What should I eat and drink before the long run/race?

The eating/drinking strategy that works for you, before long runs, should be your guide.  Fine tune the amount and the timing and use the pattern that works best.  Unless you are diabetic or have severe blood sugar problems, you may not need to eat anything at all.  If you get nausea from eating before running, reduce the amount or don’t eat at all before long runs, and see how this works.  Most of the runners I’ve worked with, who do not eat breakfast, start their blood sugar intake at 2-3 miles into the run.  I recommend taking 6-8 oz. of water, about 2-3 hours before the start.  Practice this before long runs so that you will visit the toilet before the start –especially if you drink coffee.  Coffee has actually been shown to improve endurance and enhance fat-burning, but you need to find the right timetable for consumption.

What should I eat during long runs and the race itself?

Running a marathon or half marathon puts enough stress on the system to shut down the digestive tract.   Therefore, very little of the food and fluid you consume during a run can be used during that run.   It is possible to absorb a small amount of fluid, and blood sugar booster, every 15 minutes or so, and this can help you stay motivated. Your brain needs glycogen as fuel.  As you continue, mile after mile on long runs, the available supply of this limited resource is reduced.  If you don’t consume enough to boost the blood glucose (using gel products, hard candies, gummy bears, energy bars) the mental focus and motivation is reduced.  You can maintain mental energy and avoid some of the negative messages at the end of your race by eating small amounts of foods with sugar, regularly.  Practice taking several products during long runs to find what works best for you.   This allows each runner to discover the best source, the amount, the quantity of water, the frequency, and how to adjust as the distance increases.  A rule of thumb, based upon the runners I’ve worked with is the following:  30-40 calories every 1-2 miles, starting with mile 5.  Be sure to drink a little water with each blood sugar snack.

What should I eat, and when, after a long run?

The 30-minute period after a long or hard workout is prime time for reloading your needed glycogen supply.  This is very important for recovery because glycogen is the exclusive fuel source needed during the first 15 minutes of exercise, and is the brain’s source of energy.  If you miss the first half hour, you can still reload the storage areas during the next 60 minutes, but this is not quite as good for reloading.  I recommend a snack of 200-300 calories that is composed of 80% simple carbohydrate and 20% protein.  Research has confirmed that this combination can help reload your storage more effectively.

By Jeff Galloway