So you are a runner- that might mean short and fast or low and slow, or a mix of it all. No matter what your choice of distance, speed, intensity or setting, fueling for training is still important. There are two schools of thought around nutrition and fueling for running, and neither is necessarily right or wrong, but you should still understand both to make the best decisions for your body, goals, and lifestyle.
Running School of Thought 01: Carbs are Key
This is a longer-standing, more well-known theory of nutrition for runners. The key concept is to fuel your body with quick carbohydrate sources: sugars (Gu gels, chews, and sugary drinks), bagels/toast, pasta the night before longer runs. The goal with these carbohydrates sources is to fuel your body’s glycogen stores to allow your cells to continuously pull energy from these stores.
The good? These carbohydrates are quick burning, easily accessible, and easily digested throughout a run or race.
The not so good? If carbohydrates are the only source of fuel, your body will burn it quickly and require continuous replenishment to get you through.
Running School of Thought 02: Fat as Fuel
This is a newer, not as well-known theory of nutrition for runners. The key concept is to utilize fat stored in the body as fuel rather than relying on carbohydrates. This method of fueling the body takes longer, with greater need for preparation, but ultimately has greater return on investment. This method requires the body to become fat-adapted, meaning that during training leading up to a run or race, you consistently are staying in an aerobic state (low and slow), fueled by fats: avocado, coconut oil, and/or grass-fed butter. This allows your body to adapt to using fat stores as fuel, ultimately allowing your body to burn more efficiently for longer. This doesn’t mean you won’t use any carbohydrates- in fact, it means that the carbohydrates you use might actually end up acting like rocket fuel (🚀) to take you to that deeper place.
Whichever school of thought resonates with you, there are some things to keep in mind when preparing for longer runs or races.
01: Training and Race Day are Very Different Feelings.
But the preparation stays the same! Whichever way you train, you want to keep the same snacks, fuel sources, and beverages for race day.
02: Keep it Simple.
Fuel shouldn’t add stress (to your training, or your gut!), so keep your fuel sources simple, easy to handle, and easy to digest.
03: Find What Works For You.
Just because you saw someone in your run club or on social media eating certain things or training a specific way, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Find the foods you feel good with, prepared the way that feels good for you, and don’t compare it to anyone else. Stay in your lane!
Some things are always constant: Hydration and Recovery
Water is always an important piece of anyone’s training protocol, but so is electrolyte balance. Water without electrolytes can actually lead to hypernatremia (too much hydration), meaning that minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are equally important. Best place to get these minerals is a high-quality sea salt mixed into your water. Don’t love the taste of sea water? I don’t blame you. Electrolyte replacement packets like LMNT or Nuun are great options to add to your water to make sure you’re not over-hydrating.
Recovery is another important piece of training, whether that be for longer runs, or race days. Your biggest priority is to recover as hard as you train- and this looks different for every athlete. Give your body the time it needs to avoid excess soreness and ultimately injury.
Arielle (aka Coach Bloom, or just Bloom) is a L-3 coach and has been in the fitness space for over 8 years. She is also a nutrition coach, dropping knowledge bombs all over social media with the hope that one day, everyone will eat their veggies and protein, drink enough water and move their bodies.