Tonight I am heading to the Running Room to discuss nutrition with a group training to complete their first half marathon. Part of my talk will be similar to my previous running room chat, which discussed pre and post running nutrition. But since this group is training for a longer distance, I will also be talking about eating on the run. I don’t mean this…
I mean literally eating while running. During exercise, our body runs on carbohydrates as fuel. Our body has the ability to store carbohydrates in a form called glycogen that we use while performing exercise. However, we can only store about an hours worth of fuel. Therefore, if you engage in activity longer than that, you need to intake some carbohydrates so that your body has the fuel it needs to continue running. If you don’t, you will end up “hitting the wall”. You may have heard of this term before, but have you ever seen it happen. It looks like this…
Your body is exactly like a car, without fuel, it will completely shut down. I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t look fun! So lets talk about how to fuel during a run.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming 0.7g/kg carbohydrate per hour during exercise (after the first hour). So for say a 60kg person, they should consume approximately 42g carbohydrate per hour of exercise.
There are so many products now days to help runners with their carbohydrate needs, it can be a little overwhelming.
There is of course, sports drinks such as Powerade, Gatorade, etc. These provide you with the necessary carbohydrates (as long as you aren’t drinking the zero calorie kind) and the added electrolytes which are essential in keeping your body hydrated, particularly when running in the heat. 500mL of a sports beverage contains about 30g carbohydrates.
Then there are a myriad of chews, gummies, gu’s, etc that are high carbohydrate fuel for runners.
Each one differs slightly on the carbohydrate content, but most are around 30-40g.
Or you can go the old-fashioned route and eat real food on a run! You want something that is mostly carbohydrates. You don’t want to eat a lot of fat or protein as this may cause upset stomach. Bananas and granola bars are pretty typical running foods.
There really is no “right” or “best” way to fuel during a run. You need to find what works for you and what your body can tolerate. Some people like GU’s because they can get the carbohydrates in quickly without chewing. I however gag at the very thought of swallowing that gooey concoction. Some people will use a Powerade/Gatorade only but I find too much liquid causes my stomach to be upset.
The important thing is to try a bunch of different things during training. That’s what training is for. Find what fuel works best for you and then on race day, use what you are used to. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, try something new on race day. This is the golden rule of running.
Personally, I like a soft-chewy fuel. In the past, I have used Real Fruit Gummies (you don’t have to buy fancy stuff at the running store, sugar is sugar). But lately, I have been enjoying the Honey Stinger energy chews.
I usually start eating my energy chews around mile 5 (50 minutes into my run), I eat a couple at a time, so that my stomach doesn’t get upset with a large volume. In addition, in the second half of the race I start taking Gatorade at every second water station. This seems to be working for me. And let’s hope it works for me on Saturday!
Lastly, don’t forget about hydration during running. It’s so important to keep the body hydrated. The recommendations are to drink about 1-2 cups of water every 15 minutes during a run.
Have you ever tried any of the running “fuels”? What’s your method for eating on the run?