Long Run Nutrition: How, What, and When To Eat

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Whether you’re training for a marathon or long-distance running is just your healthy choice of stress release, long-runs are a crucial part of every distance runners regimen. Typically, a long-run is considered to be anything over 6 to 10 miles, and unlike shorter tempo runs, they require a little extra planning beforehand. Think: water stops and bathroom breaks. But your long-run planning is much more than just route logistics. To get the most out of your long-runs, it’s crucial to think about pre, during, and post-run nutrition to optimize for efficient fueling and muscle recovery.


1.  Don’t eat anything new or foods that have upset your stomach 36 hours before your run

The last thing you want is to have GI issues 5 miles out of your usual route and having to run through pain and discomfort in search of a bathroom. Make sure to only eat foods that you’ve eaten before that won’t upset your stomach, and if possible, test out pre-run meals on shorter runs to see if it can cause potential problems.

2. Eat enough but don’t over stuff yourself.

There’s no need to gorge yourself before your long run to have your glycogen stores fully topped off.Eat to comfortable fullness plus an extra snack or two to top off the tank and you will be fueled optimally without feeling uncomfortably stuffed.

In terms of the types of foods you should be eating, focus on eating your carb-loaded meals 36-12 hours prior to your run (the day before) and opt to eat foods that are going to keep your blood sugar levels up without weighing you down for the remaining 12. Eating a good, balanced 400-700 calorie breakfast 3 hours before your run and switching to drinking sports drinks with sugars and electrolytes is a good way to get your glycogen and blood sugar levels prepared for your long run.


1. Don’t over-hydrate with plain water

Water can be and continues to be a great source of hydration for our bodies. However, during your long-runs, over-hydrating with plain water can begin to deplete your body’s electrolyte balance. A great alternative is to switch to half water, half sports drink (like gatorade) to restore depleted electrolytes while still hydrating your body. The trick, however, is to not wait until you are noticeably thirsty. If you can manage, try to take small and frequent sips to avoid forcing down a large amount of water and risk feeling ill.

2. Small carb snacks go a long way

The goal of in run calorie ingestion in events marathon length or shorter (different goals apply for ultra marathoners) is primarily about keeping your blood sugar levels stable. Your body processes what your eat while you run at a slower rate because blood flow needs to go to your hard working running muscles as opposed to solely digestion so keep your in run snacks to 50-150 calories of all or almost all carbohydrates (proteins and fats digest at significantly slower rates) at time and eat items that are easy to digest like gels rather than a fiber bar.

3. Keep anti-acid tablets in your shorts

For those of you that have or regularly experience acid reflux during your runs, try slipping a few anti-acid tablets into your shorts pocket to take as needed. Anti-acid tablets coat your stomach and help ease discomfort.


1. Eat Carbohydrates and protein together during the 1st 45mins after finishing your marathon or marathon long run.

This 45mins immediately after you finish exercising is referred to as the “glycogen window.” During the glycogen window your muscles are twice as receptive to absorbing sugars and proteins to rebuild your muscles even stronger and to restock your depleted muscle glycogen fuel stores with the sugar you ingest. When you eat during this glycogen window, what you eat goes right to your screaming post-exercised muscles rather than being converted into less desirable fat stores. Plus, eating just a small 200 or so calorie snack during this time window signals to your body to extend this very desirable glycogen window several more hours.

Not taking advantage of this glycogen window can mean that you lose out on some great fitness promotion advantages, so go ahead and grab that glass of milk and cookies. You certainly earned it!


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Ellie Kulick

About Ellie Kulick

Ellie specializes in all things content and communications at Lumo BodyTech. Her passions are in tech, writing and in health. She loves to create and share content that is useful and easily digested by the reader. BS in Psychology, Northeastern University. Find Ellie on Twitter.

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