Running is not easy. At some point in your running career, you’re going to get up at what feels like the middle of the night to go for a run, bundle up so much that you can barely move your arms, feel sick after a run, miss out on some social event because you’re in training, and possibly even suffer an injury. During this same running career, you’re also going to feel proud of your accomplishments, meet new people, have PR’s, trade some unhealthy habits for healthy ones, be glad you drug yourself out of bed, be glad you ran in the cold, see parts of your city you’ve never noticed, improve your heart health, lower your cholesterol, and, most importantly, have fun!
If running were easy everyone would do it. Did you know that less that 1% of the population will ever run a marathon and approximately 3% will run a half marathon. It is definitely hard to do and requires a lot of training but with the right preparation, you’ll make it a little easier…and more enjoyable.
It’s definitely no fun to start a run and 6 miles in, feel like you’re dying. It’s not because you really are dying. It’s because you didn’t prepare and give your body the things it needed for that run. When you feel like crap after a run and can’t get out of bed for 2 days, it’s not really because your run was that hard but because you weren’t prepared for that run.
Preparation is key! It’s not just about what you eat during the run but also what you eat the night before, the morning of, during, and right after. With a little planning, you will be treating your body with a lot more respect and it will, in turn, work better for you.
If you’re running a long run on saturday, your meal on friday night needs to be somewhat thought out. Complex carbs with a little protein is ideal- whole wheat pasta with chicken or pizza are good examples. The morning of a run, don’t show up on an empty stomach. Your body has been in a fasting state for 10 hours or so and it needs fuel. If your yellow light is on in your car when you head out for a road trip, you shouldn’t expect to get too far. Instead you’re going to stop and fuel up before you get on the road. Do the same for your body! If you’re running over 45 minutes or an hour, you always need to eat something before the run- bananas, english muffins and peanut butter, and oatmeal are all good examples. During the run, it’s crucial that you plan for fueling. If you don’t plan, you don’t have enough, you don’t think about it, and your run suffers. After the run, your muscles are sore because you have suffered little micro tears and you’re exhausted because your tank is empty again. You want to get some protein in within about 30 minutes of your run- chocolate milk is a favorite amongst lots of runners- of course, don’t go for the full fat stuff because that’s just silly but a low fat chocolate milk or muscle milk is perfect. This will speed recovery, enhance muscle building, and increase hydration and it will also hold you off until you can get a real meal an hour or so later.
If you’re dieting, that’s no excuse to treat your body poorly. You still have to follow the rules stated above to have a productive run. Plus, those extra calories in the morning and on the run are long gone after a long run but you at least have the energy to still be a functioning part of society as the day goes on.
as a reminder, here’s an old blog post which addresses some specifics… (originally posted oct, 10)
i’ve had a lot of people ask me about the specifics of fueling during a run- exactly what do i do? well, whether or not i end up doing what i’m supposed to, i always have a plan.
it’s always good to have a plan. you’re more likely to do what you’re supposed to do if you have it thought out, especially if it’s a long run or race. the last thing you want to do is worry about when or if you should eat or drink. when keith did his first 70.3 (half ironman), i wrote his fueling schedule on his arm in permanent marker. this worked well because it was already thought out and he was able to follow along rather than stress about what he should be doing.
obviously, everyone is different and every day is different so you always have to listen to your body. with that being said, have a game plan and tweak it as necessary.
if i’m running 6 miles or less, i typically don’t do anything for fueling- water or food. this may not work for everyone though. i drink water and only water all of the time so i stay pretty hydrated. my body is able to work pretty hard for about an hour before needing anything specific. do not let this keep you from drinking water though. if you think you need it on shorter runs, then, by all means, drink it.
let’s talk specific runs. i’ll give you some scenarios that work for me. REMEMBER, we’re all different so don’t take this as law but try to learn from it and figure out your rhyme or reason for fueling on runs.
9 miles: i will drink a sip or 2 of water every 10 minutes, starting at the first 10 minute mark. one good gulp is usually enough to wet your palate, cool your body, and not swish around. knowing that i will be running for 90 minutes or so, i will start eating something around mile 4. i usually take a mile to eat a full serving of whatever it is (for me, either gu chomps or sport beans). so, by mile 5, i’ve had continuous fluid and approximately 90 – 100 calories. keep in mind, you’ll want between 100 and 250 calories per hour- this will depend on your size and your ability to burn calories. i will continue to sip every 10 minutes. around mile 7 or 7.5 i will have another serving or 1/2 serving of either chomps or beans.
1. * look at the serving sizes on your gu, beans, chomps, etc- it may not be 1 serving per item (chomps are 2 servings per bag)
2. * if you’re running with a sports drink, follow the same rules as far as hydration HOWEVER, you will want to wash down any sports gels, etc with water. the carb mixture of the sports drink along with the sports gels is typically too much for the body to properly absorb. if you’re running with sports drinks during the race, use the water stations to get water to wash down your sports gels.
half marathon: drink water every 10 minutes; gu chomps (2=1/2 serving) at mile 4 and 2 (1/2 serving) at mile 5. mile 8 – 9 sports beans, mile 11- gu chomps – 1/2 – 1 serving, depending on how i feel
1. *this is only 280 calories for the entire 13 miles- approximately 1300 calories burned
2. *you can take in more than this but i would NOT take in less
try to play with a schedule like this on your next few long runs to see how you feel. you will eventually find what works for you.
the most important thing for you to remember is FUEL YOUR BODY BEFORE IT NEEDS IT! no, you don’t need fuel at mile 4 but you DO need it at mile 6 (on longer runs) so you will need to take it and give your body time to process it. if you wait until you are hungry, thirsty, or fatigued to try to do something about it, you have waited too long. it is almost impossible to make up the deficits caused by improper fueling.
questions?! what works for you?