It ain’t easy being a runner and eating a whole food diet, but someone’s gotta do it. So what’s more challenging than trying to train for two marathons in a month? Training for a marathon while fueling your body with REAL food while you’re on the run.
First, ya gotta decide if you will be fueling with carbohydrate OR fat OR fat and sugar.
Choose sugar if:
- You eat a traditional, American diet OR
- You are fueling for performance
Choose fat for fuel if:
- You have been following a high fat diet (60-70%) calories for at least 7-10 days prior to race day…AND
- You perform endurance exercise regularly…AND
- You are more concerned with minimizing inflammation on the body rather than maximizing performance
- You regularly do fasted runs
Personally, I use a combo of calories from sugar (I fuel using caffeinated Gel Ginstengs) and ½ tablespoon coconut butter. This combo works well for me because while I do not usually consume 60-70% calories from fat, my typical intake does typically include at least 40% calories from fat, so my body is accustomed to using fat for fuel. When choosing dietary fat as a fuel source, focus on coconut or red palm oil, which are naturally high in medium chain triglycerides; a fatty acid which does not require the lymphatic system for absorption and can readily be used for energy. Choosing caffeine before or during a run helps your body more efficiently use fat for energy rather than solely carbs. Being able to tap into fat and carb for fuel gives my body a fueling advantage, as the body is able to store more calories from fat than carb to tap for energy.
Okay, so whether you’re fueling with fat or sugar, reaching for real food sources is always a good idea. Runners inherently have a heightened level of systemic stress due to the oxidative stress of running, and one consequence of this chronic stress is that our gut lining is more prone to being “leaky.” A leaky gut lends itself to gastric discomfort and frequent, loose bowel movements; something that is particularly problematic when you’re mid-long-run. Eating a nutrient rich, real food based diet will help minimize that systemic stress and support gut integrity. Old habits die hard, I know, but choosing real food when you’re on the run (especially if ya wanna’ avoid gettin’ da’ runs ifyacatchmydrift) is an important strategy in being the best runner you can be.
On the Run Carb Source Ideas:
- Dried fruit
- Raw honey packets
- Rice cakes
On the Run Fat Source Ideas:
- Coconut butter/coconut oil in a baggy (choose about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon to avoid gastric discomfort)
- ~½ tablespoon Coconut oil/butter with honey (or Honeystingers! My fave!)
- Coconut flakes with dried fruit
- Nut butter packets with honey
- Plantain chips (made with palm oil—which is a source of medium chain triglycerides)
- Honey roasted nuts
Last, but certainly not least, there’s my real foodies who are stuck with a sensitive tummy. For those of you who cannot escape diarrhea/gas pain while fueling on-the-run; I’ve got a few options for you.
Firstly, how long are you running for? If you’re running less than an hour, fuel really isn’t necessary. And if you’re following a diet higher in whole food fat, then you probably can run fasted for greater than an hour without a problema (but that’s a blog article for a different day!).
But when fueling is a must, choosing liquid based fueling tactics is best for those with a sensitive stomach. While something very simple, such as raw honey, will probably work just fine, a lot of times people who experience cramping are also experiencing electrolytic imbalances.
Filling up your fuel belt with a few bottles of coconut water, bone broth, and honey is an awesome way to provide energy and potassium, magnesium, sodium, and zinc to your hard working bod. Add green tea or matcha for some caffeine and an extra performance boost!
If you loved the info in today’s blog, you probably would love this episode of The Running Lifestyle Show where everyone’s fave podcast host, Kari Gormley, interviews Meb (oh, you know.. NBD… winner of the Boston Marathon and Olympian! THAT MEB!), there’s a whole nutrition segment on real food fueling.
Just a little running advice from “Your Fave Real Food RD.”