Nutrition Journey: A Beginner’s Guide to Fueling Your Long Runs

by | Sep 26, 2023 | Featured, Run, Running Training Insights, Training

If you’re wondering about nutrition but unsure of where to start, then don’t worry, you’re not alone.

‘How much of what, when?’ Is a question that’s been at the heart of almost every conversation I’ve had about nutrition in the past few weeks. I’m a novice, experimenting and trying out what works and what doesn’t work as I go along. Luckily for me ever since I’ve been gaining knowledge and implementing it on my runs, I’ve had more of the ‘THIS WORKS!’ than the ‘this doesn’t.’

In this article, I’ll be sharing what’s been working for me. It’s important to note that everybody is different and the best way to find out what works best for you is to start experimenting. 

Pre-Run Nutrition

Nutrition Journey: A Beginner'S Guide To Fueling Your Long Runs
Pre-Run Nutrition. (c) Brooke Lark via Unsplash

If you’ve got time before your run to have something small and easily digestible to eat then you should. I try to eat an hour to an hour and a half before the run starts to give my body enough time to digest the meal.

I’ve tried eating oats before a run, but that made me feel too heavy. Then I tried eating pronutro and that worked much better. However, after watching this video, I started eating slices of toast with peanut butter and banana and it was a win! It’s a delicious breakfast which makes eating in the early hours of the morning just that much better. 

Other meal options you can include before your run are avo on toast, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, or even a bowl of cereal with good carbohydrates or protein. 

Mid-Run Nutrition

Once you’ve had your breakfast, gotten dressed, and prepped your watch to record the activity, it’s time to shift your focus to the second phase of your nutrition plan; what you are going to eat during the run.

Mid-Run Nutrition: Carbohydrates

If you’re preparing to spend a good few hours on your legs, then carbohydrates are an essential form of nutrition that you need to include in your nutrition. Whether you have this in the form of a gel, a bar, a fluid, or starch, it’s a crucial energy booster for endurance sports. 

I split my carbohydrate intake across different forms of nutrition, but I have found that salted baby potatoes are a game changer. During the long run, it’s good to have something with more substance to eat especially when you’re 5 or 6 hours in and starting to feel hungry. There’s nothing worse than trying to ascend that final climb with a growling stomach and a tired body. The best way to avoid this situation is with some proper food (if that’s what your body requires). 

A few softly boiled salted potatoes midway through will help to avoid the above-mentioned issue. It’s also delicious and I’ve found it’s easy to digest while running. Some runners also prefer a peanut butter sandwich but this was too much chewing for my liking.

Generally speaking, adding between 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour when you’ll be running for more than an hour is advised. I prefer to ‘sip-sip’ on something every 30 to 40 minutes in the beginning and every 30 minutes towards the end of the run with the trusted baby potatoes in the middle. 

Mid-Run Nutrition: Electrolytes

Electrolytes are also very important for endurance activities and will also help with your post-run recovery. Tailwind is my preferred form of nutrition for carbohydrates and electrolytes. It’s super easy to pour this sachet into your water bottle and sip on it throughout your run. It also tastes quite nice which is another big plus!

Other great forms of electrolytes are the nuun tablets or the Electrolyte +C tablets. 

Mid-Run Nutrition: Caffeine

This is where the gels and the chews come in. I recently tested a caffeine GU on a long run and was amazed at how much energy I had on the climbs and how strong I felt powering through. 

I’ve found that the GU gels are quite sweet, but completely fine if you take them with a few sips of water in between. My personal favourite is the Espresso flavoured GU with caffeine. 

As much as everyone always preaches never to try something new on race day, trying out a new flavour falls within this category. Some of the flavours are quite sweet and even for someone with a sweet tooth like I have, it was too much. 

Other gels that runners rave about are the Maurten gels. These are slightly more expensive, but they’ve got a reputation to boast about! 

Post-Run Nutrition

Nutrition Journey: A Beginner'S Guide To Fueling Your Long Runs
Trail Runner Hydrating After A Run

Now that you’ve finished your day out on the trails, if you have not yet done so already, rehydrate! Drinking enough water before, during, and after your run is crucial to your recovery. 

Once you’ve rehydrated, it’s also important to consider that you need to refuel within the first 30 minutes after an intense training session. More carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats will also help you recover from the session. 

This is what I started with and which has worked for me up until now whilst training for my first trail marathon. The marathon distance bug has bitten so as I add more kilometers to my session and become a more experienced runner, I will be sure to update you on this nutrition journey!

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