Long Run & Race Nutrition

I recently posted about Running & Eating and I mentioned that my changing eating habits have had a positive impact on my running performance.  What you eat on a regular basis can definitely have an effect on your workouts but what you eat during a workout (specifically a long run) is crucial.


Figuring out what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat all before, during and after a long run is a process.  It’s all about trial and error and knowing how important it is to perfect this before race time comes around.

Everyone is different, but I have done enough long runs by now to where I think I have mastered my menu and schedule.  Disclaimer: I’m not a certified nutrition or coach by any means.  I just figured I would share my learnings with the world just in case my strategy works as well for you as I feel it does for me.

2 HOURS before: Whole Wheat Pita or Tortilla spread with Peanut Butter (or my personal favorite – some Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread) & a cup of hot Green Tea – The key is to have a good mix of carbs and protein.  If you’re going to eat nuts, make sure it’s in the form of a spread.  Crunching on a handful of nuts or a protein bar that contains chunks of nuts can potentially cause some discomfort to your digestive system!  And if “2 hours before the run” for you is at 5am like mine is, you’ll likely want some caffeine.  Drink what you’re used to (I’m not a coffee drinker so that would be bad news for my stomach) and limit it to one cup.  You don’t want the shakes and it’d be better to hydrate with water after that.

1 HOUR before: A banana.  Bananas make for the most perfect natural fuel for runners.  They are nutrient-dense, loaded with potassium which runners tend to lose through sweat during long runs.  They are also a good dose of carbs and are easy on the digestive system.

Every 30-45 MINUTES during: You may not feel like you need to fuel every 30-45 minutes but if you wait until your stomach starts to growl, it will be too late and your body won’t be able to process the fuel quickly enough to satisfy you and potentially keep you from hitting the wall (otherwise known as “bonking”).  I take in one gel here and wash it down with water – another very important thing to keep mind.  Water is a must when taking in such a high dose of sugar/carbs!  It’s best to experiment with different “fuels” (gels, chews, beans, blocks, etc.) on your training runs.  I actually have never used anything other than gels since they really seem to work for me but I still like to test out all different types of brands and flavors.  It’s good to know what works well with your stomach and what doesn’t (so you can be aware if one that doesn’t agree with you will be handed out at your next race).

Within 30 MINUTES after: The last thing I want to do when I walk into my house after a long run is eat a huge meal (ok maybe that’s not the last thing.  The real last thing would probably be this).  However, it is important to get something in your body you can help start improving the damage you just did.  At least try to eat a small snack (peanut butter toast or a piece of fruit maybe) or drink some chocolate coconut water (my personal favorite) within 30 minutes of finishing your long run.

Happy Running & Eating!

10 thoughts on “Long Run & Race Nutrition

  1. Ani says:

    During my long runs (runs over 10 miles), I refuel every 5-6 miles. I do this for races too and it is my “perfect” formula. What brand of gels do you like?

    • wholefoodrunner says:

      I try to change it up with the gels so that just in case something goes wrong in a race and I lose one or didn’t bring enough, my stomach can handle whatever kind they are giving out! My favorite brand though is CLIF and I am loving the Peanut Butter flavor right now 🙂

      • Ani says:

        Same! I just don’t like the gels that have caffeine in them… Those mess with my stomach because I am not a coffee/tea drinker.

      • wholefoodrunner says:

        Agreed! I try to stay away from those with added caffeine as well. Have you ever tried chews or beans? I haven’t yet but I know some that prefer those. I just think I would choke 🙂

      • Ani says:

        I have used both and they are fine! Gatorade chomp blocks were provided at the marathon and they are fantastic! I also really like the singer chews. I think I still prefer the gels because they go down a bit smoother, but if you aren’t into the texture – blocks are just like fruit snacks haha

  2. lonanadventurerace says:

    Reblogged this on Lonan O Farrell and commented:
    There is good nutritional advice here. I certainly find the only thing to eat within an hour of a session would be a banana. The food 2 hours before should contain a good carb and protein balance. With a busy working life this may not be possible every day. If possible II would try eat some fish or eggs, greens and some pitta, a little pasta or brown bread 2 hours before. For recovery I always have my protein recovery shake and an hour or two later my dinner. High in fat and protein with a little carbs. I would say try to hydrate moderately before and alot after training.

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