What To Eat During a Running Race
It is not uncommon for runners to carefully plan snacks or meals for pre- and post-training. However, it is sometimes necessary to eat during a race, especially if it is a long one.
There are several considerations to take into account when thinking about eating and running. First of all, you have to make sure that you can bring whatever you decide to eat, you have to consider the possibility of being able to use a toilet and, finally, sometimes weather conditions come into play. Here’s a guide to what to eat, when to eat and why to eat during long runs.
Why eat while running?
The duration of the race, rather than the distance, is the most important factor to consider when choosing whether or not to eat during the race. When running for less than 60 minutes, most of the energy comes from stored muscle glycogen. When running for more than 60 minutes, stored muscle glycogen is depleted.
When glycogen stores are low, blood sugar and liver glycogen become more important. Stocking up on carbohydrate foods and drinks during long runs prevents energy depletion and helps increase performance. Refuelling during long runs helps replace essential glucose that is burned as fuel. For this reason, many experts recommend carbohydrate replenishment during endurance runs of more than 60 minutes.
How much to eat?
The amount of food to be consumed during the race is determined by several factors. Body size, intensity and duration of the race influence the amount of food required. A basic rule of thumb is that you should eat about 100 calories after one hour of running and then another 100 calories every 40-45 minutes
It is good to do some experiments. But don’t do them too close to race day, especially if you’ve signed up for a half or full marathon. You will need a few long training sessions to determine when and how much to consume.
Experimentation is the key to success in knowing what, when and how much to eat while running. Keep a running diary and note how you feel after consuming different types and amounts of food.
When to eat while running?
Never wait until you feel exhausted to refuel. It is not necessary to eat immediately during a race, but coaches recommend eating every 30-45 minutes during long runs.
But the timing of food intake may also depend on what is eaten. For example, some gels and other foods require drinking water when consumed. Therefore, the timing will depend on the presence of a source. You can also choose to carry water, but you will most likely have to refill your bottle at some point along the route.
What to eat while running?
There is no shortage of options when it comes to the foods you can eat while running. Again, it’s good to experiment with different types of food to find out what works best for you.
One way to ingest carbohydrates while running is through sports drinks. They are designed to provide not only carbohydrates, but also electrolytes (salts) that are eliminated in sweat. Both are important to replenish. The advantage of liquid calories is that you need to hydrate anyway and it is convenient to take in calories at the same time. Plus, you won’t have to chew and you won’t run the risk of choking when breathing hard from the exertion of running.
Energy gels are also designed to be easy for runners to use. The sachets make it easier to assess the calories ingested. One of the great advantages of gels is that no chewing is required, but the disadvantage is that most products need water or a sports drink to be consumed. Otherwise, a lot of residual sugars remain in the mouth.
Solid foods can be tolerated, but must be small and easy to digest. There are numerous products on the market, such as energy bars and even sports jellies, designed for long-distance runners to consume while running. Experience what’s best for you, especially in terms of the amount of chewing required and ease of use. It is also possible that your digestive system performs better with one product than another.
- Real food
Some runners prefer to eat pieces of cake or sugary sweets, such as gummy bears or candy. Figs or other biscuits can be as energetic as an energy bar. They are much cheaper than products designed and marketed for runners and can be just as valid as fuel.
- Foods to avoid
While running, avoid high-fibre foods and spicy foods. If you do not have access to water, avoid dry or crunchy foods that require liquids to be chewed and swallowed completely.
- Safety during meals
If you are not careful, eating while running can be a choking hazard, especially if you opt for solids. If you are concerned about choking, stick to gels and liquids: these foods go down easily and do not pose a choking hazard.
Consume food when water is available. Especially if it’s your first time eating something while running, eat your snack near a fountain. Your mouth may be drier than usual and you will probably need some liquid to swallow your food completely.
Don’t chew or swallow while running: foods that require more chewing should not be eaten on the move.
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