Running Guide: Fueling

15 min read

Fueling right is key to a good run. You want to have enough fuel in your tank to carry you through training, through the finish line and into recovery. So what you eat before, during and after matters!

This guide will go through tips on how to fuel 1) before, 2) during, and 3) after your run.

1. Pre-Training:

Goal: Supply muscles with glycogen & tops off fuel tank

  • eat 1-2 hours before exercise (I do 300-400 calories of carbs)
  • drink 1-2 cups water 1-2 hours before and another 1-2 cups 30 minutes before
  • avoid anything dairy-based, as this causes upset stomach

NOTE Take notes of what you eat before you run and how it affects you during long runs. Aim for carbohydrates for breakfast pre-long run. You want carbohydrates that will slowly release into the bloodstream and fuel you longer like oatmeal, whole wheat toast with peanut-butter, apples, or bananas. I suggest keeping fat and protein intake low.

2. During Long Run

Goal: Continue to adding fuel to the tank–a depleted fuel tank will lead to your hitting the wall!

To keep you going on the road, you need to supply your body with A) fuel and B) fluids.

A) Fuel: choose the what works best for your body!

There are many products on the market to fuel with when you run:

  • energy gels (GUs, Honey Stingers, Power Bar, etc.) – my fuel of choice are Honey Stingers
  • bars
  • energy chews (Clif Bloks)
  • sports beans
  • gummy bears/worms

One of the most important parts of training on long runs is your stomach and finding what will work for you. Many find they get gastrointestinal cramping or issues when racing and fueling so practice and experiment on your training runs. Here are some tips for picking the right fuel:

  • Start experimenting early: try different brands and flavors. Once you find what works STICK WITH IT!
  • Take notes in your training journal of what fuels worked and what didn’t (e.g. when you took the fuel, was it too early? too late? just right?)
  • Gels are the easiest way to fuel: they are simple to carry, exactly the right amount of carb and sugar each serving. The downside is they are made with processed ingredients so it could cause stomach distress. I recommend you experiment with real foods or natural gels (like Honey Stinger) if processed options bother your stomach too much.

B) Fluids: drink to meet your thirst.

  • Alternate between water and sports drink every mile. Marathon courses will have Gatorade Endurance so try to train using this.
  • Do not chase a gel with a sport drink- follow it up with water–your stomach can only process so much at a time- it will sit in your stomach, jostle and feel heavy causing distress.

Fueling Guideline:

  1. For every hour of running take one serving of fuel:
    • 1 serving (1 packet) of energy gels are approximately 100 calories each. Follow each serving with water and do not drop the empty gel packet on the ground please!
    • 1 serving of energy chews (Cliff Bloks) are 3 blocks and 100 calories
  2. 6-8 ounces water every 15-20 minutes

Final word:

Do not panic, this all sounds like a lot to remember! However, it will become second nature as you are out on your training runs.

How do you carry all this fuel?

  • I recommend a fuel belt with bottles if the fluid (sports drink) on a race course does not work for you.
  • A race belt is an inexpensive investment and I love mine. You attach your number to it and you can slide fuel into the loops on the belt. Pull it out as you need. You can also pin it to your shirt or shorts and remove them as you use them.
  • Note: whatever method you choose to carry your fuel, practice it on your long runs. Nothing on race day should be new except the medal around your neck at the finish line!

3. Post-Run:

Goal: replenish all that you have burned off!

The average marathon runner burns over 2,500 calories after a 26.2 mile race! It is absolutely critical that you re-fuel all that your body worked so hard to burn.

There is a window after working out that the body is able to replace glycogen (fuel) stores as well as repair exercise (muscle) damage. This allows you to recover effectively and prepare you for your next run. Here are some helpful tips I have picked up:

  • The sooner you refuel, the better–my recommendation is within 30 minutes of the run.
  • Eat or drink carbohydrates and protein together. Aim for a 4:1 ratio carbohydrates to protein.
  • There are many pre-made options of recovery drinks. My favorite is chocolate milk! Other options: peanut butter with an apple, pasta with meat, bagel with peanut butter.

Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee

AR developer and designer passionate about advancing education through emerging technologies.

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