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The Quick Start Nutrition Guide for Marathon Runners

 

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This post is all about what I’m calling the quick start nutrition guide for marathon runners. I’ve challenged myself to provide you marathon fueling guidelines in 500 words! Lets’ get going–

Marathon Fueling Starts With Your Long Run

Weekly long runs are a staple of any quality marathon training plan. We know that taking in calories during a race or workout is a must for those running over 90 minutes.   Runs of this length will start to deplete glycogen stores and require you to consume calories, especially if your goal is to perform well.Long run formula

Failing to fuel adequately can lead to the dreaded bonk. This occurs as liver glycogen, the final storage depot for carbohydrate, become depleted. To prevent a bonk (sometimes referred to as ‘hitting the wall’) you will need to consume carbohydrate calories during exercise.

 

How many calories are needed?

During a long run, a good rule of thumb is to eat about 200-300 calories per hour. There is no way your intake will match the calories you burn per hour—you will always be in a deficit.  First, you need to determine the number of calories you are burning per hour. For example, if you are running 7 miles/hour that’s roughly 700 calories/hour (1 mi = ~ 100 calories). Attempt to consume roughly 25-50% of what’s expended so a realistic goal then would be to consume 175-350 calories/hour during your long runs. Your gut has a limit to how much can be digested, absorbed, and used so even faster runners will not be able to ingest much more than this.

Personal preference is key so figure out what works for you in training, then practice and execute on race day!

 

When should you eat?

If you know your training session is going to last more than 90 minutes consume calories every 15-20 minutes. Don’t attempt to take in all your calories at once. The best strategy is to eat in smaller more frequent doses. Also, if you know you are going long then start consuming calories from the start of your race or workout don’t wait because it’s a mistake to try to play catch up.

 

What should you eat?

This one is totally up to you and is based on personal preference. Liquids, gels, chews, bars, and real foods all work. And it doesn’t even have to be name brand sports nutrition products. For instance, you can go to a health food store and buy some maltodextrin (glucose chains) and add water + some fructose or maybe a small amount of salt. Use the KISS principle here: Keep It Super Simple.

Summary

Dialing in your long run nutrition is key for marathon runners wanting to perform well in their races. Develop a plan, practice, tweak, and repeat is what improves performance. See my previous post where I review a research article demonstrating a 10 minute faster marathon time just from having a race nutrition plan . The goal is to consume as many calories as possible without causing stomach problems.

Now its your turn: get out there and start training your gut! 🙂

What is your long run nutrition plan?

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Get My FREE Cheat Sheet

Learn the exact steps I used to become a 9x Ironman finisher, ultramarathoner, and Boston Qualifier. Take the guesswork out of race-day nutrition.

it's free
100% privacy guaranteed, no messin' around