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Fuel Your Distance Runs

This blog was written by Alex Kenefic, Registered Dietitian, at Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy and Sports Performance. 

You need to eat well to fuel your top performances in races. Try out these tips to do your best at any distance:

For all exercise

High intensity, short duration athletes have different nutrition needs from endurance athletes.  General healthy nutrition, however, is important for both.  You need to eat enough calories from high quality carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will ensure healthy training and top performance as well as proper repair and replenishing after exercise.

Hydration is essential to all types of exercise as well.  Dehydration decreases muscle strength, power, and endurance.  During training, weigh yourself before and after a run so you can replenish 24oz of fluid for each pound lost.  Having sips of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes during activity will also help prevent hyponatremia, or overhydration.

1 mile, 5K, and 10K

Carb loading is unnecessary for exercise less than 45 minutes.  Eating a small carbohydrate snack can help for a 45-90 minute workout and is most helpful for exercise that is 90 minutes or longer.  This snack could be fruit, a granola bar, whole wheat crackers, or dry cereal.

Half Marathon, Full Marathon, Ultra-Endurance Races

Long-race athletes have higher carbohydrate requirements before, during, and after exercise.  An average male marathoner consumes 8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day. This would equal 654 grams of carbohydrate spread out during the day for a 180 pound (81 kilogram) person.

Choosing quick and easy carbohydrates will make eating this large amount more tolerable.  Choose compact, low-fiber forms particularly on race day such as pasta, white rice, sports bars/gels, and high carbohydrate drinks (juice, chocolate milk, smoothies).  Avoid high fiber foods like beans, whole grains, and produce on race day to prevent gastrointestinal problems.

Carb loading three days before a race can be an effective way to store more available energy in the form of glycogen in muscles and liver.  Glycogen is stored with water, so don’t be alarmed if you feel stiff or heavy during this time. The feeling usually goes away with exercise.

Protein needs are increased as well during high intensity and high duration training, particularly after exercise for muscle repair and growth.  Choose lean proteins such as deli chicken or turkey, Greek yogurt, tuna, eggs, or low fat cheese.

Experiment with different food combinations and timing of meals during training.  Do not try anything new on race day.  Every athlete is different; find what works or your body and your activity.

+ Get a personalized nutrition plan from one of our registered dietitians!