Knowing how to properly fuel before midweek races, long runs and races can be extremely overwhelming when you’re new to running, or when your training for a new long distance. If you do your research and fuel your body properly though, you’ll be feeling great and find what works for you in no time. Let’s start with midweek runs or runs that are no longer than 60 minutes.
Depending on the time of day you’re going out for your run, you want to make sure you leaven plenty of time to fuel your body, and then allow enough time for any fuel or produce to digest.
If you’re eating between 2 and 2.5 hours before your run, you want to take in 300 – 400 calories that contain carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. Some ideas for a morning run are a PB&J sandwich; a smoothie containing some fruit, spinach or kale, and greek yogurt, or a cup of oatmeal with some peanut butter and bananas to mix with it. If you’re run is going to be in the afternoon or dinner, try some cooked quinoa with grilled chicken; whole wheat pasta with cheese, a wrap with grilled chicken and avocado. Some foods to avoid are fibrous vegetables and foods that are high in fat. Since I have about two years under my belt of fueling experience, I have found my perfect pre-run breakfast; 1 piece of whole wheat bread with crunchy natural peanut butter, banana, honey and cinnamon and a glass of water. I tend to not stray away from that as I know my stomach can handle it and my body is happy during the first 2 hours of my run.
If you’re doing your run in about an hour, you want to only have a light 150 calorie snack that contains easily digestible carbs and some proteins. This could include whole wheat toast with peanut butter (or for a lighter version, PB2 or Justin’s almond butter); banana with peanut butter and a handful of almonds, or half of a fruit and nut bar (LARA, Luna or Cliff bars are good options). You want to avoid any food that could potentially irritate or make your stomach upset while running, this is common if you eat gas producing fruits such as apples.
If you’re just looking for something to put in your stomach before your run in 15 to 30 minutes, you want something that contains easily digestible carbs. This can include a few whole wheat crackers, a banana, some applesauce or a handful of dried fruit. For a run that you will be doing shortly, you want to avoid any large serving of carbs or proteins (bagel with cream cheese, granola or energy bar that is high in calories, or a bowl of pasta).
How about those long distance runs? How do you fuel properly before, during and after? When I first started running, I looked at literally 1,000 different blogs and running websites that recommended certain products, or certain fueling schedules. Again, and I know I sound like a broken record, you have to figure out what works for you! Everyone’s body is different and unique when it comes to fueling, so what works for one person may not work for you.
I suggest going to your local running store (Playmakers is my go to place for fueling), and seeing what interests you. There are SOOO many different brands for gel blocks, electrolyte replacements, Gu’s, and bars. On top of that, they each have several different flavors and level of caffeine (if that’s what you’re looking for).
For fueling before or during your run, Gu’s are a great source of energy for endurance athletes and provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs to sustain activity for a longer period of time. I personally don’t mind them, but I did have to get used to the texture of them. Honestly, they feel like snot going down your throat. I realize that’s disgusting, but if you can get past that they’re a great source of energy! I typically take one 15 minutes before my long run, and then every 4 miles starting at mile 12. My favorite flavors are vanilla, tri-berry and caramel. If I am training for a race, I find out what fueling products they’ll have on the course and try them out first. That way it’s one less thing I have to carry on race day if I don’t mind them.
There are a lot of other brands of Gu, such as Cliff and Honey Stinger. I really like the Cliff strawberry one too. I haven’t tried the honey stinger gu yet, but I do have it in my bin to try and I’m really excited about it. They have different flavors as well, but I am a HUGE fan of honey so I have a feeling I’ll enjoy it 🙂 Another source of fueling I go to if I feel like I need something before the 12 mile mark or if I am getting sick of Gu is Cliff Gel Blocks. They come in all sorts of flavors, my personal favorites are tropical punch and strawberry.
Lastly, you need to constantly be hydrating your body. You lose a lot of fluids while you are endurance training, and if you’re like me… you sweat like a pig. So I lose a lot of electrolytes (these are the little things in your body that help regulate a healthy pH balance that is critical to physical activity); therefore it’s really important for me to be providing myself with electrolytes throughout the race. Again, there are different brands for these; two of the ones that I have tried are Gu Brew and Nuun. The race I am running May is having lemon-lime Gu Brew on the course… and unfortunately I’m going to have to carry my own electrolyte source on the course. I tried the Gu Brew and I’m just not a fan of it. It tastes too salty for me, and doesn’t compare to Gatorade in my opinion. However, I have had great success with Nuun electrolyte tablets. Nuun replenishes electrolytes that are lost through sweat, and it is also sugar and carb free (this is the main reason why I prefer Nuun to other sports drinks). It helps alleviate cramps, helps burn energy efficiently and also aids your muscles so that they can continue functioning. A container comes with 12 tablets, and you just drop one in your bottle, then watch it do it’s thang. Just a tip, leave the lid off of your water bottle for about 5 minutes after you pop your tablet in. The mixture created is somewhat fizzy at first, and if you close it right away all of that pressure stays inside your water bottle, and it has more of a carbonation taste at first. I really like the strawberry lemonade, and I tend to switch between sipping on water and Nuun. Since I can get water at aid stations every 1.5 miles along the course in May, I plan on having my hydration belt filled with just Nuun, and then grabbing water at the stations.
Now that we’ve covered the basics about fueling before a run and during, what about after you just put your body through hell, literally. I know that when I get done with a long run, it’s super important for me to properly feed it. Usually within the first 30 minutes after a run I try and get a power bar or a protein shake in my system.
Also some fruit like a banana or some dried fruit with trail mix is a good idea too. Sometimes you’ll experience your stomach feeling upset after a long run, but it’s important to at least get something in your stomach. Or if you’re like me, your dying of hunger after a long run and all you can think about is smashing some buffalo wild wings and a giant beer. But just make sure your constantly staying hydrated and fueling your body throughout the day, and really the next couple of days. Also stretch after your race, and DO NOT stop moving. I know when you finally slow down after crossing that finish line, it’s going to feel like your legs have a mind of their own and are slowly melting underneath you, but seriously keep walking, or keep jogging; just do not stop moving.
As I said, this is just my thoughts and experiences with fueling, but to each his/her own. Good luck with your fueling journey, and feel free to e-mail me with any questions you have along the way!
Make it a great day!