For those of you who don’t run long distances, you might not know that you need to eat while you run. Especially when you run ultra distances, you need to stay both hydrated as well as nourished to be able to have the strength and energy to keep moving. All runners are different and need different foods to help them. I will take this time to let you know what helps me stay hydrated and nourished during my runs.Starting with hydration, I like to drink at least one litre of fluid for every hour I run. I sweat a lot, and have used a scale to measure how much fluid I lose per hour. I mostly drink just water, but I’m a big fan of Gatorade or HEED sports drink. I try to drink at least half a litre of Gatorade or HEED for every litre of water I drink, just to give me some electrolytes as well as flavour.
In regards to the food I eat, it’s basically anything that will give me calories, sugar, salt and protein. During my training runs and races, I like to eat at least 200 calories of food every hour. Some of these foods include: Hammer gels, peanut butter and jam on some sort of bagel, cliff bars, vega bars, bananas, and the occasional cookie. During races it’s pretty much the same, but I’m limited to what is offered at race aid stations as well. They tend to have foods which include baked potatoes dipped in salt, chocolate chip cookies, licorice M&Ms, raisins, pretzels and chips. I don’t mind changing it up and eating some of that food later on in a race to give me something different to eat, but for the most part I try to eat what I eat during training. There have also been a few times that I have been able to eat a slice of homemade pizza at a race, and it seemed to do the trick.
The hardest transition for me was actually practicing eating while running. It’s not as easy as it seems. Initially I would get an upset stomach but with practice, and with figuring out which foods worked best for me (and that I could keep down) I am now able to eat and continue running without any issues.My rookie mistake: I need to mention that making sure you eat enough salt so that your body can absorbed all the water it sweats out is VITAL. Also by consuming enough salt, you will prevent your body from cramping up and ensure you are hydrated. Again this depends on the runner, the temperature conditions and how much you are sweating.
While these foods and hydration strategy works for me, everyone needs to test what works for them during their training runs. I started out by consulting a local sports nutritionist and highly recommend utilizing any veteran runners who are willing to share what nutritionally works for them!