It depends how long you are running for and what your effort level is. If we are talking about running ultramarathons then I like to take a mouthful at a time every 20 mins starting at 3-4 hours or so. For races 8-12 hours plus, try to minimise processed food and take in a range of nutrients including fat. I think fat is as necessary as protein and carbohydrate in a type of enfurance event that means you have to keep replenishing your energy reserves. As we know, we can go a few hours on what our bodies naturally store. After that we have to have a steady replacement strategy.
Experiment and see what works for you.
Eating well during a long event will also help you recover quicker after. You may not get a quick rush from less processed foods but also you wont crash 20 mins later either. Save the sugar for the last couple of miles – unless its serious of course.
Fruit is good – bananas,grapes,raisins,dates,
Nuts – including peanut butter,cashew butter
Vegetables – potatoes,sweet potatoes
Seeds/Grains – oatmeal,pasta,chia seeds,rice
Sandwiches, soups – foods that are not too acidic or too salty or too heavy.
Drink – water is great, maybe some energy drink to alternate like Heed or Perpeteum.
- Carbohydrates require more water to digest so if you increase your carbs, take in extra water
- Very sugary foods can cause stomach issues or diarrhea, high fat or high protein foods take longer to digest
- Liquid meals digest more quickly
- Ensure electrolyte levels are maintained by eating a range of types of food
Other articles that may be of help
- The Long Run: Eating On The Run Scott Jurek writes about how much is too much or not enough.
- Best and Worst Pre-Run Foods This article suggests almost the opposite of what I have shared above concerning processed foods.
- Training: how do you eat while you run? Logistics of organising your food during long runs.
- Eating, Running, Stomach & Nausea Kevin Sayers site: not as new as other articles but still totally relevant.
- Distance running and race walking section of the IAAF Nutrition for Athletes publication