On-The-Run Fuelling For Half Marathon Runners
Let’s explore the practicalities of eating on half marathon training runs – or the race itself.
Everything changes once you step up to half marathon distance. You can get through a 5km without any extra fuel, sports drink, or gels. But once your training runs and races get over the 60 minute mark, you need to think about fuelling on the run.
Why eat during long training run or half marathon race?
Your muscles can store about 2000 calories worth of glucose, which fuels your brain and muscles. Any run than 60 minutes needs fuel.
Some runners will want to take some calories on board every 15 minutes, and others will prefer every 30 or 45 minutes. The rule of thumb is to aim for 100-150 calories (30g+ carbohydrates) per hour. Exactly how much will depend on your weight, muscle mass, pace, and speed.
Trial And Error – In Training!
Your half marathon training programme is a crucial time for testing out your race day fuelling plan. How often do you need to eat or drink? What kind of fuel sits best in your stomach? What makes you feel and perform the best (and worst!)
The Best Running Fuel Options.
Purpose-made running gels or shots, carbohydrate drinks, or soft/easy to eat bars.
Jelly sweets, pretzels, banana, oranges, or dried fruit (if you are OK with the fibre content).
These will have the carbohydrates you need and be easy to digest, and some (like the gels) don’t even need water.
Don’t overdo it early with gels and bars. Remember, you will have already had a pre race meal. Aim to just take in what you need to fuel the run and match the calories you are burning off (80-100 calories per hour).
At aid stations, aim to stay hydration. If race day is particularly warm, grab water and sports drink for fluid, electrolytes, and energy. Make sure you know what brand of drink will be at aid stations and try it in training beforehand.
Your Pre-Run Meals.
Keep it simple, aiming for a serving of carbohydrate without to much protein, and little to no fat (fat slows down digestion, and you want your body to be able to access the energy from the carbs). Some good ideas include:
Banana, jam, or honey on toast
Granola, muesli, or porridge
A bagel with jam
Plus water and perhaps a coffee!
Do you have a sensitive stomach? Stay away from dairy, high fats, and high fibre foods like yoghurt, nut butters, whole eggs, nuts and seeds, high fibre fruit and dried fruit. Make it easy for your body to digest the food and stay happy during the run.
Caffeine is proven to be performance, but only have caffeine before a run if you know it doesn’t upset your stomach. Caffeine lowers RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and increases focus and alertness. Have an espresso, small black coffee, or sugar free energy drink. Avoid milky coffees.
Unless you are a very fast half marathon runner, you will need to take on fuel during the race and any training runs over 60 minutes. So if your goal finish time is 1 hour 45 minutes+, start testing your best food and drink strategies now during training.