What to eat and when whilst running?

One of the most popular questions I get asked is what I eat and drink on my runs.

So here is the lowdown on what works for me.  Ultimately though, we are all different so it may not work for you. You might be able to tolerate more than me – if so, great! Go with what feels right for you.

Pre run

What I eat before I run depends on how far i’m running and what time of day it is. Assuming I am doing a long run, here is what I would do:

Time of day What I eat What I drink When
Morning 27g porridge with sliced banana OR 27g porridge and half a bagel with peanut butter Pint of water 1.5-2 hours before
Afternoon Lunch as normal (chicken salad/ pasta/ stir fry/ jacket potato) Pint of water 2 hours before
Evening Nakd bar or piece of toast 1/2 pint of water 1 hour before

 

You can see from this table that you need carbs. Lots of carbs. And protein. And not too much fibre.

It is really important to make sure you are hydrated. I drink a LOT of water. I usually have a pint of water with my breakfast every morning, followed by 2 litres of water at work, and then 1-2 pints of water in the evening. It is particularly important to drink plenty of water the day before a long run, particularly if you are going out in the morning. If you are properly hydrated, you shouldn’t need to drink as much on the run.

During the run

Here is where the fun begins. It really depends how far I am running but this is usually my rough strategy (i’ll list all of the products I like at the bottom):

What I eat When
Shot Blok 40 mins / 4 miles
Gel 60 mins / 6 miles
Nakd bar (just a bite) 90 mins / 9 miles
Shot Blok 120 mins / 12 miles
Nakd bar (just a bite) 140 mins / 14 miles
Shot Blok 170 mins / 17 miles
Gel 200 mins / 20 miles
Nakd bar (just a bite) 230 mins / 23 miles
Shot Blok 250 mins / 25 miles

 

Again, it’s all about the carbs. Fast and slow releasing sugars too. Quick releasing sugars for the instant energy. Slow releasing sugar to keep me going. Also you can see I try to alternate what i’m eating and when. I usually eat every 30 minutes although I do eat more frequently at the parts I struggle most in (half way and near the end). Variety is the spice of life when you’re doing a long run – it’s good to eat a mix of different foods with different textures.

I don’t generally get on with gels as they give me really bad tummy cramps. However, when I was training for the London Marathon last year, I found a brand (Torq) which has natural ingredients (with no artificial colours or sweeteners). It seems to be the artificial ingredients which cause havoc with my stomach so these Torq gels are great, and they come in the coolest flavours (raspberry ripple & strawberry yoghurt). I’ve never had any tummy problems with these so I generally have 1-2 in a marathon.

Things I stay away from:

  • Jelly babies – you WILL crash and burn if you eat these during a long run. Generally they’re only good for short distances. Don’t be tempted to pick them up during your marathon!
  • Sweets – for the same reason as above. Stay away from foods which are pure sugar as you won’t get any long term nutritional benefits.
  • Lucozade Sport – some people love it, but it actually makes me thirstier (I end up drinking too much) and gives me a stitch.
  • Caffeine – some people love it, I gave up my 8 cups a day over a year ago and haven’t looked back since. It’s known to cause GI problems for some runners so don’t try anything new on race day!

Hydration

As I said above if you’re hydrated enough before you go out, you shouldn’t need to drink as much when you’re running. That being said, it depends what time of year it is, how much you sweat and what you are used to.

This is just a guide based on what *generally* works for me:

Weather Water Electrolyte Frequency
Winter 1-2 sips 1 sip every 3 miles
Summer 1 sip 1 sip every 1 mile

 

It really doesn’t matter how you take on your fluid. Do what works for you. If you find that you are really thirsty, you probably didn’t drink enough before your run. Don’t over compensate whilst running. Just stop, have a few sips, swish it round your mouth and then spit some out. Wait a few minutes and then start running again. Generally, in the winter, I get through about 500ml of water on a 16-18 mile training run and about 1 litre during a marathon. I expect it would be double that during the summer.

Post run

There are lots of articles out there telling you to eat something within the 15, 30, 45 or 60 minute “magic window” (i’m pretty sure every article I read gave a different time). I have to make a confession and say that I don’t stress about this too much.

I always have a small snack waiting for me after a long run or a difficult workout. Usually I go for a nakd bar, an orange, a banana and a pint of squash/electrolyte. If i’m with friends (who am I kidding, all the time), I often have cake and a cup of decaf tea/coffee too. I’m not a big fan of protein/recovery shakes. For the reasons listed above, I prefer to eat real food. If you like recovery shakes, that’s great and you should continue that.

Products I use

Clif Shot Bloks Torq Energy Gels High5 Electrolyte Nakd Bar Clif Bar GU Energy Gels Trek Bar
      Gu Energy Gel (24x32g) - Salted Caramel - Bikenut - 1 Trek Cocoa Oat

 

Want more?

Hopefully this post has been helpful for you in some way. If you’re still stuck on something and you want to ask me a question, just send me a message 🙂

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