Fuel During Long Runs

Hi all, 



So, I'm looking for some advice on nutrition while running. I've been running (albeit slowly) for a few years now, low carb the whole time. I'd like to hear your thoughts on what I should be consuming during a long (15mi+) run. I'm currently training for a marathon, so am running quite a bit lately. My goals here are to finish this marathon (not win it), and hopefully drop maybe 10lbs of fat at the same time. I'm a 6'1", 180lb 32-year-old guy. 


I run in the mornings (it's hot out!). 2hrs before I start, I have three or four Unfair Advantage ampules and start drinking water with salt. About 90mins before, I have a BP coffee made with 1.5tbsp of Kerrygold, about 2tbsp of Brain Octane and 2tbsp of Collagen Protein. 


During the run, I carry a bottle of water with a nuun tablet. I'll usually find another source of water along my route somewhere, too. 



After the run, I usually don't do anything too special. I drink a lot of water and usually nap. 


Last week, I took a packet of Justin's Honey Almond Butter that I had about 10mi in, but I felt really "heavy" after.



So, my questions:

What do you all think would be a good mid-run fuel? Or should I even bother, and just force my body to burn my built-in fat reserves? Everyone I run with (on high sugar runner's diets) advocate Gu and other sports gel and drinks, which I'm not really interested in.


The idea of Fat Water is intriguing. It makes me want to run my nuun through the blender with a couple tbsp of brain octane and see what happens. Has anyone tried this? 


Also, BCAAs... Everything I've read makes me think I should take some before, during and after. But I'm not sure which product to get. 


Thanks everyone!





  • staylorstaylor
    edited August 2015

    First recommendation, start reading through the ultra-marathon running forums as there are some really knowledgeable runners in there.


    Next, I'm not a runner but I am an endurance and ultra-endurance mountain bike racer, and there are some similarities on the hydration and nutrition side of things. My focus is typically 24 hour Solo races (race non stop for 24hrs), in 6wks I'll be doing my 28th 24hr Solo, which happens to be a World Championship (my 5th Worlds), and it's not an event you can bumble towards and do well. I've paid my dues at the school of hard knocks, so anything I've learned about endurance nutrition has come via a lot of hard lessons.


    I can't provide complete answers to your questions, I've got several books worth of knowledge on this subject but it would simply take too long to type out the stuff I would want to cover in this thread. Further, every single person is different from the person standing next to them, it would be irresponsible of me to give you exact directions as I simply don't know you. So with that said I'm going to keep it short:


    - Understand that you can never one for one replace the calories you are burning during training. You are always training into a deficit.

    - It's unlikely you will be able to consume more than 300cals per hour.

    - The higher your intensity during a run, the more likely your cals consumed per hour have to be reduced.

    - The lower your intensity during a run, the more likely your cals consumed per hour can be increased.

    - It's mostly about understanding the relationship between; a) How much H2O you can take on per hour, b) How many cals per hour, c) Electrolyte load per hour.

    - Set up your training so you are practicing your nutrition/hydration/electrolyte system, and occasionally replicating race day pace, in order to understand how your body responds to fuelling and hydration, in various environmental conditions over various timelines.

    - Burning fat for fuel is about the level of intensity you are training at, which may or may not synchronize well with what level of intensity you plan to race at.

    - Marathons are pretty short, it will require a pace that steps beyond your glycogen bank and fat utilization recruitment, so I would recommend you start experimenting with supplemental fuel in-run. Carbs are a preferential source.

    - Start thinking about nutrition as a 24hr cycle, you should always be trying to optimize your status at least 3hrs before you go training. Fuel correctly during training (it will help to optimize your training outcome and give you a head start on the recovery cycle). A soon as you get in the house begin your recovery protocols to include fast uptake protein/carbs, then a second feeding soon after, elevate legs, foam roller, fibrous adhesion work, stretching, etc, etc, and etc.


    Most of the questions you might have from this point on have generally been discussed in the Athletic Performance forum, as well as the ultra-marathon forums. You've got a lot of reading ahead of you, but the best way to learn is by digging for the answers and keeping the things that make sense to you at the time. Your approach to running and nutrition/hydration/electrolyte/pacing will evolve over time, don't be afraid to experiment and change your mind on things. Hope that helped.

  • Just wanted to clear something up this morning as I typed my previous post out really quickly last night and I realize it wasn't very clear when I said:


    "Understand that you can never one for one replace the calories you are burning during training. You are always training into a deficit."


    And by that I meant during training your caloric training output will nearly always be higher than your caloric training input. So to be clear, when you are running you will burn more calories than you can consume. An example being a marathon pace of approximately 5hrs might burn approximately 3000cals, and you might be able to take in 1000-1500cals during those 5hrs.


