How to fuel your runs to maximise your training!

Lots of people come to me and say they are struggling to increase their distance and build their endurance. Often, they describe hitting a wall or simply feeling like they can’t go any further.

They think there’s something wrong with them or that they’ve reached the peak of what their body is able to achieve.

Luckily I know better (most of the time).

The first question I always ask is – what did you eat before you went? How did you fuel it?

Mostly the answer is – ‘I didn’t’.

And there we have it.

So let’s get down and dirty!

In this blog I am going to share with you;

  • The fuel your body needs to be able to run.
  • Why fuelling your training/races is so important.
  • How to fuel and when.
  • How to use nutrition to aid your recovery.

What fuel does your body need to be able to run?

Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel for running.

That’s right – that highly demonised food you have been taught to avoid at all costs is actually EXACTLY what your body needs to be able to have a successful session or race.

It’s bad rep trips up all too many runners so if you are training hard for something and it’s feeling harder than you think it should, STOP AVOIDING CARBS!

Why is fuelling your races/training so important?

There are a couple of things we need understand.

  • Your body can store carbs in your body (hello pre run breakfast and topping up those energy stores before you go).
  • Your body burns through carbs differently depending on the length and intensity of the session..
  • You can deplete all of your bodies stored carbs running at a high intensity for 20 minutes, or at a low intensity for between 60-90 minutes.

Any light bulb moments here?

I hope you’ve read the above and thought…’ahhhh so that’s why I am struggling to get to X’ – your body needs more fuel.

What fuel should you be using and when?

Here’s what I recommend before a hard or long training run or race.

  • Between 2-1.5 hrs before you start make sure you have got some carbs on board – some examples include toast and jam is a good one, porridge with honey, overnight oats, a bagel.
  • It is also good to ‘top up’ with a small amount of quick release carbs 30-60 mins before the race/training session – half a banana, or a gel for example.

During a long training run/race I recommend the following;

  • Research suggests that your body needs “30 – 60g carbohydrate per hour”
  • A practical recommendation is 1 gel every 45 minutes (this is totally unique to you and could be shorter time periods)
  • Remember to take the gel before your body is telling you it needs it – if you wait until you feel zapped it’s too late and your body will struggle to process it.
  • Practice and try different forms of fuel – if a particular brand of gel doesn’t sit right on your stomach, try a different one, there are all sorts of flavours, consistencies. Equally, alternatives such as jellies, sweets, dried food, baby food pouches, sports drinks and more solid options. Try it all and find what works best for you.
  • Do not try new forms of fuel on race day – even if it’s free!!

Right – time to hop up on my soap box for a second…look there it is!

Perhaps you aren’t fuelling and still managing to avoid the bonk. Maybe you can run a half marathon without using any fuel to keep you going? Just stop for a minute and imagine how much more you might be able to achieve with the adequate fuel inside your body??

For me, it’s a no brainer.

Just because you feel you don’t need it doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from it.

Because you will.

How to use nutrition to aid your recovery?

Whilst we’re talking nutrition, we should also cover the power it has to help aid recovery. Studies show that getting the right nutrition inside your body within the right timeframe can aid your recovery better than static stretching.

Here’s what you need to remember.

  • A mix of carbohydrate and protein (ideal ratio is 4:1 (carb:protein)) is what your body needs after your session. To give you an idea, this could be;
    • Large flapjack and banana
    • 500ml bottle of chocolate milk
    • A nkd bar, apple, Greek yoghurt and honey
  • Get the right food inside you within 30 minutes of finishing – this might mean planning ahead, be prepared and take something with you to your session/long run and don’t leave it too long before eating.
  • Remember to also get some fluids in.

So there you have it – your secret weapon – I promise it might just transform your runs from ones you manage to get through to ones that actually FEEL GOOD!!

If you are marathon training and like listening to podcasts I highly recommend downloading this fantastic epidsode of A Runner’s Life with Sports dietician Tom Hollis.

If you want more of this type of advice and help with your running but want to get more specific to you and your goals why not take a look at your coaching options!