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Fueling for long runs

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD on Jul 24, 2008 11:38:21 AM

“Oh, I didn’t know I could eat candy or regular food” commented the novice marathoner. She was training for her first 26.2 mile event, and was barely able to complete the first 10 miles. She was afraid to eat before she trained, fearing the food would talk back to her. No wonder she was running out of energy! She needed to fuel her body better. This would mean training her intestinal tract to tolerate food and fluids.


During the runs, she drank just water because the one time she had tried a gel, it upset her intestinal tract. I asked if she had tried gummy bears, hard candies, twizzlers, or peppermint patties. She hadn’t even thought about those options. She had limited herself to the engineered sports foods that she’d seen advertised abundantly in running magazines. I invited her to experiment with standard foods to which her body was accustomed. She started with small nibbles pre-run – a saltine cracker, a pretzel, a chunk of banana. She then added bigger portions as her body got used to the pre-run fuel.


During her long runs, when she began to run out of energy, I suggested she try some sugary candy. Starbursts became her favorite way to consume the energy she needed to enjoy miles of training. By targeting about 200 calories per hour (after the first hour of running), she was able to maintain high energy during the long runs. She experimented with lots of food options, and found that she better enjoyed standard foods than the engineered products.


Give food a try? For more information, see my Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions.


Nancy Clark MS RD

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