What to eat or drink after a long run is a hot topic among runners. What you do or don’t consume can effect how you feel later in the day, as well as at your next workout.
After a long run, your biggest priority should be to replace fluids lost from sweat. Hopefully you drank some water or sports drink on your run, but you will still need to replace some fluid. The best way to determine how much to drink is to weigh yourself before and after your run (without clothes). For every pound lost, drink at least 16 oz of water; better yet, 24 ounces. At this point, there is little need for sports drinks, as long as you’re planning to eat something shortly. Your next meal or snack will replenish the lost sodium and glucose. However, sports drinks can be a good option if your stomach isn’t ready for food. Chicken broth, cola, or gingerale are other popular options that may help settle a queasy stomach.
Remember to continue to drink fluids throughout the day to continue to stay hydrated. You can monitor your hydration by the color and amount of your urine. When properly hydrated your urine will be a pale yellow (unless you take supplements, in which case, the color may be brighter), and you will urinate every 2-3 hours.
In addition to properly hydrating, you will want to eat shortly after a long run to replenish your glycogen stores. Make sure this meal or snack is a mix of carbohydrates (to refuel) with a little protein (to repair). While many runners strive for a ratio of 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 carbohydrates to protein, the exact ratio isn’t mandatory. Just be sure you fill-up with more carbs than protein. That is, don't have just a protein shake!
Some easy to prepare carb-protein recovery meals include:
- Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk
- Turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit
- Yogurt with berries and granola
- Bowl of beany soup such a minestrone, with whole grain crackers and low fat cheese
- Oatmeal with milk, raisins, and slivered almonds
- Peanut butter (or other nut butter) and banana sandwich
- Vegetable omelet with toast
If you aren’t ready for a meal after your run, make a small snack such as a glass of chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal with milk, or an apple with peanut butter.
Rapidly refueling by eating immediately after a run is most important for people who will be running again in the next 4 to 6 hours. Most of us can simply eat within an hour after running and will recover well. Yet, a benefit to eating shortly after your run is to keep the cookie monster from showing up!
Even if your stomach doesn’t feel hungry post-run, your muscles want fuel. Feed them! Signs of hunger include irritability and fatigue. Eating even just a small snack post-run and then your meal a few hours later can keep you from becoming ravenous and overeating later in the day. You will also likely feel more energized and recover faster.
Nancy, I am training for a marathon. I know I should drink on my long runs but where I run, no water is available. Is there any way I can super-hydrate so I don't have to drink on the long runs?
No, you cannot super-hydrate. Your body is like a sponge and can absorb just so much fluid at one time. Then, it starts to seep. You can start your long runs fully hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids the day before. Drink enough so your urine is pale colored and you have to urinate at least every two to four hours.
On the day of the long run, drink plenty of fluids (water, juice, even coffee or tea are OK) up to 1.5 to 2 hours before the start of the run. Then stop drinking, so you’ll have plenty of time to eliminate the excess and hopefully avoid the need for an unwanted pit stop. Within 15 minutes before you start the long run, drink again to get water into your system.
To enhance fluid retention on the day of the long run, eat something salty with your pre-run breakfast. This will help keep water in your body.
--Add some salt to your oatmeal.
--Enjoy some chicken noodle soup.
--Eat a bagel with peanut butter.
--Have salted rice or potato.
These foods offer far more sodium than you will get from any sports drink. (Compare labels and you’ll discover 8 ounces of Gatorade has only 110 mg sodium, whereas a Thomas’s bagel has 400 to 500 milligrams sodium.)
I also suggest you hide bottles of sports drinks or water along the running route. Part of training is to train your intestinal tract. For you to go from drinking nothing during training to consuming fluid every 20 minutes during the marathon might be asking for transit trouble. Be wise and practice drinking during the long runs. You'll not only run better but will also recover better.
