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Nutrition for Distance Running


“What do You Eat Before A Long Run?”

Well that depends on how far I’m running and what time of the day I’m running. What I put into my body before a run really depends on those two factors. 

In this post I’m going to share what I’ve learned through working with different running coaches during marathon training and how I fuel for my long runs. 

If you can take anything away from this post- I want you to find FIND WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU & WHAT MAXIMIZES YOUR RUNNING PERFORMANCE. 


  • Nutrition in marathon training is all about trial and error


  • Use your training as practice for RACE DAY to find the fuel that works BEST for YOU


  • Don’t experiment with new foods on race day, stick with what your body is used to!


  • Take into consideration what time you’re running. You should be eating at least 1-2 hours before to give your body enough time to digest the food


  • Digestion can be very difficult during longer runs. The body diverts blood flow away from internal organs and shunts it to larger muscles in order to supply them with oxygen-rich blood to meet the demands of running. The GI tract receives less blood flow during a run because of this. The longer the run then the less blood flow to the GI tract, which can contribute to GI issues on long mileage days.


  • Since your more likely to have GI distress on long run days, try to stick with foods that your body is used to having to prevent any other GI issues. 


What to eat BEFORE a long run

  • Meals that are:
    • *High in carbs
    • *Moderate in easily-digestible protein
    • *Lower in fat
  • Types of carbs to eat before a long run:
    • *High glycemic carbohydrates (dates, bananas) give you immediate energy. I usually have a piece of banana right before I leave for my run for a quick source of energy 
    • *Slower release carbs (breads and oats) will help in the later miles (have 1-2 hours before a long run)
    • *A good pre-long run meal has both high-glycemic carbohydrates and slower release carbohydrates
    • *3:1 carbs/protein ratio- That means your combined pre-long run meal should have about three times more carbohydrates than protein for optimal absorption
    • *Some fat is a good before a long run, just not too much!
      • –Coconut oil, avocado, nut butter are all good sources of healthy fats to take in (I usually add 1 tbsp nut butter to my oats before a long run)
    • *Avoid Eating Too Much Fiber- you don’t want to be making too many bathroom stops!

Give these meals a try:

  • *Oatmeal with 1/2 banana and 1 tbsp nut butter
  • *Piece of whole grain toast with 1 tbsp nut butter + 1/2 sliced apple
  • *Go Macro Bar 
  • *Picky Bar
  • *Greek yogurt with granola, nuts, fruit (if you’re not sensitive to dairy)
  • *Bagel with hummus or avocado

How to fuel DURING a long run

The most important thing is to find out what fuel works best for you for you during your run. You don’t want to be practicing nutrition for long runs during the marathon. You want to be a pro by race day!

Gus/Gels- I  typically don’t take fuel during my longer runs unless I’m running 14+ miles. This is just what works for my body. I don’t need any gels or gus on my 10-12 milers. You may find that your body needs fuel during these runs and that’s OK! Listen to how your body feels during a run and what it’s telling you. It’s always good to be prepared and have some fuel on hand in case you need it. 

If I’m heading out for a long run that’s 14 miles or more, I  usually fuel every 45 mins- 1 hour. For example, for a 14 mile run I’ll fuel halfway through with 30g-60g carb (1-2 gels). 

This is always my game plan for long runs. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way. Every run is different. A few weeks ago when I set out for my 15 miler I was planning on having oats with 1/2 banana and nut butter before my run. I woke up feeling nausea and bloated and just couldn’t eat that. I had about half a bar and Nuun hydration. I knew that I wasn’t fueled properly prior to this run so I brought two gels with me in case I started feeling hungry and sluggish. I’m so glad I brought two because I needed both of them to get me through that run. 

My other piece of advice is to fuel EARLY! Don’t wait until it’s too late to take in fuel. It’s better to have some before you REALLY need it because then you’ll be playing catch up.

My favorite gels are the Huma plus energy gels (all natural chia energy gels with caffeine and electrolytes- 25g carb per packet).

Blackberry Banana- SO good!

Some people have GI issues with gels and can’t tolerate them. They do better with real food options as fuel.

Some examples are:

  • *Dates (2 medjool dates = 35g carbs)
  • *Applesauce squeeze packets (1 pack = 20 to 25g carbs)
  • *Sweet potatoes (1 small potato or ½ large potato = 30g carbs)
  • *Pretzels (25 mini pretzels = 30g carbs)
  • *Candy: Swedish fish, gummy bears, or jelly beans (see nutrition labels)


What to eat AFTER a long run

It’s super important to replenish carbs and protein after a long run. You want to replace your glucose stores that were lost during the run with carbohydrates. The body uses protein to rebuild your muscles during recovery mode, so getting protein in during that 30-45 minute window is also necessary to make sure your recovery is effective.

Post run meal ideas:

  • *Chocolate milk and some fruit
  • *Salmon on toast
  • *Protein shake with fruit or smoothie
  • *Greek yogurt with fruit
  • *Oatmeal with nuts and fruit
  • *Avocado toast with eggs
  • *Sweet potatoes with nut butter and greek yogurt (sounds weird but SUCH A GOOD COMBO)

Acai Bowl from Paradise Bowls- one of my favorite long run traditions!

Don’t forget rehydration is important too!!

Don’t forget to rehydrate after your run and supplement electrolytes as well. If you are only drinking water, then you could deplete your electrolytes. You will still need to replenish lost fluid for up to 24 hours afterwards a long run. Try to avoid diuretics such as tea, coffee, and alcohol.

An easy way to check if your hydration is to look at your urine. If it’s dark yellow after your run, you need to keep rehydrating. It should be a light yellow color. 

Let me know if you guys have any questions and remember FIND WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU & WHAT MAXIMIZES YOUR RUNNING PERFORMANCE!

Happy running!