Runners tend to be gentle, mind-mannered souls. But two things can make us a bit crazy. For one thing, never tell us to change our stride (dude, that’s our signature.) And for another, don’t tell us what to eat.
For runners, food is as personal and as idiosyncratic as we are. Old school runners may swear by a glass jar of peanut butter and a plastic spoon while newbies only carry gels and shots. One thing is for certain though – when you are out on a long run, you need to do what it takes to avoid bonking. Running out of steam on the top of a mountain or way out on a trail is not only really uncomfortable – it can also be dangerous.
Alexandra Borrelly is a pharmacist and has studied sports nutrition and natural medicine. She works alongside her husband, a former professional XTERRA athlete and 2005 XTERRA World Champ, Nico Lebrun, at Organicoach, where they create optimized nutrition plans for athletes of all levels. Lebrun says the most important pre-race meal we can eat is the one we eat most of the time. In other words, it’s not what we do during the race or the night before a hard workout that matters as much as how we fuel our body on a consistent basis. Borrelly recommends that we focus on fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, and vegetable proteins. It’s also important to make sure you are getting tons of fresh fruits and vegetables and clean, whole grains.
When out on a long run of an hour or less, food isn’t really an issue. But if you are running for 90 minutes or more, you could easily run out of fuel and into trouble. To avoid running out of steam, many runners carry a gel, some raisins or dates, or a bar that doesn’t irritate the stomach. Having sufficient water is also key. You can carry water in your hand, in a belt, or in a hydration pack on your back. (Packs and belts usually have room for snacks, too.)
But what do you do when you are out on a really long run of two hours or longer? With races like XTERRA Wawayanda, which offers a 10K, 25K, or 50K, you need to practice being on your feet for most of the morning, and often, the caloric requirements needed to keep you going exceeds those found in a gel. Additionally, Borrelly discourages relying too heavily on sugar and caffeine, because what sends you up also tends to drop you hard.
Ultra runner Kathleen Baker, who placed 4th in the 35-39 division at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 2016 swears by real food for big runs. She recently ran 40 miles along the Rogue River in Oregon, and then the next day, ran 40 miles back.
“I really try to have some combination of sweet and salty or savory real food,” said Baker. “On my runs along the Rogue River I ate a ton of food! I made small turkey sandwiches on Hawaiian sweet rolls, which aren’t as dry as bread. I ate a couple throughout the day. I also love having salty chips, a Snickers bar, and mini powdered donuts. Another favorite is dried pineapple, and I’ve found bacon on super long endurance runs to be amazing.”
Baker tries to eat something small every 30 minutes, so she doesn’t irritate her stomach.
“I shoot for 200 to 300 calories an hour and try to maintain a steady flow of energy rather than taking in too much at once.”
This may be the only thing runners agree on – it’s important to eat small amounts slowly and to practice eating before the big race comes up. That way, whether you are facing the steep climb at XTERRA Wawayanda or the hot sun at XTERRA Oak Mountain, you know how to fuel the engine.
Learn more about XTERRA Oak Mountain at www.xterraplanet.com.
Learn more about XTERRA Wawayanda at www.xterraplanet.com.