What I Eat Before, During and After Long Runs

Long run fuelingIt’s important to make sure that you are fueling properly for all phases of your long run – before you head out, during the run and after your run.  You want to make sure that you are fueling properly so that you can get through your workouts and recover well.

Before the run I go old school – it’s carbs.  And, most of the elites that I have read about or listen to do the same.  “Eating carbohydrates prior to a race improves a runner’s endurance, speed, energy and alertness, according to Asker Jeukendrup, a professor of exercise metabolism and academic director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.”  All I know is that I eat some sort of pasta or pizza the night before a race or a long run and I feel like I have more energy during the run.

The morning of my run – I’ll get up early and have a bagel with peanut butter.  This gives me my carbs and protein.  (I used to have a Banana Power Bar – but, they stopped making that flavor and I really haven’t found one that I like as well.  I have a Pepsi with my bagel.  Don’t judge.  :-)  I don’t like coffee and Pepsi is my go to drink for caffeine.  In addition to helping you to stay alert – moderate amounts of caffeine are increasingly being used to enhance endurance performance, particularly in the mid to latter stages of a long run or race.

Also for caffeine before I head, I’ll chew a couple of pieces of Run Gum for energy.  You only have to chew it for 5 minutes for it to get to your system.  I’ll spit it out before I head out the door.  For the benefits of Run Gum – check out their site at http://rungum.com.  A lot of research went into it.

Protein is also important for runners.  “With every footstrike, a runner carries two to seven times his or her body weight,” says Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., R.D., who has done extensive research on the effects of protein in athletes. “Protein is what keeps your body healthy under all that strain.” Adequate protein intake accelerates muscle growth and speeds recovery by helping rebuild muscle fibers stressed during a run. Since protein helps muscles heal faster, runners who consume the right amount are less likely to get injured. The reverse is also true, according to the authors of several studies on protein and athletes: Athletes who get insufficient amounts of protein are at a higher risk of injury.

Now, during a run.  This is a tricky area – and one that can be definitely hotly debated.  First of all, I’ll start off by saying that years ago we ran miles and miles without gels or any sort of fueling.  I’ve done many a 20-miler or marathon without taking anything during the run except water.  In the 70’s and 80’s – we didn’t have anything like that.

But, that being said – I’m like everyone else.  I’ve come to think that I need to take in fuel during long runs.  We’ll chalk it up to age.  :-)   I will generally take a gel every 45 minutes with water.  The gel that I use is Boom Nutrition.  I started using Boom several years ago and have stuck with it.  It’s truly the only gel that I like the taste and consistency of.  (Some of them are really gross).  The Vanilla Orange rocks and it has caffeine!  I know that some runners don’t like gels – but, I do.  I just can’t do anything energy wise during a run that I have to chew and get down.  Just doesn’t work for me.

I also only use something during a long run if I’m going to be out for more than 90 minutes.  Also, if I’m out for long than 90 minutes – I wear my CamelBak with straight water.  I’ll take a few sips every 20 minutes.  I sweat a lot and need to replenish my water.  This is what works for me without getting sloshy.

After my run, I usually make one of these 2 smoothies.  While I’m making my smoothie – I’ll chew another couple pieces of run gum.

This is the smoothie that I usually do:

1 cup chocolate milk
1 scoop whey protein powder
1 banana
Crushed ice
Blend on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

Here is the other one:

1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 banana
1 cup Kefir (it’s like liquid yogurt)
1 TB almond butter
2 TB wheat germ
1 TB honeyBlend on high for 30 seconds.

Both smoothies have protein and calcium and carbs to help aid with recovery and muscle soreness.

Just a little disclaimer here.  This is what works for me and what I have done for many years. Everyone is different.  What works for me may not necessarily work for you.  Every runners needs to experiment to see what works for them.

Leave me a comment and let me know what your go to energy items are.  I’d love to hear!


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