Long runs and food

A slightly dodgy run I had yesterday prompted me to look into and think about what I'm eating as a runner.

I've only been running a few months, but my fitness has improved incredibly, just by regular and consistent running. Recently, I've settled in to a pattern of running four times a week - two 5Ks and two 10Ks. Seen as a weekly summary, the calorie burn is not spectacular - maybe a little over 3000 a week.

I've been playing around with myFitnessPal after my 10K this morning. It tells me that I should consume 3,707 calories today! (My run burned over 1000 calories).

Fiddling around with what I've eaten and what I plan to eat, that's really quite difficult!

It's important to manage your diet as a runner, I think - you need the right quantity of glycogen-replenishing energy and protein, or you won't be able to perform as you could.

Does anybody take a lot of notice of the food they eat other than from the perspective of losing weight?

33 Replies

  • 3,700 calories a day running two 5ks and 10ks a week? That's a lot.

  • Depends if you average out your intake. myFitnessPal says my standard intake should be 2,640 calories a day, and added the 1067 calories from today's run to it. This is all new to me.

  • The numbers do sound high, but of course it all depends on your weight (carrying around more weight consumes more energy) and how active you are (manual labour consumes more energy than office work).

    That aside, I'm a bit torn on the whole nutrition thing.

    I totally believe that eating a balanced diet is important, and I do understand that carefully chosing the right mix of nutritients can give elite athletes an edge. But I'm not sure that for it for me makes much difference whether I get my carbs from pasta, rice, bread or beer - I'm just not a sufficiently fined tuned machine for it to matter. And my problem is typically not whether I get enough energy, it's more likely to be that I get too much energy and store the excess as fat that I need to carry around (which of course burns extra energy, so there's always a silver lining).

    The only place where I do take a bit notice is that I try to get some carbs and protein consumed quickly after a run. It supposedly helps to recover quicker, but truth be told, I don't think I feel any less tired the day after a hard run than I did before I started to "fuel up". So it's more of a treat, I guess. An excuse to have lovely sweet chocolate milk and a banana.

  • I'm not carrying a lot of excess weight any more. If I lost more than half a stone, I think I'd be on the underweight side of comfortable. I'm just under 13 stones now, and 5'10".

    I'm not going to obsess about what I'm eating in detail, but I think it will be interesting to monitor energy in and out over a couple of weeks.

  • Ahh chocolate milk, you e just reminded me there's some in the fridge......

  • What was dodgy about your run Steve, and is there a reason you think it relates to food?

  • I ran out of gas after a couple of K. Started off at a decent but achievable pace but just couldn't sustain it. It was here - connect.garmin.com/modern/a...

  • Did you run at your normal time with normal gap between whatever you ate last before the run and the run itself, and did you eat what you normally eat?

    Also, was it hot in Oxford yesterday? It was in Leicester...

  • Everything was as usual, and while the weather was pleasant, it was cooler than today.

  • I'm not sure I can help beyond saying that I also have occasional runs that are not as good as expected for no obvious reason.

    I would agree that nutrition does have an influence, although I'm more in the Tomas camp of it not making enough difference at the times we are operating at to be a significant factor.

    I'd suggest (without knowing you) that maybe its a recovery issue as you've ramped up quite far beyond the 5k x 3 in a week... Do you try and run all of your runs quickly or are you doing easy long runs and maybe one effort a week?

    That is the limit of my help I'm afraid :(

  • I'm sure it is a recovery issue, but I also think that recovery can be affected quite a lot by taking care to eat properly to provide the right amount of protein and energy for legs to repair and refuel. Regardless of the times we can achieve, we're still expending a lot of energy and punishing our legs.

    I don't try to run them all quickly - I do have easier runs, like this morning, plus I throw in the odd interval session.

  • I know there is the golden window (or whatever you like to call it) for the 1-2 hours after a session and this is when you should try and put "quality" food into your body for the glycogen replenishment. As well as the carbs, I try to eat smoked salmon (not because I am posh!) because I read somewhere it helps minimise the inflammatory effects of running. I also read about making a recovery drink from Oranges, Lemons and Limes with a pinch of salt and sugar, which I do if we have the ingredients (very bad forward planner!). Otherwise I use High5 recovery drink if I've been on a 10k+.

    I'd be interested to read about your conclusions on the cals in and out too

  • Yes, I do. Rig does too, and I suspect many more. when you start doing the longer distances you begin to think about fuelling yourself up for the week, not just the run itself.

    Running further will be easier if you start to think about a healthy meal afterwards and what you will eat for breakfast too. I eat porridge on run and dog walking days. After a long run I love home made chilli, wholegrain rice and guacamole. Any leftovers can be turned into little pasties or empanadas 😔

    A bit of forward planning will mean you have it covered ☺

    i make my own energy bars as well 😊

  • In the last couple of weeks, I have added more fish and eggs to my diet to prevent my weight from dropping by more than the 3Kg or so that fell off last month (I am not overweight).

