Nutrition Ideas for Long Distance Runners
Some people run to eat and some people eat to run. Food is definitely fuel for the endurance runner. Sometimes runners might go a bit overboard on the snacks because they feel hungrier and want a reward for working out. This can lead to weight gain which is usually not what a runner wants. Let’s break it down and make it easier to understand.
Training for an endurance race definitely requires more fuel than being sedentary. Running a mile burns around 100 calories, but on the flip side you don’t necessarily lose a pound if you run 35 miles. Don’t fall into the trap of eating anything you want just because you are training for a marathon and feel you deserve a tasty reward for your hard work.
Losing weight during marathon training is difficult and you might want to postpone it until after your race is over. To lose weight you will need to be in a calorie deficit which will be very uncomfortable when training for a marathon. Running all the time is going to make you feel hungrier than normal. To maintain weight, replace your calories burned with nutrient dense foods.
If you are feeling hungry all the time ask yourself these questions:
• Am I eating enough protein?
• Am I eating enough before my run?
• Am I eating often enough?
Eat a balance diet and maybe spread 3 meals into 5 smaller meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar stabilized.
Include complex carbohydrates in your daily diet which will convert easily into glycogen. These can be eaten throughout the day. Carbs provide you with immediate energy and that is why sports drinks and pre-packaged goo and gels are easy to digest. They are mostly sugar and work best during your run.
Try to limit fruit and vegetables 24-48 hours before a long run or race to stave off any GI distress.
Runners should aim to consume protein within 20 minutes of finishing a workout. This will help the body direct glycogen to the muscle to aid recovery. What protein is good to eat? Lots of options include: fish, chicken, beef, beans, pork, dairy, eggs, quinoa, soy, barley, and protein powder.
Fat is a great back up source of fuel. Everyone has an unlimited amount of fat and this helps especially during endurance events when you might not be able to ingest enough food. Fat will also make you feel full.
Here is a very basic outline for a long run or race day nutrition plan:
Breakfast 2-3 hours before running which includes carbs/ protein/ fat such as steel cut oatmeal made with milk with raisins and peanut butter.
Goo or a banana 30 minutes before the start.
Take in 100-200 calories per hour after two hours of running.
Eat a protein/ carb within 20-30 minutes of finishing a race or run to start mending muscles.
Eat a healthy meal 1-2 hours after a race or long run.