If you’ve been logging in dozens of miles a week of running, please go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve already done some work and understand the mental and physical benefits of pushing your body to the absolute limits mile after mile. You’ve earned some rest, so take a moment to get comfortable because we’ve got an important topic to cover: NUTRITION for runners! Just as race cars need the right fuel to keep from breaking down, long distance runners need to focus on nutrition to protect from injuries and to keep those legs trotting happily for miles to come!
At the top of the list of runners’ nutrition is of course…water. Leonardo da Vinci said it best when he said, “Water is the driving force of all nature”. It’s no question that H2O is an important nutrient we runners depend on. For those long distances, you’ll need to hydrate with around two or three cups of water at least two hours before your run. Fifteen minutes before running long distance, it’s also a good practice to drink a full cup too.
While running, try practicing the “three ounces per ten minutes rule” to stay hydrated – for example, if you’re running for about an hour, consume at least two cups of water during the run. When you’ve finished, replace every ounce of body weight lost during exercise with one and a half ounces of fluids. We know math is no fun…but practicing this will properly rehydrate your body.
To be a lean, mean, long distance running machine, means getting plenty of protein in your diet! According to Competitor, “[even though] there seems to be no magic sweet spot of protein intake that every runner has to hit on the nose every day. More important than the amount of protein consumed is the timing of protein intake.” There have been many studies on runners’ nutrition, which have found that when protein is consumed right after a workout, muscle repair happens more rapidly.” You also don’t need to start gobbling a ton of protein either! About 15-20 grams of protein per hour of exercise should be enough for those gains.
Fiber-rich foods provide a host of significant health benefits for everybody – not just runners. Even though it’s important to always include fiber in your training diet, it could hurt you if you don’t plan ahead of time. Racing at 8 o’clock in the morning? Definitely stay away from high-fiber foods during the previous night’s dinner and breakfast on race day. Eating too much fiber for breakfast can lead to cramping on race day, or cause other uncomfortable issues.
Long distance runners are a die-hard bunch, since this group will often exercise for at least an hour at a time. As a result, these runners truly need to focus on carbohydrate intake. Any runner who crosses that 60-minute mark during their training session should ingest 30 to 60 grams of carbs each hour. That’s equal to around 2 energy gummies, or 3-4 packets of energy gels.
Calories are just a number associated with the amount of fuel that we runners need to burn for training or for racing. So how many calories should a runner eat? Long-distance runners should consume 19 to 21 calories per pound of bodyweight for 1 – 1.5 hours of running or strenuous activity per day. If your training schedule calls for 1.5 – 2 hours of running or strenuous activity per day, 22 to 24 calories per pound of bodyweight need to be consumed. But if you’re stepping up to 2 to 3 hours of running per day, calorie intake for marathon training should increase to at least 25 to 30 calories per pound of bodyweight.
Remember that all these tips on nutrition for long distance runners including: hydration, carbohydrate management, protein, fiber, as well as total caloric intake will provide the best opportunity for your success. In the long run it will all pay off!