    To add more on the subject, if you head out for a HIIT session, your intensity (combined with EPOC) might have you burning 900cals for an hour. Because of that higher intensity your GI will be less interested in taking on higher caloric loads so you will probably have to downward adjust your hourly caloric intake (in-run). And because of that higher intensity your body will preferentially fuel on glycogen rather than fat. The training outcome will become dependent on how well you topped up your glycogen bank pre-training vs. how long/intense the HIIT session is, balanced against how successful or not your in-run fuelling is. As a far-too-general generalization, working harder than a 6.5/10 (HR, wattage, pace, RPE) typically moves an athlete away from fat for fuel. The higher the intensity = less fat recruitment and more glycogen burning.


    A simple mantra... racing is pacing. Now's the time to observe and establish your trends in training, becoming familiar and comfortable with cause and effect, always moving towards optimizing your pacing. Use training to focus on what will work best for you in-race.

  • Thanks guys, this is all good info. I appreciate it very much! There was one bit in here that I disagree with:



    Marathons are pretty short

    Ha, so we're definitely in a whole different class here. Maybe one day I'll agree with you... ;-) 



    So, I understand that I can't and shouldn't be taking in 3,000 calories over the course of a run, that high intensity workouts will favor glycogen over fat. I'm consciously working on my effort during long runs (ignoring pace, paying attention to HR and adjusting pace). Every long run, I tend to try something a little different to find something that feels right. Today, I ran 15mi with only a litre of water with BCAA powder, and felt pretty good.


    But what I'm really trying to get to is, the theory among every runner I know is to slam back gels every 30 minutes or so. But I've been trained to shy away from corn sugar goo... So my instinct is avoid those and find an alternative. I tried the BCAA drink today, next week I'd like to give this SuperStarch stuff a try. Do you have any thoughts on what I could try for long runs? Or maybe I should give the Gus consideration? 


    I have never tried to fuel during my HIIT days — I just focus on hydration there. 


    About this:


    I would add that having a goal of weight loss leading up to or from an event it not a good one, any weight loss or cutting should be done offseason or completed 3 months before your event. You should not be dieting leading up to or during an event, the potential decreased performance would outweigh any mile pace time gained from weighing less. 


    I hear you, and appreciate your advice. The trouble is I participate in some sort of event or another year-round. I run and cycle all the time, and like to try new things often. I don't participate in these events to win them or even compete really; I participate because I enjoy them. 



    Thanks a million again, everyone!

  • Hahaha, yeah I meant short in the contextual sense. That doesn't mean marathons are easy, it just means they aren't particularly long (in my world). Because they are 'short' in the sense of racing time, there is a tendency for most racers to 'train for a long race but race like it's a short race'. They train at a lower intensity which is a much easier fueling/hydration/electrolyte puzzle to solve than the more intense race pace that they end up doing. This typical scenario has a runner doing well on their 3hr training runs, but blowing up 3hrs into their actual event because of the GI impact from the different easy-training vs. race pace intensities (not to mention the race nerves hormonal impact, etc).


    Regarding your comment on pacing via HR, there is some merit to HR pacing but only viewed through an experienced lens of trends observations. Quite frankly, HR lies. It is impacted by so many things, such as; hydration, stress, sleep, state of recovery, training session nutrition, last time you ate, what you ate, temperature, humidity, mindset, ergogenic aids, altitude, level of over-reaching, workload timeline, etc, etc and etc. Pay as much attention to as many metrics as possible in order to start firming up your trends.


    I have lots of thoughts on fuelling, based on my own n=1 experimentations of trying to expand my own operational box, as well as observations of daily uploaded athlete files that I work on (providing an observed database plus of 100,000 analyzed files that show Wattage/HR/RPE/Pace/Temperatures/VAM/etc). Like I said earlier, experiment with your fuelling. See what works best for you, if you aren't interested in gels take a look at Allen Lim's Portables book. Running for 15mi on just BCAA and water isn't a particularly good test of how you will do on just BCAA and water in a full marathon. The best way to determine your optimal performance is by introducing some form of in-run carbs.


    I don't casually mention training and racing on carbs just because I read it somewhere on the Interwebs. I spent approximately one year training and racing in nutritional ketosis (or close to it), in order to better understand the impact (both positive and negative) in context of an ultra-endurance focus. I learned a thing or two. Here's some random thoughts I put into a blog post a year ago, I think you might find the last portion of the post interesting:




  • RekaReka ✭✭✭
    HIIT for an hour? Does someone really do that?? I can hardly go for 15 minutes on my better days

    It doesn't get easier... It's you who gets better.


    Is your social worker in that horse?


    Success has a price, not a secret.

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