Struggling to rack up the miles without burning out? Your nutrition might be letting you down.
You’re finally doing it. You’ve entered that all-important half marathon, full marathon or ultra, and you’re slowly building up your runs for longer distances. But what happens when you’re out on your lengthy runs and you start to flag? To avoid hitting the dreaded wall or suffering burnout as you rack up the miles, it’s important to stock up on high-octane snacks to see you flying over the finish line.
We’ve outlined a few handy tips that will help you up those miles without upping the stress on your body.
Water Won’t Cut It
For short distance runs or even up to half marathon distances, a simple water bottle is likely all you need to keep hydrated. But for those longer runs, you’ll need to up your calorie intake - both through fuel, energy drinks or both. Test out different brands of energy drinks, gels and snacks to find which works for you.
Foods to avoid? Green, leafy vegetables and whole grains - or indeed anything packed with fibre. During long runs, your body needs sugar and carbs to fuel your muscles. The last thing you want is to get caught short whilst running a race or in the middle of a remote trail with no toilet in sight.
Training for a particular race? Do your research and find out which brands will be handing out gels, sweets or drinks on the day. Try these out beforehand and see if you can incorporate them into your running snack routine. If they suit you and your digestive system, then you’ll have to carry less snacks on race day itself.
Do The Maths
A general rule of thumb for long-distance runners? You’ll need to consume between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrate every hour after you hit the 75 minute mark.
What does this equate to? Between six to 12 jelly babies an hour, one large banana, or one to two energy gels.
As you start to lengthen the distance of your runs, experiment with different types of fuel to work out what your body likes and what it doesn’t. Whilst some runners can live off energy gels with little to no side effects, some find themselves needing the toilet very shortly after! And if you’re training for a particular race, then do not switch up your fuel on race day. No matter how appealing an energy drink might appear from a kind stranger, it could be a different result for you and your belly.
Practise eating or drinking every 15-30 minutes during a longer training run, and monitor how you feel. How were your energy levels throughout the run? Did I enjoy the run more, or was it more difficult? Once you have an idea of what works for you and what doesn’t, you can fuel as often as you need.
Carry Food In Your Waistpack / Pockets
Don’t want to stop and shop whilst on a long run?
Investing in a waistpack or hydration vest to carry your snacks and/or drinks will alleviate these worries. Do your research and buy accessories based on the distance you plan on running. A simple waistpack might be all you need if you’re running up to two hours and need somewhere to store snacks whilst you carry a water bottle, but for longer distances a running backpack will hold all the fluids you need. Just be sure to practise running with your equipment before race day to ensure it doesn’t rub or annoy you with too much bouncing around!
Many running shorts or leggings also come with pockets. Fill these with sweets or gels and make sure they’re easily accessible.
Plan Your Route Effectively
If running with the entire contents of a sweet shop shoved in your pockets doesn’t fill you with joy, then it’s important to find other ways of getting your carb fix.
Whilst you may not always feel like stopping, sometimes taking a moment to grab a snack will help sustain you for a lot longer than if you power through without refuelling.
But where and when to stop?
Whilst we wouldn’t recommend skipping round a shopping centre trying to find your nearest supermarket, a well-timed corner shop or newsagents could be all you need to grab some sweets and an energy drink on the go. Carry a credit or debit card on you, and aim to stop every few miles somewhere convenient. That two minute break to buy a banana and a bottle of energy drink could easily power you through the next hour and save you from burnout miles from home.
But what if you’re running somewhere remote? If the call of the wild is too strong and you’re off running somewhere without a shop in sight, then it’s time to get creative.
Enlist the help of supportive family and friends and get them to meet you part way round your route and hand you whatever it is you need to keep going. Use a tracking software so that they can come and find you at the right spot with a well-timed snack.
If you’re running long races, then handing over a banana, energy bar or suitable drink to your family or supporters before you head to the start line will ensure that you’ll have enough to see you through on the later miles. Just be sure to have a pre-arranged spot so you know to look out for them in the crowd!
Refuel Immediately After Your Long Run
We know that sometimes when you cross that finish line or reach your front door after a long run, all you want to do is shower and rest. But don’t forget to refuel - even if you don’t feel like eating. Consuming something in the first half hour after your run will ensure that you can maintain blood sugar levels, replenish muscle glycogen and repair muscle tissue. If solids turn your stomach, try a smoothie or a soup or nibble on snacks to slowly recover.
Keep experimenting to find the best fuelling solution for you, and you’ll find your training easier and your recovery time faster. Happy running!
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