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Active Expert: Nancy Clark RD CSSD

2 Posts tagged with the eating_during_exercise tag

With the Boston Marathon right around the corner, thousands of runners are doing their last long training runs. This is the time to practice your fueling so you know what to eat during the marathon. Here are some tips from guest blogger Sarah Gold.


When exercising for more than 60-90 minutes,you want to consume easily digested carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout your run. The following recommendations on what and when to eat during long runs and race day can keep you from hitting the wall.


How much to consume?

The amount of carbohydrates needed will vary from person to person (body size, speed, intensity, and training will all effect this), but aim for between 200 to 300 calories of carbohydrates per hour. This can be from a mix of sports drinks like Gatorade and food like Gu, candy, or dried fruit. Worry not about eating sugary candy. We're talking survival, not nutrition! You'll have plenty of time to consume quality calories after the run.


What to consume?

The goal is to consume food that is primarily made up of carbohydrates. When running for many hours, such as during the marathon, you will want to vary your food choices to keep you from getting tired of eating the same thing for 4+ hours. It’s easy to get through a half marathon relying only on Gu, candy, or dried fruit, but it’s difficult to keep that up for twice the time. You’re likely to get “sugared out,” meaning your taste buds or stomach may not tolerate the same food for that many hours. Varying both flavor and texture can help you get through the race without feeling like you can’t eat as much as your body needs. So, try out a few different options during your longer training runs to see what your stomach and GI tract tolerate and what gives your body the most energy.


Engineered vs. Real Food

The big advantage to engineered food such as Gu, Chomps, Sport Beans, and the like, is convenience. Most come in pre-packaged 100-calorie servings, and they are easy to carry with you. However, real food can work just as well, particularly for slower marathoners who will be pounding the pavement for more than four hours. Here are some common choices among runners:


-       Raisins,dates, dried cranberries—or any dried fruit

-       Swedish fish, jelly beans, gummy bears, or other chewy candy

        M&Ms, mini candy bars, Whoppers

-       Pretzels

-       Sugar cookies, energy bars, granola bars

-       Peanut butter and jelly (or honey) wrap*

* If you choose foods that aren’t convenient to carry in your pocket, ask friends or family to stand along your race-day route at points when you know you will need fuel.


If you drink Gatorade or other sports drinks, remember that this contributes to your carbohydrate intake. Just pay attention to how much you are consuming so you can adjust your food intake. Diluted fruit juice can work well for some too.


When to consume?

Your breakfast will likely get you through the first hour to hour and a half of the race. So, most runners like to start consuming carbohydrates whether it’s from a sports drink or food beginning at 45 minutes to an hour into the race. But, pay attention to how you feel during your long training runs to figure out when is a good time for you to start fueling. Some runners choose to start slightly earlier or later. Earlier signs of hunger (or fuel needs) include thinking about food, reduced energy, mood change, or tired legs.


As noted above, plan to consumer 200 to 300 calories per hour.You can spread this out over 15-30 minute intervals, and mix it up between drinks and food.


Remember that it’s important to test this out during your long training runs to avoid any race-day surprises!


What’s your favorite fuel during your long runs?


For more information:

Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions

1,909 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: boston_marathon, nancy_clark, eating_during_exercise, food_for_a_long_run

“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

1,670 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: engineered_sports_foods, eating_during_exercise, intestines

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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