26 February 2023
Fuelling Your Long Runs
Guest Post by Max Roger
A common issue with your long runs is your fuelling. This is not just with regard to the food that you ingest, but your hydration too. When I say longer runs, what I’m referring to is anything more than a half-marathon.
It starts a couple of days before it. You might limit your calorie intake during the week, and that’s ok. But in the two days in the lead-up to your longer run you need to start increasing your calorie intake. Specifically, increase your carbohydrates (carbs). This isn’t a huge increase, it’s just adding in a little
more. For example, instead of a small bowl of porridge have a large one, or instead of a lunch without bread make it into a sandwich. Small changes will add up.
What it’s adding up to is increasing your muscle glycogen levels. This means that your muscles are fuller of the fuel that they will require when you run. When this fuel runs out your body has to switch to burning fat and through some processes this leads to it working more anaerobically than aerobically – meaning that fatigue kicks in. What does this mean? You want to start with your
muscle glycogen levels full and make sure that you keep topping them up so that they don’t empty.
Think of it like your car’s fuel tank: on a long journey you want it to start as full as possible, and you want to top it up when you can – if it’s empty you’ve got a problem!
If you’ve done this well for the two days before your longer run then on the morning of it you just need a small amount of carbs to top up your levels, then you’re good to go (about an hour or so later). During it you want to have a mix of gels, electrolytes, water, and whatever else your stomach can handle to fuel you adequately. A lot of this will come down to trial and error, so it’s important to
note down what you did and how it made you feel so that you can learn from it for subsequent runs.
Note: if you are having gels during your run then make sure to sip on them. If you open one and have the whole thing quickly then it will hit your stomach and cause you some digestive issues.
And what about your hydration? Have a mix of electrolytes and water. I like having a bottle of each and then sipping on them as I feel the need. And if possible I’d take a little more fluid than you think that you’ll need. It’s better to have some left over rather than running out!
Start sipping early in your run, rather than waiting until you’re quite thirsty. As a guide, early on (first 10km), I make sure that I get a good gulp of water each km. After that the frequency increases.
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