Tips from Coach Marc on what to eat before, during, and after a long run.
When thinking about fueling for a long run, there are a few really simple tips you can follow to ensure you’re doing all you can to have a good run and subsequent runs.
For starters, make sure what you are eating will properly fuel you. Candy is tasty, yes, but won’t do you very well when you’re trying to have your best long run.
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Second, aim for foods that you might want to have on race weekend. A meal you can replicate and bring on the road is an added bonus.
Third, keep it simple. There is no reason to have this elaborate scheme to trick the system. Eat real foods and you can’t go wrong.
Lastly, make sure you’re eating an adequate amount of calories to sustain the work you’re putting in.
Before the Long Run
Before your next long run, plan out what you might want to eat on race day. Not sure what you’d want to eat? Here are some basic suggestions for you. Of course, your stomach might be stronger or weaker than Coach Marc’s, so you’ll have to see what works for you.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Bagel with light spreading of cream cheese
All of these options are really simple to make and include a majority of the calories as carbohydrates. While I’m not a nutritionist, I do know that carbs are really good for runners. You’ll want to seek out more information from a specialist for the finer details.
During the Long Run
During my recent marathon training plan, I had an idea from prior training programs what kind of nutrition I wanted to use. I set my eyes on Gu Energy Lab products because of my prior experience with them.
I tried flavors that I thought I would like including Birthday Cake, Campfire Smores, Strawberry Banana, Chocolate Outrage and my favorite (and race day flavor) Salted Caramel.
On top of Gu, I also sampled RunGum as an added boost to my system. The one thing I didn’t try but wish I had, was trying drinking while running. If and when I do another long distance race, I’ll be practicing with different drink types to get more calories in my system.
After the Long Run
Since we’ve ruled candy out as being an effective aid in recovery, we’ll move to the more traditional forms of food that can help you recover your fastest. As soon as possible (within the first 30 minutes) you should be aiming to have some form of a meal. After the long run, a combination of carbohydrates and protein are your best options.
On top of “real food”, you can supplement your recovery efforts with a recovery drink, which might include Gatorade, Endurox or Nuun.
On-the-go foods you might want to consider include peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple or banana or any kind of protein/carb combo bar.
When you get home and settled back into regular life, you should try consuming a more substantial meal within the first thirty minutes to one hour of finishing your run. This time window is the optimum time for your body to absorb nutrients to aid in recovery.
The ultimate goal for post-run nutrition – long run or otherwise – is to get food into your body so your body can begin to recover in preparation for your next workout.
The food you put into your body will ultimately help you perform at your best. If you’re putting in less than desirable foods, you’re likely to get less than desirable results. Ultimately, the quicker you can get healthy foods back into your system, the faster and stronger you’ll come back.
If you are having problems knowing how much you eat or whether you eat the wrong foods, you should seek a nutritionist to help you or look online for additional help.
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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