Once the store is depleted in runs exceeding 90 minutes, it becomes essential to fuel your body. It is important to fuel up before, during, and after your run. The best way to determine what works for you is to experiment with foods and drinks during long training sessions that simulate race day.
As the distance you run increases, the body needs additional fuel, mainly in the form of carbohydrates. Right amounts of carbs prevent early fatigue, maintain blood sugar level, and improve performance. Around 30 to 60g of carbohydrate per hour is recommended to prevent muscle fatigue and maintain pace and cognition.
Fueling for long runs
So, what should you eat to fuel up for long-distance running?
Real food: Whole, unprocessed foods that you can eat on the go work best. They help you fuel better and sit well in your stomach as opposed to gel packets and other fuel options, as you’re used to having these in your regular diet. Think sandwiches, dates, raisins, bananas, low-fiber cereal, and salted boiled potatoes. Try them on your training runs and see if they work for you. Your aim should be to consume carbs every hour of the run.
Gel packets: Many runners prefer gels on their runs. They contain simple carbohydrates and electrolytes and are easy to carry. Some contain caffeine, but if you don’t usually drink caffeinated beverages, it’s better to avoid them. Or, get used to them slowly.
Waffles: They are great sources of simple and complex carbohydrates, offering you both quick and sustained energy for your long runs. They have a soft and chewy consistency and can be a great option if gels are not your cup of tea.
Chomps: The little square gummy-type chewables offer similar nutrition like gels. Runners prefer them as they are small enough to pop into the mouth like gum. The flavourful bites are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and a few chomps will provide enough fuel.
Energy bars: Choose a bar that is easily digestible and not packed with artificial sweeteners. An ideal energy bar would be high in carbs to fuel your body during the run with the required amount of glucose. It should be low in fat, protein, and fiber. Remember, fiber slows down digestion and can cause stomach problems mid-run.
Also read: Can I Eat Before a Run?
How do you know if you are fueling right?
So you know what to eat and why, but how do you know if it is working for you? To find out, ask yourself these questions.
- Did I maintain energy throughout the run?
- Did I have an upset stomach during the run?
- How did I feel the rest of the day and the days following the run?
- Do I feel strong enough to head into my next training run?
Foods to avoid
It’s advisable to avoid foods high in fiber and fat, which might cause an upset stomach. You don’t want to find your way to the bathroom instead of covering your next mile.
High-fiber foods: Whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice, whole-grain bread and pasta, beans, and legumes.
High-fat foods: Most animal products, full-fat dairy products like butter, cheese, yogurt, and items like creamy soups, mayonnaise, gravies, some sauces and dips.
It is important to remember that some runners can tolerate more fiber and fat than others. Be sure to experiment with different types of foods till you find your perfect match.
How do you find what works for you?
A fueling plan is essential for your race day. Explore your nutrition needs when you train on long runs. Getting accustomed to your fueling strategy will eliminate chances of a disaster on race day and help you stay focused. Keep a log of your training runs alongside the types and quantity of nutrition and hydration taken. Record the time at which you take them as well.
Fueling plans will not be the same for everyone, so it is essential to determine exactly what works for you to deliver optimum performance. Get your nutrition right if you want to get better with every run and stay ahead of the game.