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Fueling for Long Runs

Fueling For Long Runs Brian Kondas 17 mile run copy

Why do you need a fueling plan to perform well on long runs? Mainly because you lose nutrients and calories the longer you run. The amount of nutrient and calorie loss depends on how much you sweat. Thus, you may need more fuel when the temperature is hotter. So, when possible, run in cool temps.

Fueling Before Long Runs

Drinking water with electrolytes and eating food high in potassium and carbohydrates can improve run performance. The electrolytes you need are Sodium Chloride, aka salt, and Potassium. For example, I drink Gatorade Endurance Formula Powder with water. Eight ounces (1 scoop) have 200mg sodium, 94mg of potassium, and 14 grams of carbs. 

For additional carbohydrates, eat whole fruit. For example, I recommend eating a banana. It’s high in carbs and potassium. On an empty stomach, the digestion of bananas takes about 30 minutes. 

To avoid stomach cramps, trail runner advises you to wait at least two hours after a meal to go for a run. Discover how long it takes to digest different foods.

Food Digestion Times

You can avoid an upset stomach by giving your stomach time to digest food before your run. How much time does it take your stomach to digest different foods? In general, starchy veggies such as potatoes and corn take about an hour. Beans (legumes) digest in about two hours.

Protein Digestion Times

Non-oily fish, such as Cod and Haddock, digest in 30 minutes. However, oily fish, like salmon, take 50 minutes to digest. Similarly, egg whites only take 30 minutes, and whole eggs take 45 minutes to digest.

High protein foods take much longer to digest. For example, 5 hours for hard cheeses and pork, 4 hours for beef and lamb, and 3 hours for tree nuts.

Fueling During Long Runs

I recommend you drink electrolytes during long runs taking 45 minutes or longer. For example, on a 10-mile run, I drink 32 ounces of Gatorade Endurance during this 1-hour and 46-minute easy run. 

For 60 minutes or longer runs, I recommend 8 ounces of electrolyte drink within 30 minutes and an energy gel within 40 minutes. Unfortunately, I miscalculated my energy gel needs during my 20-mile run. Instead of a gel every five miles, I needed a gel every four miles. As a result, I had insufficient energy, and my performance suffered.

Caffeine Energy Boost

Most runners enjoy the energy boost of caffeine. After taking caffeinated Chi Energy gels during the St Pete Half Marathon, I feel the energy kick! In today’s 17-mile sub 4 hour marathon training run, I consume a 200 mg caffeine pill at mile 6. Ten minutes later, I feel a surge of energy and run my fastest mile. 

For long runs lasting 2 hours or longer, I recommend consuming 200 mg of caffeine after the first and second thirds. On my 17-mile long run, the fueling plan is to consume 200 mg of caffeine at mile 6 (first hour). Then take a second 200 mg caffeine at mile 12 (second hour). 

Unfortunately, the second caffeine capsule dissolves in my pocket. Next time I will protect the pills in a container. 

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