Part 2 – Eat to run
What to eat during running?
In part 1 we spoke about what to eat before your run. In the second part of this series we will go into more detail about what to eat during running, if anything at all.
The two key things we must consider when fuelling our sessions are carbohydrates and hydration.
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For workouts that last less than 60 minutes, intra-workout carbohydrates are not necessary.
For high intensity exercise lasting >45mins, a recent technique of rinsing a carbohydrate solution in the mouth and not actually swallowing it has shown positive signs of improving performance. This action seems to stimulate the CNS system even without ingestion ([18,21]). This could be a useful strategy if you struggle to consume carbohydrates during exercise or you wish to keep carbohydrates low for the session.
For sessions lasting longer than 60 mins at a high intensity (> 70% VO2Max), aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour in a 6–8% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution (around 200ml) every 15 minutes. Look for foods, drinks, and gels that are easily digested and won’t cause any stomach complaints (1, 5, 13).
For events lasting >2.5 h, higher carbohydrate intakes of 60–70 g/h, and up to 90 g/h if tolerable are associated with improved performance [8). The intensity of the session and daily kcal targets will affect this number. If your goal is weight loss then you may consume less and only aim for 20g/h.
Combining your carbohydrates
Research shows that combining different types of carbohydrates (glucose and fructose) enables you to ingest more (90g/hr) compared to using one source (14). This is because glucose and fructose use different transporters for absorption. For events lasting longer than 3 hrs, it is recommended to combine these two carbohydrates to help increase absorption rates, which can lead to improvements in performance (15)
Athletes should aim to consume a 2:1 glucose: fructose ratio, however many sports drinks will already have that ratio so it’s not something worth worrying about.
Athletes should be aware that these numbers are only guidelines as the tolerability of the higher carbohydrate numbers will vary between athletes. Eating this amount of carbohydrates can also cause GI distress so you should routinely practice a strategy that works well for you. Testing of these higher numbers is the only way to see if these numbers can work for you.
During training, athletes should try and replace fluid lost by sweating with around ~0.4-0.8 l/h of either water or an electrolyte sports drink depending on the carbohydrate needs of the run. Sweat rates, temperature, the intensity of exercise and your weight can all factor in how much fluid you need to drink. There will be individual differences, so stay flexible and increase your fluid intake to compensate for any increased sweating. It’s better to err on the upper side with fluids, then risk dehydration.
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