When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

How’s your Wednesday?! I ate another leftovers salad – but this time with avocado. It makes all the difference.IMG 6747 800x600 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

PSA: Watermelon is NOT good right now. Save yourself some money and heartache. IMG 6749 800x600 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

And had an energy drink and popcorn a little later. The drink was not carbonated, so I was very disappointed. I like bubbles. (That reminds me of a dirty joke…never mind.)IMG 6750 600x800 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

I get questions about “When should I start eating on a run?” and “What should I eat on a long run?” fairly often.monica running redlands thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

I addressed what to drink / eat on a run a bit here, but since I love talking about running and eating – let’s discuss! Remember, everyone’s body (and belly!) are different so you must figure out what works for you during training.

How many miles of running require you to eat during the run?

This often depends on how you eat/drink before  and how long it actually takes you. The rule of thumb big toe is to fuel during your run if it will be 90 minutes or longer. That could mean 6 miles or 16 miles depending on how fast you are!

If you are probably fueled before a run you should be okay going out for 60-70 minutes without a sports drink or food. But, if it’s hot (or super dry) you may at least need water – especially if you’re not properly hydrated to begin with.

At what mile should I start eating?

Again, this depends on your speed. At about 45 minutes into a long run you should start fueling and then every 15-30 minutes from there (depending on what you’ve figured out works for you).

Many energy chews or gel packs have a suggested use right on them! This is useful because my brain doesn’t work while running.IMG 6765 600x800 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

IMG 6758 800x600 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

What should I eat on a run? Gels? Hamburgers? Chia seeds? Chews?

I’m going to be a broken record here and say you have to figure it out for your body.

I prefer gels because I’ve learned I can’t chew and run. I have taken Fig Newtons on long runs and just walked while eating them, but I always end up smashing them during the run and it’s a mess – or rather, I’m a mess.

But, I just read in Mile Markers that Kristin Armstrong loves Pop Tarts on her long runs! I want to try that.

I’ve seen people eat all kinds of things during races -

  • bagels
  • bananas
  • beer
  • M&Ms
  • humble pie
  • doughnuts

Some runners like to plan their route so that it passes a convenience store. This way you can grab whatever sounds good to you right then and it’s easier to carry a five dollar bill than a pack of Pop Tarts!

Candy like Swedish Fish or Skittles or Starburst is another great option. Added bonus it is A LOT cheaper than chews you’d get at a running store!IMG 6754 800x600 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

Ultimately, it depends on your body. Make sure you go into a run well fueled and hydrated. Then, play around with different timing and types of fuel. Don’t skip fueling – it’s science. And it can mean the difference between hitting the wall and having a great run.

Here is a good resource on hydration from Runner’s World

I have to make this Comfort Greens kit  for dinner tonight, but the rest of the meal is up in the air. We’ll see how this turns out… IMG 6762 800x600 thumb When and What Should I Eat on a Run?

Question: When do you start eating on a run?

What do you eat?

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  1. says

    I had donuts on my half marathon! My husband had them at the ready at the halfway point. It was the best. I usually have a GU, but I think I want to try the Swedish Fish. :-)

  2. Meg says

    I have Swedish fish. I don’t know what my problem is but the gels make me dry heave. And you said it sister, I forget to fuel and the wall smacks me in the face!

  3. says

    I usually never eat on a run. Unless it’s an ungodly number of miles (anything more than 10 is usually my rule) but if I do, it’s a cliff block or gu.

  4. says

    Great post! I need to fuel at just about 45 minutes in. Brendan Brazier recommends eating dates stuffed with coconut butter or oil for fueling long runs. I haven’t tried it myself, but it may be more tolerable than some of the gels. It’s on my list of things to try.

  5. Ida says

    I pretty much only eat during races. For long runs I have a big bowl of oatmeal before and that sustains me. I never run more than 12 though. During races I like gu and whatever drink the race is handing out.

  6. Laura says

    What I ate during my last long run-2 girl scout cookies-samoas to be exact. :) Not for everyone but what a reason to eat them without guilt! Easy to chew during my walk breaks. Probably will not do during races lol! This weekend my running friends are doing a 12 mile run (last long run before our half marathon) and it’s thin mints for Saturday to motivate us.

  7. Katheryn says

    I’ve tried the stuffed, dates, swedish fish, gummy bears, and loads of other things, but have found I need something with a bit of caffeine. I love the Cliff blocks and GU, both with caffeine.

    You’re definitely right though, everyone is different and needs to find out what works for them.

