When we’re running long distances, our body needs proper fueling to keep it going. Not consuming enough energy such as carbohydrates, and electrolytes, even during long distance runs we will need some protein to refuel our body. According to our body type, some runners might even crave some small portions of healthy fat during Ultras. If we don’t consume enough energy according to our running distance, the side effects will be intense, our body energy will crash, fatigue will sink in, muscle soreness, brain fatigue and demotivation will increase. Proper fueling during our runs will not only support our energy levels during our runs, but it will also help with recovery. If our body gets depleted during our run, our body will have more difficulty to recover, it can create more muscle damage and soreness, and longer fatigue.
Same side effects with dehydration, if we don’t consume enough electrolytes, water, or sports drinks, our body will be depleted of essential vitamins and minerals, which will take days to replenish, so our body and mind will feel sore and tired. When doing long-distance runs, we also need to follow a good fueling schedule and timing according to the running intensity and our body type. We have to set up a fueling timing so that we don’t start consuming some carbs only once our body gets hungry or tired, by then it will be too late to refuel enough.
What our Body Needs for Energy Fueling
- Eat carbohydrates for energy– Carbs are the main nutrient we need while running. Carbs get converted quickly into energy, so we get the boost we need to keep running. After 30km our body will also run out of stored carbs, which causes our body to crash.
Good fueling carbs: Gels, chews, bananas, dates, energy bars, sports drinks.
- Eat small amounts of protein and fats– Small amounts of protein and fat can help nourish our body so we don’t feel hungry during long runs. To avoid stomach issues, we need to eat only small portions of protein and fat during long runs.
Good protein and fat sources: Nuts are a great source of protein and fat, and nut butter. Energy bars with some nuts are also great sources of protein, Spring Sports gels with 100% natural foods.
- Consume enough electrolytes– For runs longer than 60-90 mins we will lose electrolytes in our system, we need to replenish our body to avoid getting depleted of the essential electrolytes; potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, vitamin C. Electrolytes depletion can cause some similar issues as low-carb fueling.
Electrolytes sources: Electrolytes tablets, sports drinks, salt tablets, coconut water.
- Caffeine for energy boost– Consuming caffeine during runs longer than 30-40km can give us some helpful energy boost. Caffeine also blocks some of the pain in long runs or races, and helps us to focus, and it can even help our body to burn some fat for fueling.
Sources of caffeine: Gels with caffeine, coffee drinks, green tea drinks or electrolytes with caffeine.
- Pre-run fueling– To consume some pre-run carbohydrates, and easy to digest foods is essential to support our body energy.
Some easy to digest foods such as bananas, energy bars, oatmeal, dates, granola bars or according to our run start schedule a light meal 1 1/2-3 hours before the run can help fuel the body.
Proper Fueling Strategy
- Determine how many carbohydrates our body needs- According to our body weight and running distance we should consume minimum 1-1.5g of carbs/kg of bodyweight per hour. The recommendation is 30-90 grams/hour according to our body type. Some runners need more carbs 60-100 grams/hour, or some more protein and fat.
- Fuel in slowly- If we consume our fueling foods in one gulp, we might get some stomach cramps and bloating. We need to spread out our fuel consumption within the hour. To consume 20g of carbs every 20 minutes will fuel the body properly. Same with our water and drinks, we have to take sips every 10-15 mins. If we drink a big gulp of liquid, our body can only absorb a certain amount, the rest we will have to release and our stomach will get bloated.
- Train for your run fueling- To practice and test the type of foods, gels and electrolytes our body will be happy with is part of some long-distance training sessions. To figure out what type of carbs and electrolytes our body absorbs and processes properly will make a huge difference in our runs or races.
- Daily life proper fueling and nutrition- Under-fueling, or not eating enough nutrients in our daily life can affect our performance, strength and muscle/joint issues. Eating enough and the right amount of nutrients can power our training, and is a better, safer strategy in the long term for both our body and mind. Not consuming enough calories or nutrients to match our activity levels can trigger a health condition called Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (Red-S) Syndrome. This condition can affect many of our physiological systems (metabolism, bone health, immunity, cardiovascular and psychological health).
Runners with good energy balance, diet, and run fueling are stronger, feel better, have more endurance, less muscle and joint pain.
Fuel Well, Eat Well, Run Strong!