woman running

Spring is in the air: birds chirping, sun shining, and runners are out on streets and trails everywhere.  Many of us have been running all winter long, but come springtime, long runs become longer and training ramps up. 

Granted, this spring is much different than previous years.  Races have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.  However, virtual races abound, and let’s be honest – most of us distance runners enjoy our training (dare I say “need” our training?!).  It brings a familiarity and routine to our lives that is comforting in times like these.  Not to mention, it also gives us a break from the people we’ve been isolated with for the past 10 weeks!

That being said, there are 3 common mistakes that I see time and time again that runners make in respect to fueling for their long run. 

First, think about the last time that you actually thought about what you were going to eat before a long run?  Or even better, planned it out the night before? 

Like so many things in life, we get used to doing things certain ways and it is hard to change habits.  Many runners eat the same things, don’t eat at all, or grab whatever happens to be around.  This will result in poorer training as you may not be providing your body the fuel required for the work ahead.   

You put so much effort into your workouts – why not put the same level of effort into how you fuel your body for those workouts?!

3 common mistakes that runners make in the pre-run snack or meal:

1. You don’t eat enough. 

You wake up early and head out the door without a second thought about food.  Or you are worried that eating too much (or the wrong thing!) could cause digestive issues during your run (and we all know using a Tim Horton’s bathroom en route these days is just not an option!)

2. You eat too much fibre.

You are health conscious and want to make sure that you are consuming whole foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables (read: high fibre).    This is usually a good thing.  However, prior to a run – having less fibre may actually be a better bet to prevent stomach cramping, discomfort, and the need to find a washroom.

3. Your snack is too high in fat.

Avocadoes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, oils….all of these are fantastic sources of fats that provide excellent nutrition.  Not before a long run though.  Fat can delay how quickly our body uses carbs, and can leave us feeling sluggish.  Skip adding the nuts and seeds to your oatmeal before a run and focus instead on adding an extra serving of fruit.

Factors affecting what to eat before you run:

  • The time of day and how long ago you had your last meal: Ideally you want to have a meal 2-3 hours before your run and a small snack 30-60 minutes before your run.

·    The length of your run: Pre-run snacks and meals are most important for longer workouts and runs that are longer than 60 minutes.

·      The intensity of your run: The more intense your run, the more you need enough fuel – but digestion can be affected when you’re working at a higher intensity. For this reason, you may need to have to have your snack 60-90 minutes prior to the run and/or choose a liquid form of carbohydrates and calories (such as a sport drink) that might be better tolerated.

Guidelines for what to eat before a long run

Here are some general guidelines for what to eat before a long run or hard workout (read more here).  The term “long run” refers to a run that is longer than 60 minutes.   

For the math folks out there, I will get into some of the numbers (keep in mind though, that this is only meant to provide a guideline to start with. The key is to adjust based on what feels best for you).

The goal is to consume approximately 1 to 4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight in the 1 to 4 hours before your run.  Let’s do the math on this.

If we use an example of a 150-pound runner (68 kg), she would require approximately 70 to 270 grams of carbohydrates in the 1-4 hours prior to a long run.   

What does this look like in actual food?  Check out the examples below.

Snack & Meal Ideas for Before a Long Run

If you’re a Morning Runner:

You like to get up bright and early and head out the door.  You may not eat anything before your run, or just grab something quick, like half a banana. 

A great option if you’re doing an early morning run is to have an evening snack the night before, and then have a snack about 30 minutes before your run.  Here are some examples that would meet your carbohydrate needs.  

Bedtime snack ideas (night before the morning run):

  • 2 slices toast + peanut butter

  • Greek yogurt, berries, and our delicious 5-minute healthy granola

  • Small bowl of cereal (try brands like: Life cereal, Alpen, Nature’s Path Flax Plus Cinnamon Flakes, or Love Grown Power O’s)  with milk

Snack (30 minutes before morning run):

  • 1 large banana + 2 cups sports drink

  • Granola bar (try brands like Kashi, SoLo GI, Made Good, or KIND)  + 4-6 dates

  • 1 slice toast with jam or sliced banana

If you’re an Afternoon Runner:

You like to head out later in the afternoon, perhaps after your work day is done.  You had lunch at noon, but you don’t want to eat anything too close to your run time, so it’s been hours since you last ate by the time you head out.   Your best bet is to make sure your lunch contains enough carbohydrates, and then include a small mid-afternoon snack, about 60 minutes before you plan to run.

Lunch Ideas (2-4 hours before the run): 

  • Chicken wrap with sliced peppers, cucumbers & celery + apple + yogurt

  • Turkey sandwich + side salad + berries + yogurt

  • Scrambled eggs + 2 slices toast + sliced tomato + avocado + 2 clementine oranges

Snack Ideas (60 minutes before the run): 

  • An energy bar with about 20-30 grams of carbs and about 10 grams of protein (examples include: Epic, Rx, Gorp) + Banana

  • Home made energy bite (try our super-easy and delicious Energy bite recipe) + handful of dried fruit

Remember: your fueling needs are unique

Most importantly, remember that everyone is different and how much and what you can tolerate before a run will be unique to you.  Training is the perfect time to experiment and figure out what your body can handle for different paces and types of runs, so that come race day – you have the perfect plan in place for what to eat beforehand!

Need help figuring out your fueling plan?  Contact me to set up a free clarity call to discuss how we can crush your goals!

Take it one bite at a time,

Cara