Fueling Your Runs {The During}

Is it time to eat yet?


There’s no magic internal timer that’s going to go off before your body’s energy level starts to dwindle, or an inner voice shouting out that your body needs re-fueled on your long runs–which is why it’s important to be mindful of your time spent running, because muscles have a limited supply of stored glycogen (energy). Without consuming a carbohydrate source during a run, you may find yourself feeling weak and unable to push on much farther.  Paying attention to your body’s energy needs allows you to run harder and longer. With the greatness of modern phones and GPS watches, you can now set a timer or multiple alarms, depending on how long you are running, to go off when you need to eat something.


It’s not practical or necessary to bring food along on a run than lasts less than one hour.  For example, at my incredibly fast conservative pace of ten-minute miles, I would only need to bring a snack with me if I was running more than six miles. For endurance running, the recommended carb intake is:


  • 30-60 grams/hour for exercise lasting 1-2.5 hours
  • ≥ 80-90 grams/hour for exercise lasting 2.5 to 3+ hours


What are some portable food options?


It’s time to broaden your running food horizons! While gels, shot blocks, and energy beans are all great and easy fuel sources, there are a lot of other food options out there too. You can make food easier to access by placing it in ziploc bags, and, depending on how far you are running, you can double or triple up on food options. Don’t be afraid to mix it up; if you’re running for two hours, take some orange slices and a Clif bar.


Food Portion Carbohydrates in grams
Orange slices 1 small orange 15
Fig bars 3 bars 30
Gummy bears 23 50
Luna Bar** 1 30
Clif Bar** 1 50
Graham crackers 6 squares 30
Energy gels 2 50
Sport beans 28 50
Banana 1 30
Pretzels 1.5 oz 30
Crackers, saltine 12 30
Raisins or dried cranberries ¼ cup 30

**Contains added protein. Consuming a small amount of protein during endurance running can decrease muscle-protein breakdown and increase muscle-protein synthesis.


What’s the best carbohydrate to eat?


Consuming  a combination of carbohydrate sources will result in the the maximum amount of absorption and resulting available energy. For example: fructose+glucose, rather than straight glucose or pure fructose.  Even table sugar, known as sucrose, is made up of glucose and fructose.  Pure glucose is sold in tablet or dextrose syrup form and is commonly used by diabetics for low-blood sugar, but alone is not the ideal energy choice for running.  Fructose is absorbed slowly and must be converted to glucose by your liver before being able to be used by the body, so that alone will not improve performance either. All real food like fruit, pretzels, and most energy gels are going to be a combination of carb sources, and will keep you going mile after mile after mile.


Don’t forget to stay hydrated on those long runs too!


Do you have a unique food you like to eat when running?

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