While there is definitely some information out there about nutrition and running, I am shocked by how little that information actually amounts to. Just about everyone who has purchased the PR Half Marathon Training Plan has inquired about nutrition during their runs. Often, when it comes to running and nutrition, you have to play around to find what works for you. I ran and PR’d a half marathon with just breakfast. Others need to have 1-2 full gu packets for a half marathon. It all depends on your goals, and what your body is used to. Below are a few of my tips for preparing for longer runs, and what I have found to work and not work.
-I have a big LUNCH the day before my long run. This is so I have the energy the next day for the run, but early enough in the day that everything has worked it’s way through my system… Basically, I don’t want my BM to rear it’s head halfway through my run. Probably TMI, but we are all adults here! If I have the bigger lunch I usually have my BM before my run at the latest (but usually at night).
-I always drink an electrolyte drink the night before my run (I like the Nuun tablets that I can add to my water, but play around and see what works for you) then I also have a Nuun tablet in cold water AFTER my run. It took me a long time to implement the electrolyte water the night before, but I have noticed a significant difference, especially in the heat.
-The general rule of thumb you will find is to ingest about 50g of carbs for every hour you run. A nutritionist told me that you do not need to change how you eat for anything under 6 miles. This means your calorie intake for the day does not need to change if your mileage is below six. Therefore, let’s say you ran 10 miles in an hour and a half – you probably want an extra 50g of carbs. This is a little under one cup of oats. If you are newer to running, you may need to increase calories a little for less than six miles, but there’s no need to go crazy. A four-mile run will never warrant a pint of ice cream, no matter how new your body is to that mileage.
-Remember that everyone is different so you will have to play around with a few things before you find what works for you. If eating a full cup of oatmeal makes you sick, don’t force it. I usually do long runs on Saturday, but my body does not digest well until Sunday. So I have extra on Friday to prepare for my run, and eat a little more Sunday because that is when I feel hungry.
-I also recommend protein in your post run meal. My favorite things to eat after my long runs are usually eggs, bacon, spinach and mushrooms, and an ezekiel english muffin. This was a decent amount of protein as well as slow digesting carbs to replenish my depleted nutrients. I also like oatmeal and protein powder, but I usually eat oatmeal before my long run so it’s rare that I would have oatmeal twice in one day.
-During my first 1/2 marathon training, I realized that if I ate too soon after my run I would basically flush everything out. I learned to slowly nibble on a banana after my run then eat my meal about 30-60 minutes later. This helped me retain my food vs rushing to the toilet as soon as I consumed it.
-Under six miles, I can run on an empty stomach (not recommended, just being honest). Once I got serious about my running and performance, I began eating a bowl of oatmeal or oat bran (if you are new to oat bran, I would eat it on non-running days first – it has the ability to clean out your insides pretty quickly!) about an hour before my run. Usually I would add peanut butter, and/or a banana. It is really going to be dependent on what your body uses for energy. Fats and carbs are your body’s main energy sources, but some people struggle with fats as an energy source since we live in a low-fat society. Play around and see what works for you.
-Everyone is different during runs. I was a dumb-dumb and didn’t start fueling during runs until I marathon trained. That means I ran three half marathons on just my breakfast! You may consider not doing this because it’s silly. For a half marathon you may try 1/2 gu around 5-6 miles then the other half between mile 10-12. Again, this is something you have to play with. The idea is to have your serving BEFORE your muscles start aching. It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked for me. You may not use Gu either, there are TONS of other energy products out there, so play with what works for you. I liked Gu, my SIL swears by the energy jelly beans, and still others love the honey stingers. There are a lot of options.
I know I mentioned poop about four times in this, but it is just a reality of running (and being human…). What have you found works best for you when it comes to nutrition and running?