How to fuel your run
Looking to fuel those longer runs? We reveal the top foods to help you cover those additional miles
If you’re looking to increase your mileage in preparation for a marathon or half marathon, then you need to fuel yourself properly. Now is not the time to start dieting or restricting calories.
So how much fuel do you need? In general, runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes. But you’ll need to start fueling earlier than 75 minutes into a run to avoid energy dips. Ideally take on 30 grams of carbs (roughly one energy gel) every 45 minutes of your run. Your fuel could include energy gels, blocks, drinks, a few jelly beans or real food like dates, raisins or bananas. Be sure to follow your fuel with water. Your stomach can only tolerate a certain amount of carbs so you need to dilute your fuel for it to go into circulation and avoid stomach cramps. If you opt for real food choose those rich in easily digestible carbohydrates to avoid stomach upset.
Practice fuelling on your long runs. This will give you a chance to see which types of fuel work for you. If you’re finishing your long runs feeling completely shattered, you need to take on more fuel next time.
Pre-race nutrition is equally important. Depending on the timing of your run, a pre-run snack should contain a combination of slow releasing carbohydrates (e.g. oats) and more instant energy (e.g. fruit, dried fruit). This will help raise your blood sugar and top up muscle and liver carbohydrate stores to provide lasting energy for the duration of your run. While your needs will vary depending on your length of run try and eat 30-60 minutes before your run and aim for around 15-25g carbohydrate. Best foods are those low in fat and fibre. A little protein is valuable for staying power during a run and can help stabilise blood sugar. If any amount of food upsets you try a smoothie or liquid drink instead.
Lastly, remember your post run snack. Within the first hour aim for around or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This could be chocolate milk with a banana, a protein shake with fruit or sweet potato with cottage cheese.
Here are some great foods to keep you fuelled:
Packed with slow releasing carbohydrates they are ideal for sustaining energy levels. Try a bowl of porridge 1-2 hours before a long run or make up some homemade protein bars for a post exercise refuel.
Rich in soluble fibre, carbs and protein they help stabilise blood sugar levels during longer training sessions. Delicious as chia puddings or added to smoothies
A portable fuel – rich in easy to digest carbohydrates without causing any digestive upset. For longer runs they are an excellent source of potassium, an electrolyte that is readily lost through sweat.
A great combination of protein and slow releasing carbohydrates making it ideal for clocking up the miles. Rich in energy boosting magnesium, iron and B vitamins.
Packed with antioxidants including vitamin C and beta-carotene known for their anti-inflammatory properties plus easy to digest carbohydrate
Rich in nitrates shown to enhance stamina and endurance. Try beetroot shots one hour before a long run.
Berries, Cherries and Acai
Antioxidant rich cherries and berries (blueberries, acai, raspberry etc.) are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits for recovery plus a great source of fuel.
by Christina Macdonald, Editor-at-Large of Women’s Running magazine and author of the book, Run Yourself Fit (Summersdale). She has completed two marathons and ten half marathons.