    Without being overly scientific about it, I had a look at what I was eating and deduced that when burning 10-12,000 kCal per month through exercise (long walks and swimming included in that), I was going to need more in the way of quality protein.

    Like missw, I pretty much always have porridge (made with soya milk) for breakfast on run days although, as we discussed before, everyone is different.

  • I'm seriously rethinking my diet, and I may well make more of breakfast. To top up, there's a recipe in this month's Runners World for a "monster shake". Based on a pint of milk, it delivers 793 calories and 26.5g of protein! Got to be worth looking at, I think.

  • Can I have the recipe?! I've started paying more attention to food as my GP says I need to put on half a stone and doing this whilst also running is one heck of a challenge, and that sounds awesome.

    As for conking out when running, I've found it only usually happens if I'm running for more than an hour. Jelly beans and energy gels, whilst dirty and sugary and all kinds of wrong, do the trick.

  • 1 pint full fat milk, 40g Nesquik powder, 1 banana, 35g instant oats. Let's try it and compare notes!

    I didn't conk out on yesterday's run, but it was really hard work to struggle and maintain a pace that was slower than I should have been able to do. The run was 2 minutes slower than all my recent 5ks.

  • Fab, thanks. Not sure I'm a fan of nesquik though.

  • Me neither. Substitute something you like more!

  • Smoothie: Oats soaked overnight in water (or coconut water) preferably, banana, plain yogurt & a very generous spoonful of peanut butter or a handful of almonds/walnuts. Add more water as reqd :-)

    Cherry juice for recovery, Cherrygood? maybe

  • Returning to the smoothie conference with tonight's invention as follows: 1 cup organic whole milk, 1 tbsp ground flax seeds, 1 banana, 1 pear, 1 tsp hazelnut butter. Just over 450 calories and delicious. Trying to gain half a stone and marathon train is interesting, especially as we barely eat meat. All ideas welcome!

    Ooh, and mrstickle, I love the idea of cherry juice, bet that would be delicious with the yoghurt. Maybe a sprig of fresh mint in there as well, and a spoonful of cocoa powder - kind of Black Forest gateaux in a glass....

  • Oh, forgot to say 25g oats in there as well!

  • I had to look more into my nutrition while training for my HM. I found I would crash and burn. I burn a lot of calories due to my heart rate being slightly higher than most. I used myfitnesspal and always tried to get the nutrition wheel at 50% carbs 30% fat and 20% protein. That way it seemed to help keep things balanced. I always made sure I never went below 1400 kcal a day with the exercise taken off. Rule of thumb is if you lose more than 2lb a week you are not eating enough. Happy running.

  • Interesting - thanks!

  • Out of habit, I rarely eat anything more than a banana before a run, whether it is 5k or 15k, although I am beginning to think that 15k is probably my limit without some form of extra fuel intake on the day. If I am to move up to HM distance then I think that I will have to eat breakfast first, but the thought of getting up at 4am so I can eat and digest before I run seems ludicrous.......might just stick with 10 miles!!!

  • I have always been really rubbish about food etc. When I did MFP my base was 1,300 calories, so I had to run in order to eat!!! I need to go back on it as I am getting FAT. It made me realise that we need very little to survive. Are you trying to lose??

  • No, I did the fast diet the year before C25K and lost a couple of stone, then since running lost a bit more. I'm happy with my body now (!)

  • perfect :)

  • I have something of the opposite problem - since February I've been running whilst under a relatively strict (at least Monday to Friday) calorie controlled diet. I'll be reaching a "target" weight within the next couple of weeks and will allow myself a little more leeway food-wise although I do worry about piling it all back on again if I'm not careful.

  • From what I've seen of your exploits, you're doing magic things. Why are you counting calories?

  • Two reasons. One, in January I was five stone overweight and fed up about it. Two, counting calories isn't just an intellectual exercise for me, it's become (apologies for being a bit pretentious) a way of understanding my body and how it works. The relationship between food, exercise and weight is fascinating to me.

    At the moment, I stick to 1,500 calories Monday to Thursday with alcohol and other naughties only on the weekends - I'm not obsessive about this, if we go out during the week it gets treated as an "extra" weekend day and I do have plenty of treats every now and again.

    Obviously, that level of calorie restriction will have to stop very soon but I'll still be "counting calories" as it were - I now know the calorific value of everything I'm ever likely to eat anyway!

  • That's hardly pretentious. I'm fascinated by the physics too. 1500 calories is very little, though - bear in mind you'll burn that in an hour and a half of running!

  • I tell you what don't do what I did this week and eat a fish supper before my WORST run ever! However my best run was fuelled by an early tea of pork belly, spinach and mash. Weird eh? 😂 can you tell I'm experimenting????

You may also like...