Runner's Diaries: How to eat on your long-run days
This is new to me
Running 20 km and more on a weekly basis is something that is completely new to me. Since I'm training for a marathon, and I am approaching the eighth week of my schedule, I've been realizing that I really need to watch what and HOW I eat. And since there are many more of you out there on a similar path, I thought I'd do some light research without delving in too much. I just want to have a good run, not become an expert ;) I'll be citing all my sources down below if you're interesting in reading some more.
Before your run
It is advised that if you're going to run for more than two hours that day, that you should have a meal one to two hours before you hit the road. These meals should consist of between 200 and 300 calories. If you've been doing your runs on an empty stomach until now, you should start at the lower end of that scale. Think high carbohydrates, some protein, and keep the fats low. It's common for runners to keep these meals low-fiber as well, but personally it makes no difference to me. You do you. My personal favourite pre-long run meal will be cooking one quarter of a cup of oats. Adding half a banana and some nut butter makes it taste good. Some more examples include toast with half a banana and nut butter, rice with sweet potato or even just an energy bar.
During your run
The key here is fast-digesting carbohydrates for quick energy. That means sugar, electrolytes and salt basically. So let's look at our options...
In terms of drinks, you will obviously be having water somewhere and some way. But what else can you drink that will help you push through till the end? The number one drink I've heard recommended in the healthy-eating community is coconut water. According to my source is takes care of the 5 electrolytes you sweat out, namely: calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous. Straight from nature? Yes please!
Some other drink options include salt water, flavoured or infused water, sports drinks, cold green tea with honey and sports gels. I've tried none of them, but will definitely be giving all of them a try. Except salt water. Sorry, but no.
In terms of actual food... I usually don't feel like eating, and then I hit the 20-25 km mark. I've heard among fellow runners that when doing a marathon you should eat a bite or two of something every 10 km.
When I think of healthy foods that offer fast digesting sugar, I think of fruit. The best ones suggested by my sources include bananas (mashed for portability), baby food (in South Africa we have Squishy's!), raisins/dried cherries, frozen grapes and dates. If your tummy has a problem with the fiber in these rather try the next ones...
Gummy bears, marshmallows, homemade energy bars, jam/honey sandwich and pretzels. I'd rather have these while carbo-loading or after the run, but you do you ;)
After your run... great job btw
Time to refuel! We call it replenishing our glycogen stores. Because damn, they're empty. It's important to eat as soon as you possibly can, preferably within that 30 minute window after you did your victory fist-in-the-air while stumbling over the finish line. Think carbs that easily break down, some good quality protein, and some fat. Good carbohydrate options include potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. Protein options can be lean chicken, salmon, turkey, eggs or legumes.
If there's no time for a plate with those yummy things on it, try to grab a bar with a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio like Cliff bars, Kind bars or Power bars. A peanut butter sandwich, protein shake, banana and yogurt, or a fruit and yogurt smoothie will also do the trick.
If you can't stand the thought of food during those 30 minutes, try drinking some chocolate milk for some sugar and protein.
The last tip I have, and my source has, is DO NOT over consume. Eat enough, and focus on your protein intake to recover from the intense exercise. What works for me, is eating a well balanced meal while hydrating steadily, going for a long ass nap, and waking up when it's time for the next meal. That is my key to getting my body back to normal. I hope it helps.
Thank you for reading this huge post. I hope this makes your long run days a little easier. It certainly helped me. Happy running!
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