Running is one of those sports that can have very particular nutrition needs. To get the best out of your body in performance, here are my top nutrition tips for runners to help you cross the finish line feeling your very best.
Nutrition Tips for Runners: Train Your Gut
Science says that endurance athletes may need to ingest anywhere from 30-90 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 can add up to 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.
Nutrition Tips for Runners: Be Prepared
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:
- Our appetite can play tricks on us in the middle of the run and packing a couple different flavors of gels/chews/etc. will offer options and prevent having to force yourself to eat the only flavor option you packed.
- You may have underestimated your nutrition needs and find that you’re starting to unexpectedly bonk – having that back up energy gel can be the difference in walking or sprinting strong to the finish line.
- You may accidentally drop something. Have a spare along just in case.
- Ok, I said three reasons, but I’m adding a 4th. If you accidentally get lost, or took a wrong turn on your route and added on unexpected miles, it’s nice to have the fuel to help you get through it.
Last Tip! Practice 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 hydration during training. Not only will you train better, but you’re 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:
- Have a loop route where you can pit stop and rehydrate.
- Or use a route that goes by a friend or family member’s house. Ask them to put a water bottle near their mailbox for you to use when you pass by.
- I’ve planned routes that go by gas stations or a restaurant/bar to rehydrate with some ice water.
- Or, take water with you – either carrying it in your hand or using a hydration/fuel belt or using a hydration vest (not my favorite option, but some runners love them).
You can find my favorite handheld bottle option in my Amazon Storefront.
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.
Training for a marathon? Make sure to check out What to Eat While Training for a Marathon blog article!
Do you have any running nutrition tips that you’ve found work for you? Comment below and share!