Marathon Training Nutrition Fuel
Tip #14

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The miles are starting to pile up. Are you getting the marathon training nutrition fuel you need to make the distance? I often get the question about what to eat before a long run, as well as what to do if you can’t eat before a long run. Think about this quote as it relates to fueling before a run.

If you continue to think like you’ve always thought, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got. Author Unknown

Fuel for Early Morning Long Runs

  • If you get up early to run a few miles it probably does not matter if you eat before you run. However, if a long run is planned, you might find yourself running out of gas during the run. This is especially true if you ate an early dinner and didn’t snack the evening before. Your glycogen (carbohydrate) stores drop after a “fast” (a fast simply means going a long time without eating). To start, eat a carbohydrate-rich dinner the night before a long run, something including a nice portion of rice, or pasta, or bread (a hearty sandwich would work), along with vegetables or fruit. Keep the fiber lower if you have a history of fiber sticking around and making you feel heavy in the morning. Eat fiber rich choices if you know you will “clean out” on time. Keep the fat lower, since it leaves the stomach slowly. So, you can include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or soy in your dinner, but skip the deep fried and fatty choices. Hydrate well, keeping alcohol to a serving or less. If the dinner is early, have a healthy snack that includes carbs and something to drink before you go to bed.

    It is most important to get marathon training nutrition fuel the night before a long run if you cannot tolerate eating anything the morning of a long run.


  • So you think you cannot eat before a long run? “If you continue to think like you‘ve always thought, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” When was the last time you tried to eat before a run? When was the last time you trained for a marathon? You are in training like never before, so it’s a great time to try new approaches, including fueling. Here are a few tips to try on a short run. If it works on a short run, chances are you’ll be fine on a long run:

    1. Get up earlier. Maybe a light snack in the morning will require you to go to the bathroom before the run. Problem solved.

    2. Okay, so you won’t get up earlier. Obviously the less time you have before the run the less you should eat. Try a piece of fruit or a half a bagel or a slice of toast or a yogurt or a nutrition bar . Maybe you tried to eat too much in the past and it came back to haunt you. The goal is to try to eat something before you go out. As you approach longer runs, you may even want a small amount of protein with your carbs, like peanut butter on the toast or melted cheese on the bagel. High mileage may be new territory, so listen to your body as it starts demanding more marathon training nutrition fuel.

    3. If solid food doesn’t work before the long run, try a carbohydrate-based supplement , which could be carbs in gel form (GU or a Clif Shot) or carbs in a sports drink (Gatorade Endurance Formulaor CytoSport Cytomax Pre-Formance High-Endurance Meal Replacement, Creamy Orange, 3.08 lbs.).

    4. If you cannot eat any food or a substantial drink for marathon training nutrition fuel before a run, at least drink water so you will start out hydrated. At this point you will have to depend on getting fuel during the long run from the gels or sports beverages. Carb-based Jelly Belly Sport Beans or Cliff Shot Bloks are convenient fuel to try, also. Both have electrolytes that plain candy does not provide.

    The body can process up to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, which would be one gel and 16ounces of a Gatorade Endurance (with additional water to reach your hydration goals).

    5. Before you give up on solid food or supplements, try different flavors, keep the fat and fiber low, and try something with or without protein, with or without caffeine, and with or without added vitamins or electrolytes.

    So, are you still thinking like you’ve always thought? It’s time to shake it up and get more than you’ve always got.

    Marathon Training Nutrition Tip of the Day: Plan a carb-rich dinner or evening snack the night before your next run. Before you go to bed, set out your “pre-run” marathon training nutrition fuel source. When you are done running, make a note in your training log as to how the carbs helped.

    Get help setting marathon training nutrition fuel goals.

    Check out more marathon nutrition training blogs.

    Everyday is your day to succeed!