As a physiotherapist and a keen runner myself, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of nutrition when it comes to long distance running. Your body needs energy and nutrients to keep going, and if you do not provide it with the right fuel, you will not be able to perform at your best. So, it is crucial to have a well-planned nutrition strategy before, during and after your runs to optimize your performance.
Before a race, it is essential to practice your fuelling strategy during long runs and lead up races to ensure that everything goes smoothly on race day. Remember the golden rule:
Never try anything new on race day.
This means that you should not experiment with new foods or drinks during the actual race, especially if it is a long one.
Caffeine can be an effective supplement for runners, as it decreases the rate of perceived exertion, making a hard run feel easier. However, it is important to take it in moderation, and not exceed the recommended dosage of 3-5mg per kg of body weight. For me, I take a 100mg tablet 1 hour before the race and 100mg tablet every hour (never more than 400mg daily). NoDoz tablets are my go-to for caffeine supplementation.
Carbohydrates are crucial for maintaining energy levels high, preventing blood sugar from dropping and replenishing glycogen fuel stores. The recommended dosage is 40-60 grams per hour or 3-6 grams per kg of body weight. It is best to choose running gels that use carbohydrates maltodextrin and fructose as they use non-competing pathways to maximize absorption and minimize stomach bother. GU Roctane running gel is my personal favorite, and I take one every 30-45 minutes.
Electrolytes are essential for the digestive, cardiac, muscular and nervous systems to function well. They minimize muscle cramping, heat stress and fatigue, and are lost in sweat. I take 1 salt stick tablet every 30-60 minutes, which has sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in the same ratio as lost in sweat.
Hydration is also critical during long runs, and it is recommended to drink 400-800ml per hour, depending on the conditions you run in and how much you sweat. The key is to drink little and often so the fluid doesn’t sit and slosh in your stomach. I prefer a combination of water and energy drinks when running. I also train using the energy drink that will be available on race day to minimize digestive issues. For the Gold Coast Marathon, FIXX Fuel X is my choice, as it contains a combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes that will help me top up if I’m short with my nutrition.
In conclusion, nutrition is a crucial factor that should not be neglected when it comes to long distance running. A well-planned and tested nutrition strategy can help you perform at your best and achieve your running goals. So, take the time to plan and practice your nutrition strategy before race day, and remember to never try anything new on race day. Good luck, and happy running!