Fuel your run

so, you’ve just finished your 6 mile run and you’re just exhausted. maybe it took you 60 minutes or 75 minutes. you’re hungry, tired, and sore. you feel like you can’t even walk to your car (or maybe you can’t even get off the treadmill). what’s going on? is it that the run was just that hard? no, probably not. it’s probably that your body is depleted of glycogen so your recovery is just going to be a little tougher than if it weren’t depleted of all it’s energy stores.
how can you avoid this in the future? fuel DURING your run
if you’re running only 60 – 75 minutes, you can typically rely on your body’s glycogen stores and your pre-run meal to power you through. if you’re running longer than this, you will need carbs during the run to get you to a strong finish.
Jackie Dikos, R.D., a consultant dietitian who heads Nutrition Success in Indianapolis, suggests that runners start “fueling before the onset of fatigue.” That means you should start taking in carbs between 30 and 60 minutes into your workout or race, depending on the intensity of your run. Dikos, who ran in this year’s Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, starts drinking a carb-rich sports drink about 40 minutes into a marathon. You should then continue fueling in frequent, small doses. The ideal is 100 to 250 calories (or 25 to 60 grams of carbs) per hour, after the first hour of running, says Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners. That’s the equivalent of one to 2 1/2 sports gels or 16 to 40 ounces of sports drink per hour. **most sport chews, beans and gu’s need to be consumed with water. i always run with a handheld water bottle so i have water with me on a long run. many of the handhelds also have a small pocket where you can store your gu’s, etc. 

That said, a runner’s exact calorie needs vary from person to person. As Clark puts it: “A Hummer needs more gas than a Mini Cooper.” Smaller runners might only need 100 calories every hour, while larger runners might need around 250 calories. The less fit you are, the faster you burn through stored carbs, meaning you’ll need more calories midrun to keep your tank full. Running at a quick pace or high intensity also uses glycogen at a faster rate-a car going 75 miles an hour uses more gas than one going 60.

Many runners rely on sport drinks (Gatorade, Powerade) and gels (PowerBar Gel, GU) for their carbs. “Both are sugar by another name,” says Clark. “Sugar is what your body wants.” But feel free to eat it in whatever form works for you, whether that’s Gummi Bears, dried fruit, or Twizzlers. Clark, a veteran of nine marathons, eats mini Milky Ways on her long runs; Shulman, a runner and triathlete who routinely wins her age group, likes Fig Newtons.

The key to long-run nutrition, says Shulman, is for runners “to experiment with what works for them.” Training runs offer the best opportunities to try new carb sources and practice timing your intake.
Between Keith and i, we’ve tried many different forms of fueling during a run so feel free to ask us questions.
Also, as a quick aside, what you eat before and after your runs is also extremely important. Make sure you’re eating before all your long runs- a good balance of a carb and protein (i like english muffins with peanut butter)- so you start your run with energy. After your run, you’ll want to take in some protein as quickly as possible- within about 30 minutes. I usually have a 100 calorie Muscle Milk light to tide me over until i can get a decent meal after my shower.
Give it a shot at the next long run so you can start figuring out what works for you!

2 thoughts on “Fuel your run

  1. Re carrying water with you…  I’ve always felt like I hated carrying anything in my hands while running.  I just cant stand it.  but I’ve never had the little strap bottle thing either.  I’m willing (i guess) to give it a whirl.  What about a camel back?  I have a friend who’s training for the marathon who uses one and seems to like it.  Anyone have experience with that?  Thinking I’ll try the small water bottle first and see whats up.  Wifey has a camel back I may try someday too.  I think it’s likely that I’ll never get one of the water belt thingies…  I’d feel like I was carrying six shooters at the ok corral…

  2. i started with a 10 oz handheld, got used to it, and now have a 20 oz handheld.  dave runs with a camelbak and loves it.  most handhelds have a place for beans and gu.  i also have a spi belt which my race number attaches to and it holds my inhaler, chapstick, etc…we all need our own sherpa!

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