Now that the weather is cooler, many athletes are ramping up their training for Fall endurance events such as a marathon, century bike ride,or tennis tournament. If you feel confused about how to maintain energy during extended exercise, use this handy guide as a tool to figure out your target intake. Because each person’s body responds differently to food during exercise, experiment during training, observe the benefits (or costs), and tweak accordingly!
A pre-exercise meal (oatmeal) or snack (banana) will do the job to keep you adequately fueled during the workout
Exercise 1-2.5 hours
30 to 60 grams carb/hour
Consume 120 to 240 calories of carbs in the form of sports drinks, gummy candy, gels, dried pineapple, banana, and other commercial or standard foods
Exercise >2.5 hours
60 to 90 grams carb/hour
For long events like an 100 mile bike ride, Ironman triathlon, or trail run, target 240 to 360 calories per hour from a variety of carbohydrates, including fruit, chocolate bars, and cookies, as tolerated.
To avoid “flavor fatigue”, include not only sugary sweets (sports drinks, candies and gels) but also peanut butter and honey sandwiches, beef jerky, granola bars, chicken broth, cheese sticks, and other foods that offer savory and salty flavors. Be sure to experiment during training to figure out what you can tolerate!
Fuel wisely and have fun. There's no need to hit the wall!
THe city of Boston is starting to buzz with Marathon excitement. If you are one of the nervous runners, here’s a nutrition tip to help you prepare for the 26.2-mile event:
Carb-load, don't fat-load!
Many runners confuse high fat and high carb foods. They fat load. Fat does not get stored in your muscles as glycogen (the fuel needed to prevent you from “hitting the wall”). Only carbs get stored in your muscles as glycogen.
Carbohydrate-rich foods include:
Hot and cold cereals
Fruits- bananas, grapes, raisins, and all fresh and dried fruits and juices
Breads, bagels, crackers – preferably whole grain, so you don’t get constipated
Rice, noodles, stuffing
Pasta with tomato sauce (not cheese sauces);
Baked or boiled (sweet) potatoes (without lots of butter)
Vegetables, particularly carrots, peas, beets, corn, and winter squash
Lower carbohydrate, high fat choices that may taste great, fill your stomach but leave your muscles unfueled include:
Donuts, Danish, croissants and other buttery pastries
Lasagna oozing with cheese and meat,
Pizza glistening with pepperoni grease
I’ll be at the Mizuno Booth at the Runner’s Expo if you have any last minute questions.
I’m training for the Boston Marathon as part of a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society. This will be my first marathon, and I’m very nervous; I’m afraid I’ll run out of energy and “hit the wall.” I know I should “carbo-load” before long training runs. Does this simply mean stuffing myself with pasta?
Stuffing yourself with pasta the night before your long runs is one way to carbo-load, but there’s another approach to consider as well. Here’s what I recommend for your training runs:
1. Cut back on your running one or two days prior to the long training run. Your muscles can store maximal amounts of glycogen only if they are given non-exercise time to do so.
2. Eat the same tried-and-true carbs you (should) have been eating as a part of your daily training diet. As you know, you can only train at your best if you fuel your muscles daily with a carbohydrate-based diet: cereal for breakfast, sandwiches made with hearty bread for lunch, pasta for dinner.
3. The night before the long run eat well, but do not eat so much you upset your digestive system and wake up feeling like a beached whale.
4. Eat adequately on morning of the long training run. This is your time to practice fueling as you might do before the marathon itself. Figure out if you prefer bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal, energy bars, cereal … this your time to experiment so you learn which foods—and how much of them—settle well and enhance your run.
5. During the long training run, maintain a steady fuel intake by drinking sports drinks, and carrying with you hard candy, twizzlers, sports gels, energy bars, dried pineapple and other forms of easy-to-digest carbohydrates. You should target about 200 to 300 calories per hour, after the first hour of running. Fueling during the event helps prevent you from “hitting the wall” and also replaces the need to stuff yourself the night before.
By practicing your fueling during your long training runs, you’ll be able to learn how to fuel on Marathon day and will have no need to worry about hitting the wall.
