I'm a small-town Minnesota dietitian and triathlete.
I help endurance athletes reach their performance and body composition goals through a flexible eating style.
Endurance running is one of those sports that can have very particular nutrition needs. To get the best out of your body in performance, I’ve got three key tips for running nutrition to help you cross the finish line successfully.
Train Your Gut
Science says that endurance athletes may need to ingest up to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour for exercise lasting three or more hours (note: the amount of carbs needed per hour will vary with each athlete). That is a lot of carbs.
Many athletes may read these recommendations, head out on their weekend long run and decide to give 90 grams of carb/hour a try. The result probably wasn’t pretty. They likely experienced some stomach and gut issues and may have cut their run short. So why did this happen?
We train our lungs and heart and muscles for running, gradually working our way up to a certain distance and speeds. You have to do the same with your gut.
You need to work your way up to consuming fluids and a heavy dose of carbs each hour while running. It will take time to train your gut, but so does the rest of your training.
To avoid the trial-and-error of this process, I highly recommend working with a sports dietitian to help you so that you can focus on your training and not worry about whether or not your stomach is going to let you finish your workout. Especially if you’re got a sensitive stomach, a sports dietitian can help troubleshoot those issues with you.
Bonus tip — Everything you plan to consume during a race, make sure you’ve practiced using it (many times) in your training. Do not try anything new on race day.
Be Over Prepared with Nutrition
When heading out on long training runs or during your race – I always recommend packing a little extra fuel than what you expect to need. I have three reasons why this is a wise move:
Hydrating in Motion
Hydration is huge as an endurance runner. It will easily make or break your race, especially during the warm months of the year. Practice, practice, practice your hydration during training. Not only will you train better, but you’ll be preparing your body to handle that much fluid intake during the race (aka: less likely to have an upset stomach mid-race).
For long runs, here are some ideas to help you stay hydrated:
During a race, if you need to, walk at the aid station to take in fluids. Those few walking steps will pay off in performance compared to trying to finish the race dehydrated. Don’t forget to pinch that paper/plastic cup a little to help direct the water into your mouth. I learned that one the hard way when water splashed into my nose and I breathed it in… It wasn’t pleasant.
Do you have any running nutrition tips that you’ve found work for you? Comment below and share!