Every runner has their unique preferences for what they like and what works to fuel them during their runs. This is what’s worked for me.
I’ll start with long runs, since I think those are the trickiest. During marathon training, breakfast was usually toast or a tortilla with peanut butter and sliced banana about 1-2 hours before I started running. On the way to the start line of the marathon, I ate my tortilla, PB & banana “roll up” … it worked well because it was portable.
Of course, I got sick of this combo. Now I have oatmeal, which is what I eat for breakfast every other day of the week. I make mine with plain oats, brown sugar, chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) and dried fruit (cranberries, cherries or dates).
During the long run (or long race), I’ve tried a lot of things:
- “Runner Fuel” – Clif Shot Energy Gels, GU Energy Gels, GU Energy Chews and my favorites – Clif Shot Bloks and Jelly Belly Sport Beans
- Real food like pretzels and fig newtons
- Fruit, specifically banana and orange slices
- Tablets that dissolve in your water like ZipFizz or Nuun
Luckily for me, everything has agreed with my stomach, so I can just pick what I like based on personal preference, which for me is water + sport beans. I like the more solid fuel because you can eat a few sport beans or one shot blok, and then wrap up the package and put it in your pocket. Putting half of a GU in your pocket sounds like a good way to make a mess. I also really like pretzels during a run, I find that they settle my stomach a little bit. Fig newtons are a bit dry and hard to eat while running.
When I ran my one and only marathon, I carried both pretzels and Clif Shot Bloks (margarita flavor for extra salt). Starting at mile 4 (or maybe it was 6), I took one shot blok every even mile, and then I started eating pretzels every odd mile during the second half of the race. And I took water at almost every water station (during warmer long races, I carry my own water). That seemed to work well for me. I never hit the wall and finished feeling strong. (It helped that I kept my pace very comfortable.) For the half marathon distance, I just stick to 1-2 servings of shot bloks or sport beans, spread out during the second half of the race.
After a long run, I always try to eat something. During marathon training, my CARA group had snacks post-run, so I would eat some pretzels and watermelon, and then drink my own coconut water or chocolate soy milk on the drive home. Once I got home I would stretch, and then eat a normal lunch or breakfast. A lot of times, I had eggs on an english muffin. If I’m at a race, I’ll go for pretty much whatever they have – bagels, bananas, pretzels or chips, granola bars, coconut water, pizza if they have it and beer if my stomach is settled, but I always skip the Gatorade during and after races because I don’t like the taste and I don’t train with it.
During marathon training, my favorite dinner the night before a long run was chicken fajitas. Lots of carbs and protein, plus veggies … and it’s delicious. Not too greasy (compared to other Mexican options), and I skip the cheese and sour cream. It never gave me stomach issues the following morning. I would get it to-go to avoid the temptation of margaritas and endless chips & salsa.
During the week, I usually run after work, so if I’m hungry when I get home, I’ll eat something small – banana with peanut butter, pretzels, fig newtons, or dried fruit like cranberries or dates. Most of my weekday runs are 6 miles or less so I usually don’t eat during the run. When I finish, I’ll usually eat or start making dinner as soon as I get home (before I shower), since by then it’s already after 7pm and I try to go to bed by 9:30.
The only things I’ve regretted eating right before a run is anything carbonated (even seltzer with fruit juice) and chips and guacamole. (Yes, I ate that and went running …. dumb!) And the only thing I’ve regretted for dinner the night before was a lobster roll.
What do you eat before, during and after you runs? What have you regretted eating before or during a run?