I receive many questions about endurance nutrition. I have started putting the questions here and my responses, so that others can benefit. Since I started competing in endurance sports, about 10 years ago, I have made all the mistakes! I learned the hard way...and read the books. I've struggled to get where I am today and I'm more than willing to share my knowledge of this subject with people seeking to know more about proper fueling of their endurance training. If you have a question, send it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org I will answer and keep your name anonymous....Run long, eat plants..
Q: "I'm training for a half marathon. I can run 10k. When should I carry food, water, etc?"
A: Great question! Know this...the shorter the race, the more you can get away with. You are able to run the 10k without any special food/water because your body carries enough on board. As the distance increases, it becomes increasingly important to drink fluid and eat food. Even though you may be full capable of finishing the half marathon without fluid or food, you should begin including these in your runs so you develop this as habit and avoid problems should you choose to run longer. If your event happens to fall on a very hot day, you will be very glad you included hydration/nutrition in your plan.
My suggestion is to carry electrolyte fluid and carbs for any run beyond 30 minutes. The most popular method, as practiced in ultra distance running, is a clear handheld bottle. With a clear bottle, you can easily look at the bottle and determine whether you have consumed enough over the duration of your run. While you may be a little uncomfortable at first, you will quickly get used to having it with you. Handheld bottles, like those by 'Ultimate Direction' are the most popular. They have a small pocket for your key, gels, etc... Here is a general guideline for fluid:
1hr run = [1 bottle] 16-20oz electrolyte fluid + 1-2 gels (or) 1 granola bar (or) banana (or) other easily consumed carbs
2hr run = [2 bottles] 20-30oz electrolyte fluid + 3-4 gels (or) 2 granola bars, etc..
You should never run with plain water. Use high quality commercially available electrolyte powder...my favorite electrolyte powder(s) are: GU Brew, Pedialyte, Cytomax, and those by Hammer. Ideally, you want to practice using whatever 'food' is available during your race. In all honesty, a half marathon is short enough for you to carry whatever you choose...and not rely on the aid stations. If need be, you can always use their water in the later miles. For a half marathon, you could carry one handheld bottle and your favorite endurance foods (see above).
Lastly, by properly practicing hydration and nutrition during all runs, you will never let your body get depleted...you will recover from all runs faster, never deplete your glycogen stores, and develop your physiology faster than if you did all training runs without any regard for your nutritional needs.
Q: "I hate GU. It makes me sick and it's dumb... do you have a vegan friendly alternative that will keep me going on my long runs?"
A: Ha! I agree that GU, or any packaged gel, is less than perfect... Keep in mind that these were designed for people who know nothing of their nutritional requirements. You can sell gel packets to the masses if you only need to explain that 1 packet is consumed every 30 minutes. The premise, however, is correct...the practical application of gels can be useful, but doesn't necessarily need to be the primary fuel source. Here are several other (vegan) things you can use with the same convenience factor. I use a variety of foods on my long runs and, depending on the situation, can switch between them:
Bananas-Close to perfect as a running food, available at 711s. Usually provided in races. 1/2 banana=1 gel
Oranges-My training partners carry 'Cuties' oranges. Also easily carried and consumed.
Dried Mulberries-Superfood....check Whole Foods packaged section.
Boiled potatoes-I have run with guys who mash potatoes and eat them from a ziploc baggie.
Vegan Tamales-One of my favorites...corn + spinach tamales w/spices
Vegetable Soup-Perfect for long runs, in cold temps.
PB + J- These are magic on long runs...try them cut up in 4s.
Vegan tortilla w/pb+j
Vegan tortilla w/beans+rice
Oatmeal-My favorite is 'Coach's Oats' brand w/agave, fruit, and chia seeds.
Clif Mojo-1 bar per hour. My favorite is 'Mountain Mix' flavor.
Whole Food vegan Bars-various vegan bars available in health store
Graham Crackers-with or without almond butter (or peanut butter)
Vega-vegan endurance nutrition line by Brendan Brazier
Sambazon Protein-chocolate/vanilla acai vegan protein recovery drink
Odwalla-Soy almond protein drink
Jamba Juice-I've run for hours drinking Jamba Juice out of my handheld bottle...just stick a straw in it.
This is a partial list, but, the gist is that the food just needs to be easily digestable and portable. In ultrarunning, just about anything goes. You can learn to consume almost anything while running...especially over long, slow runs. Any trouble with digesting is a result of dehydration...so just pick foods that don't require a lot of energy to break down like those listed above. Run long, eat plants!
Q: "What about the sloshy effect while running? I get a side stitch...I used to avoid eating/drinking before running."
A: The 'side stitch' is almost always caused by too much fluid in the stomach. The pain is caused by the stomach pulling down on the diaphragm when you strike the ground with your foot. The solution is to stop drinking for 15-20 minutes. Also, ensure you are drinking electrolyte fluid, not just plain water. (The body has difficulty processing plain water while running.) After 20 minutes, slowly start sipping electrolyte fluid again. Over time, your body will adapt to the training and allow you to drink more fluid without the pain. Additionally, you may want to focus for a portion of your long runs on form....focusing on the 'efficiency ' aspect, and avoiding anything but light, soft steps...60% of your weight to the front of your foot. Some might require a new set of shoes, that allow for this more natural form. (Minimalist or barefoot style)