How to fuel for Running

beginner runner half mararthon training marathon training nutrition Jul 07, 2023
Fuelling for Running

When it comes to running, whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a casual runner, fuelling your body properly is essential. You might want to be at your peak to break a PB,  you might just want to finish a race or maybe just not conk out on a long run! Either way, you need to focus on your fuel. Just like a car needs the right kind of fuel to run efficiently, your body requires the right combination of nutrients to power through those miles and not break down (aka hit the wall).

 So what do we need to think about when it comes to fuelling?

 Understanding what your body needs on the daily

Running places high demands on your body, requiring a steady supply of energy. You need to determine your daily calorie requirements based on factors such as gender, age, weight, and activity level. This will serve as a foundation for creating a balanced fuelling plan.

Prioritise Carbs!  

That’s right! Carbs are NOT the Devil and you can feel good about eating them – we lovingly give you permission!

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for running. Complex carbohydrates, found in foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide sustained energy by releasing glucose into your bloodstream gradually. Aim to include a variety of complex carbohydrates in your meals and snacks throughout the day. 

Getting the Timing Right

It's important to time your meals and snacks appropriately. Eat a balanced meal containing carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats two to three hours before your run. This will make sure you have digested your meal and will ensure a steady release of energy during your workout. If you're short on time, opt for a smaller snack about 30 minutes to an hour before your run.

Take It With You!

For runs lasting longer than one hour, it's essential to replenish your energy stores on the go. If you don't, you will most certainly run the risk of hitting the dreaded WALL!  Don't panic, there isn't an actual wall to climb, its the name given to the feeling that you just can't carry on when your legs feel like lead - basically, your body telling you that you've run out of 'gas'!

It’s best to take easily digestible snacks such as energy gels, sports drinks, or bananas can provide a quick boost of carbohydrates to keep you going. We are all unique so what works for one runner may not work for another.  Experiment with different options during training to find what works best for you. 

We will delve into fuelling for long runs in another blog, but the rule of thumb is that you require 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of your run. You also need to consider taking in an electrolyte drink to replenish lost minerals such as sodium, magnesium and potassium (known as electrolytes). You can buy sports drinks with these in, or add an electrolyte tablet to your water.

After the Event

Getting food and hydration in after your run is vital for repairing and rebuilding your muscles. Aim to consume a combination of carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes of finishing your run. This helps replenish glycogen stores and kick-starts your muscle recovery. A balanced meal with lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables will provide the necessary nutrients to support your body's recovery.

Listen to Your Body

As mentioned above, there is no one prescription when it comes to fuelling and what works for one person might not for another. Look for signals that your body is giving you and adjust accordingly. Make sure you are trying out your fuelling strategy well before your event – and never try something new on the day of the race. You’re asking for trouble!

Understanding what works for your body is all part of the journey when it comes to running. By ensuring that you prioritise carbs, time your meals properly, keep hydrated, and refuel during your longer runs, you can’t go too far wrong.   What you eat after your run and day to day is also important.  As they say, ‘You are what you eat’, and while having treats keeps us sane if you want to perform at your best, then the 80/20 rule works best.

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