  8. says

    I’ve never hit the point where I felt I needed to eat on a run, but my max is 6 miles…I have definitely noticed differences though depending on what I ate/drank before a run and if I need to drink anything on my run. I can’t drink too much or the “slushing” of water in my belly makes me nauseous…haha!

  9. kali says

    Thanks for the tips! I think I’ll definitely give the swedish fish and skittles a try. M & M’s sound great too, but I think they would melt and be a messy disaster….unless I stash them. Hmmm…:)

  10. Dee says

    A mini box of raisins is the only thing I ever eat on a run. Perfect size and you can chew on them throughout a long run.

  11. says

    I need a lot of water/gatorade when running. i sweat a lot, it’s gross. As a result, I’ve taken to having a gu/power bar energy gel at about mile four of my long runs (anything 8 miles and up). The one time I didn’t I smacked the wall HARD. That was all it took to learn that I need fuel on my runs.

  12. says

    I’ve been using the clif shot bloks, but they are hard to chew. I used to use the Gu back when I was really into mountain biking and never really had any issues with it. I think I’m going to try that again after this race this weekend.

  13. Jade says

    About six miles in I’ll take a TJs fruit leather strip or 2. They are super easy to carry on long runs and delicious.

  14. says

    I think it all depends on the person. I can not eat anything on a run less than 6 miles, but anything over that I have to eat sooner. Say I’m doinga 12 miler, I’ll use Gu Chomps and have two or three at miles 4, 8 and 10 or 11. And of course TONS of water. I love gu chomps the most though!

  15. says

    I run with all kinds of food. A single donut keeps me fueled for about two hours. Most interesting running fuel staples I use are: leftover pizza, donuts, Snickers, Cheetos, Fritos, Chex Mix, fruit snacks, Little Debbie Nutty Bars, Brownies…..
    Basically anything that my inner four year old would grab at the grocery store.

  16. says

    When training, I ate gummy bears. But I would keep them in the freezer to prevent myself from eating them while NOT running and they were too hard to chew. So I sucked on them a little while, then swallowed them whole. Since they were sweet and delicious, when the running got tough I would bargain with myself, “10 more minutes of running, and you get some more gummy bears!” Sounds silly, but it worked.

  17. says

    On this training cycle that is coming to a close (marathon next weekend!) I experimented and made my own gels of chia seed and water for all of my runs under 20 miles and though it was not very delicious, it gave me the energy I needed.

    For my 22+ runs I prefer Accel Gels (they have protein and go down better than any of the other ‘gels’ in my opinion) and love the taste/caffeine in the Clif Shot gels chocolate cherry flavor! I wish I could eat Swedish Fish when I run but they always get stuck in my teeth!

  18. says

    I’ve been experimenting with different things lately – Gu chomps, gels, sports beans. So far I like straight up Gu gels the best. Usually around mile 5-6 I have the whole thing and it will fuel me for another 4-5 miles easy, and tons of water! I’m a heavy sweater as well. Not pretty.

  19. says

    It seems every run is different for me. Sometimes I really feel like I need a gel and sometimes I don’t. I don’t do sports drinks though so I know I need something more on long runs so I try to take a gel even if I don’t feel like it.
    If you want to see a crazy buffet of food athletes ea,t volunteer at an Ironman race at the special needs station. It is crazy what those guys pack in their bags. This year we saw a lot of boiled little potatoes in baggies. The top things are little Debbie snack, Red bull, snickers, pb&j sandwiches and pickles. It is crazy and so fun to see what they eat.

  20. says

    I’m not a huge fan of those FRS energy drinks either… I drink Xyience energy drinks daily (fruit punch and frostberry blast are the best flavors, but there are many). They’re the official energy drink of the UFC. All sugar free/calorie free. I normally wouldn’t even suggest an energy drink to any “HLB’s” but I know you like a caffeine and energy boost for work lately.

  21. says

    I just started trying to eat Sports Beans on my last long run (I was trying for 18 miles, but my trail unexpectedly ended at 15.2 and it through me off my game so I ended up stopping at 15.4…). I have no trouble running out to to 13 or 14 miles, but whenever I go past that I start to drag. I had hoped eating along the way would help, but it was too sweet for me and just ended up making me thirsty in between my water stops (I have the same problem when I drink straight gatorade….). I ate beans at about 30 minutes, 1 hr, and 1.5 hr marks – but truthfully didn’t notice a difference once I got out to 14 or 15 miles.

    I’ll have to give Cliff BloKs a try (or maybe Swedish fish, because I definitely like them!) – maybe I just haven’t found what works for me.

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