We’re talking long-distance trail runs - without ongoing fuel to help the body replenish its glycogen - the energy it burns off while exercising - you’re destined to hit the dreaded runner’s “wall.” People have varied dietary needs, tastes and metabolisms. All those differences make it hard to tell someone exactly what they should be eating, but here are some handy tips.
Find easy to digest foods
Start with good old carbohydrates. Every trail runner has their favourite on-the-go snack from dried fruits, trail mix, pureed baby foods (seriously!), jerky, flapjack - a personal favourite is a toasted bagel topped with nut butter and banana; it delivers up around 85g of easily digested carbohydrates, and tastes awesome!
Energy gels and chews work for most runners, given their high carbohydrate levels are ideal for absorption across the gut and deliver immediate energy.
To fuel or not to fuel?
For runs less than 90mins, you don’t need to worry about re-fuelling on the move. For longer trails and ultra-distance events you should aim for around 60-90g of carbs an hour for anything over three hours.
Stick to what you know
On the morning of your run, opt for something you’ve tried and tested for breakfast – controlling as many factors as you possibly can will stand you in good stead for the run ahead. The last thing you want is to be dashing of course to crouch behind a bush!
What about hydration?
When running you may become dehydrated – an electrolyte imbalance can cause muscle spasms, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. Don’t ignore these signs! Your body will lose salt through sweating or your blood sugar levels may dip. All this can be prevented with your mid-run hydration and nutrition. Use an electrolyte based drink rather than just ordinary water – this quickly replenishes fluid lost through sweating and gives you a boost of carbohydrates.
You will start know what maximum distance you can go before that pre-run meal becomes important. One thing’s for sure - if it’s a big race or run, you probably shouldn’t be running on an empty stomach!