August 6, 2012

What to eat before, during, and after long runs

First, thanks so much for all of your e-support after that crapster run this weekend. You all are what I love about the blogging community! Supportive, friendly, encouraging, helpful. And you've been there.

It's been a long time since I posted anything even slightly informative in any way, unless you count the various poopcidents I've recounted to you, but after this weekend's rendezvous with death (or feeling like death) during my long run, I decided to remind myself about nutrition while running. So what I learn, I share with the people.

Before you run

Um, especially when it's blazing outside, definitely drink and eat before your run.

According to Advanced Marathoning (my new running bible), you should eat about 200 to 500 calories. I usually eat a Clif Builder Bar because they are super easy to grab and eat on the go, and I can buy them in bulk. They are 270 calories, so they fit the calorie range.

I wish Costco sold the chocolate mint ones in bulk. Heaven in a seafoam green wrapper.


Advanced Marathoning also said to drink a pint (two cups, y'all) of fluid before your run. The ideal time for these is a few hours before the run, but I've experimented with times closer to an hour before the run (for both eating and drinking), and my system handled it well.

Run Less, Run Faster uses the following formula:

(hours before race)x(body weight in pounds)=(number of  calories to eat)

So if a 150-lb person wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for their 5:30 a.m. run, this would be their formula:

1x150=150 calories

It's getting super complex up in here.

While you run

On my shorter, weekday runs, I just drink water. On my weekend long runs, I have to kick it up a notch to avoid a dazed shuffle at the end.

Your body has about 90 minutes of stored carbs, according to RLRF, but start eating and drinking earlier than that so that you don't empty out your storage.

I think of it like toilet paper. If I wait until the last roll to go out and buy more, somebody in this house is going to be unhappy in a big way.

An easy way to get calories while running is through some type of sporty drink, dried fruit, gels, gummies, or other delicious and non-crumbly food. During my dream run in Kentucky two weeks ago, I tried Shot Bloks and loved the fire out of them. I liked that they came in small chunks so that every time I thought about eating, I could just take one. With gels, I am constantly trying to time it right so that I don't have half a pack of gel oozing out in my shorts pockets.

Neon Blonde Runner just posted a link to the Portman Calculator (go visit her for excellent step-by-step instructions on how to use it), which you can help you figure out how much fluid and calories you need for a run.

Portman Calculator

I punched in numbers from my Kentucky dream run, and according to the calculator, I should have had 197 calories and 20 oz. of water. The Shot Bloks I ate were 200 calories (right on the money for what the calculator wanted me to have!), and I drank 48 oz. of water. I think on a cool day, 20 oz might have been enough, but I definitely needed every drop of that 48 oz for that hot, humid summer run. So adjust fluid intake accordingly.

The site is a super great way to geek out on running numbers.

After you run

My new favorite post-run drink is a frozen banana blended in chocolate milk. Cold, refreshing, delicious, superb, my new best friend. Did I mention that I love it?

Basically, you have 30 minutes after you run when your body is working hardest to resynthesize glycogen (even more major geeking out on this topic found here), which is a great time to chug something like chocolate milk. Then you have a two-hour window to get in some more substantial food (think something with nutritional value) to help aid your recovery. I love bagel sandwiches with egg, ham, spinach, cheese and a sprinkle of chia seeds.

Something like this.

From Ratty Gourmet

And outside of the long run, these are some of my more general nutrition goals:


  • Drink a haul of water. I have large plastic cups that I fill up during the day to drink at home and a 32-oz water bottle that I take in the car with me. At the gym, I always, always have a water bottle. Just having it around me at all times encourages me to drink.
  • Eat a fruit and veggie with every meal. And make veggies easily accessible, like preparing a veggie tray for you and your family to snack on all day. If it's in front of you, you will eat it. The same is 100% true for kids. They will eat what you put in front of them (unless you put a cupcake right beside the veggie tray). 
  • Limit sweets. This one is the hardest for me and the biggest downfall of my nutrition overall. You aren't hungry for vitamin-rich foods when you eat a Nutella sandwich for breakfast. 
  • Take a multivitamin. Even though I would much rather get my nutrients from food, I have had issues with iron deficiency that taking a multivitamin seems to help.


Eating well is so important to performing your best! And after my death march experience on Saturday, I can definitely say that I will be trying even harder to remember that on my next long run, which is hopefully my 20 miler this weekend.

So go get some kale and saute up some good racing mojo!

What are some of your nutrition goals? 

Please share any of your successful long-run fueling tips!