This is an exciting week in Boston! Thousands of runners are making their final preparations for the Boston Marathon. If you are one of those anxious marathon runners, here are a few words of nutrition wisdom.
--Dont make any drastic dietary changes that might upset your intestinal tract. The biggest change should be in your trainingtrain less, so your muscles have time to refuel.
--No last-minute efforts to lose body fat. That will result in poorly fueled muscles. You may actually gain two to four pounds of water weight! For each one ounce of carbs you store in your muscles as glycogen, you store about three ounces of water. Thisis a sign you are well fueled.
--Eat wisely and well this week. Focus each meal on carbs (grains, fruits, veggies) with a little protein (meat, nuts, eggs, beans, milk, yogurt) as the accompaniment to each meal.
--Eat breakfast on marathon morning this food will help maintain a normal blood sugar level so your brain is adequately fed. If your blood sugar drops, youll have trouble concentrating and enjoying the event.
During the marathon, your nutrition job is to:
-- prevent dehydration (by drinking 8 ounces of sports drink and/or water every 15-20 minutes during the marathon)
-- maintain a normal blood sugar level (by consuming 150 to 300 calories of carbohydrates every hour after the first 60 to 90 minutes of running).
Some popular energizers for during the marathon include sports drinks, gummi bears, raisins, hard candies, gels, Tootsi rolls, defizzed cola, diluted juice, bites of a sports bar--all of which you should have experimented with during your long training runs.
Here are some high carbohydrate meal suggestions that will cummulate into a high carbohdyrate diet that will help fuel you to the finishline!
cold cereals--with banana and lowfat or skim milk
oatmeal and other hot cereals--with raisins and brown sugar
Bagels and english muffins--with jam or honey
Pancakes or french toast--with maple syrup
Fruits and juices
Sandwiches--with the bread being the "meat" of the sandwich
Hearty broth-based or beany soups--minestrone, split pea, lentil, noodle
Nancy, I am training for my first marathon and am starting to get to the point where I am out on my runs for over an hour. I am trying to figure out what products I should be consuming to keep up my energy levels and keep me hydrated at the same time.
Answer: First off, congrats on your hard work and dedication to your training program.
I am glad you asked about how to fuel during long runs, because fueling is an important part of your training program. You need to train your intestinal tract, as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. Too many marathons are needlessly lost in the porta-potties
You can experiment with standard foods (gummy candy, twizzlers, dried pineapple, rice crispy treats, fig newtons, pretzels) or products like gels, bloks, or sports beans. There is nothing magic about the engineered foods, other than convenience and portability.
Before the long run, you want to eat a small meal that will settle well during the long run (oatmeal, bagel, pasta). That food will keep you energized for about 60 to 90 minutes. Then, you want to target about 200 to 300 calories per hour (depending on your body size). While some (or all) of those calories can come from a sports drink, you can also drink plain water and get carbs with the suggestions listed above.
You might want to go to the website of your event and see what food/fluids they will offer on the course. By training with them, you'll know what ones work for your body.
Hey Nancy, Im running my first marathon tomorrow. What should I be eating? asked the young man at the running store where I was giving a nutrition clinic.
Questions like that always stun me. This runner hadnt thought much about nutrition, to say nothing about the importance of training his intestinal tract, as well as the heart, lungs and muscles. He was missing an essential part of a training program! If a marathoner cannot train his intestinal track to tolerate fuel in some form before and during a marathon, he or she will be more likely to hit the wall..
As I discuss thoroughly in my Food Guide for Marathoners; Tips for Everyday Champions, runners need to fuel well the day before with a diet baed on carbs (pasta, rice, fruits, breads, vegetables). The day of the marathon, the runner wants to enjoy a tried-and-true breakfast (so as to avoid losing time in the porta-potty line), and then consume about 200 to 300 calories per hour after the first 60 to 90 minutes. The strategy shold be to practice this during training, so the day before the marathon, you have no need to worry about what to eat to enjoy going the distance.