A good fueling plan can improve your race time, help you avoid hitting the wall, and decrease your risk of injury. Like your training program, your nutrition program prepares you for race day…or not. The key to nutrition is learning which fuels work and which fuels will send you running for the nearest bathroom.
Here are 5 helpful tips for fueling your run:
- Carbs are friends, not foes: When you’re out for a long run (over 30-minutes), quick and easy-to-digest carbs, like energy chews, gels, or sports drinks, will help you avoid running out of fuel. Aim for 30-60g of carbs per hour (1 gel = 20-25g).
- Salt. Salt. – We all need salt on our long runs. However, some people sweat out more salt than others. If there are white stains on your running gear after a long run or if the sweat stings your eyes, then you’re a salty sweater and will need even more electrolytes. Consider beverages with electrolytes or salty snacks, like pretzels.
- Drink Up – If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, sip beverages early and often. To assess hydration status, check your urine color. Straw yellow or lighter is a sign of good hydration. Start with 12-20oz per hour, heavy sweaters will need more.
- Testing Phase – Use your longer training runs to test different fueling strategies. If at first you don’t succeed, change only ONE thing, then retest. Once you find something that works, stick with it. For example, if your pre-race meal is a bagel with cream cheese, and you feel sluggish at the beginning of your run, you might try changing the cream cheese to jam before your next long run.
- Hope for best, plan for the worst. You will spend a lot of time preparing for your race. When the day comes, things can go awry. Butterflies will be using pogo sticks in your stomach and sleep the night before may have been a bit spotty. Don’t panic! If it means you have to pull over for a bathroom break you will still finish the race and it will be amazing!
Tiffany Chag is a performance coach and registered dietitian. A fitness professional with more than 10 years of experience in this field, she has worked with a diverse population of clients ranging from youth and collegiate athletes to those managing chronic disease and recovering from serious injuries.