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Distance Running Nutrition / Hydration

6th March 2017
All distance runners require a considerable amount of training and race preparation to be both mentally and physically prepared for an endurance event, be it from a 5k to up to an Ultra Matathon.

To prepare for long distance running events you will need to undergo one of the most intense training programmes in the endurance sport category, and to do it successfully you'll need a huge amount of carbohydrates for energy, protein to maximize muscle strength and plenty fluids onboard to maintain good hydration levels.

So if you are a novice, who's aim is to finish no matter how long it takes, or a club athlete out for a Personal Best time or an International athlete going for Gold medals, you need to make sure that you are eating properly and taking the right fluids, before, during and after.

Pre Run Nutrition

The time leading up to a distance event is when you should look at loading up your Carbohydrate stores. Carbohydrate loading like this will not make you run any faster, but it will certainly help the delay the onset of fatigue during the run / race.

Most runners require around 5 to 7g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight per day, but for longer training periods and for up to 3 days before an evernt, this should rise to between 7 and 12g per kg of bodyweight.

Also remember that liquid carbohydrates such as fruit smoothies, natural yoghurt, fresh fruit and specially designed sports energy drinks are also uselful in topping up your carbohydrate levels.

I the week leading up to an event you should cut right back on your training, and concentrate on increasing your carbohydrate intake, reducing your training activity will mean you will more than likely experience a slight weight gain, but don't worry, this is normal and you'll soon burn it off.

At the same time as increasing you Carbohydrate intake, you should also up your protein intake levels, you should be looking for between 1.2 and 1.8g per kg of your bodyweight, this can be achieved by eating skinless chicken, lean red meat, fish or high protein vegetables for both lunch and dinner. Alternatively protein shakes are an easy and convenient way of achieving this. Add these suggestions to your daily servings of dairy products and that should be enough to provide sufficient protein.

On the day of a run, ideally a couple of hours before you start, it's important to eat something that'll be easily digested, so avoid taking in fibre as it can cause stomach discomfort during your run itself.

To boost your glycogen stores a good breakfast will benefit greatly, other examples are as follows
•A Chicken or Tuna Sandwich
•Two crumpets with peanut butter or cheese
•Two slices of toast with baked beans
•Porridge with low fat milk

Running Hydration

Good hydration can never be over emphasised when it comes to running long distances.

Dehydration places an enormous strain on your body and even a small deficiency can effect your performance significantly. Ideally you should start hydrating early on in your run to minimise the risk rather than try to compensate for it later on. Sports Gels and energy drinks are good for replacing fluid and carbohydrates at the same time and are highly recommended, they are also and excellent way to restore your electrolyte levels, which deplete you of Sodium, Chloride and Potassium, which make up sweat.

Running Nutrition

During a long distance run, most of the fuel required to power your body comes from muscle and liver glycogen stores, this needs to be topped up at regular intervals throughout your run.

It is recommended that you take in between 30 - 60mg of Carbohydrate every hour, this will increase in hotter weather due to your body overheating, most Energy gels on the market contain 30-40mg of carbohydrate and they are easy to consume whilst on the go, being of gel/liquid consistency, they enter your bloodsteam far quicker than solid state energy bars. All these should be available at event food stops. The most important of all though, is DRINK, DRINK, DRINK and never dehydrate yourself, Avoid the Wall at all costs!!

Post Race Nutrition & Recovery

After a race or run, or any intense training session, it is essential that you recover carbohydrate(glycogen) and fluid stores quickly. This process is vitally important for keeping your performance and physical state at race ready levels.

Always remember the three “R’s”

Carbohydrate stores (glycogen) must be restored quickly to allow optimum performance levels to be maintained, it’s important to start replenishing these stores within the first hour of any activity, prolonging this will result in unwanted fatigue.

Carbohydrate rich foods are key to quickly replenishing lost muscle glycogen stores, during this time it is also important to include some form of lean protein to aid muscle and tissue repair and growth. Prime examples are Protein shakes, and chicken salad sandwich, a bowl of breakfast cereal, dried fruit, milk or a quality protein bar.

Curb the urge to celebrate with alcohol until after you've rehydrated and nourished yourself, you'll only do more harm than good by hitting the pub straight off.
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