"What food for runners should you consume?" is a question that you should have leading up to every long run. You should be mindful of what you are eating and when you are eating it.
Everything that you put into your body will either fuel you, keeping you energized during your long run or will negatively affect your performance whether it’s your pace or just how well you feel during the duration of your long run.
It will come down to trial and error with each and every long run but once you find that perfect magic sauce for you, you can systematize the process!
Did you read that correctly? The magic sauce for YOU! Yes, everyone will be different. Different things will work for different bodies and so you need to test what works for YOU!
I want to help you out though by giving you some guidelines, some suggestions on great food for runners and a timeline that you can start testing out on your next long run!
Before we start, I want to emphasize that we are specifically talking about nutritionally preparing for a long training run and not a race. There are similarities but if you want to learn more about what you should be eating before a race then read this page.
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24 Hours before your long run: Start to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking 24 hours before your scheduled long run. I like to up my carbohydrate intake by about 50-100 grams the day before a long run. This will allow extra glycogen to be stored for fuel for the next day.
I also like to focus on eating solid, whole foods, and lots of complex carbohydrates for steady release energy throughout my run. There is a Food for Runners Recommendation list below that list some of the best options for you before your long run.
The night before your long run: Have a meal that contains lots of complex carbohydrates such as pasta, quinoa, whole grain breads, beans (if you don’t have trouble digesting them) with some lean protein such as chicken or fish.
Try to avoid meats with lots of fat as this might take a toll on your digestion and how you feel during a run. But remember, everyone is different! You might be just fine with that steak!
Combine this with about 8 ounces of an electrolyte drink or your energy drink. Also take about 500mg of Vitamin C.
4 hours before your long run until you begin your long run:
Important Note: The closer you are to your scheduled long run starting time, the more you will want to focus on liquid nutrition such as your energy drink or an electrolyte drink.
Liquid nutrition is important for your long runs as it will provide energy faster to your body than solid foods.
The problem with consuming solid foods in the hours before a long run is that they won't be stored in time to help fuel your long run but instead will weigh you down and send blood flow to your digestive system instead of recruiting everything to your cardiovascular system and your leg and cor muscles to help you have a great long run.
If your long run is later in the day then try one of these breakfast ideas that you can prep ahead!
Sources Used: Katch, Frank I., et al. Sports and Exercise Nutrition. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2012.