I like food. I like to eat. I like to eat all the food. The Dublin Marathon is looming however, which means it’s time to batten down the hatches and get organised with the food stuff. No more messing around for a while (I can make up for that starting 5 minutes after the marathon… 😉 ) , it’s gotta all be about getting clever. How to get the most of food for running fuel and recovery, particularly when it comes to long runs and how to avoid stomach issues.
Stomach issues? Oh you know the ones: cramps, horrible discomfort, bowel issues and of course, hunger. I’ve run 5 marathons now and I’m still trying to get this right. I want to make sure to eat enough so that I have enough energy to get me through a long run and don’t get too hungry, BUT I also want to make sure to avoid feeling heavy and sluggish or end up with cramps or toilet issues in the middle of a 20 mile stretch.
Personally, I tend to err on the side of not taking in enough food before a long run. This does sometimes mean getting hungry toward the end of a run and not having as much energy to finish a run as strong as I might otherwise do but I would take this any day over a stitch or, as mentioned, any toilet management difficulties! It’s a gross subject and I’d rather not have to think about it at all but what’s even grosser is running (pun intended) into difficulty when you’re miles away from civilisation, never mind an actual toilet. Been there, done that and there was no t-shirt. Not that I would want one 😛
Evening before my long run/ race: Dinner is typically a wholegrain penne bake, made with homemade tomato sauce, basil, aubergine and a yellow pepper. A banana, alongside 2 slices of toast with honey usually follows for supper.
It’s a tried and tested formula so I tend to stick with it nearly all the time. I get bored with it sometimes though and recently I’ve been alternating the pasta bake with a homemade vegetable and prawn risotto. Both are carb loaded and tick all of the right boxes in terms of avoiding dairy, extreme spices, cruciferous veg, creamy / rich foods and more importantly, have yet to cause me any issues on a long run. I hope to experiment a bit more with pre-run dinners because I’m a big fan of baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and baked sweet potatoes. Basically, just potatoes. T’would be tasty if I could work these in here somewhere.
BEFORE a long run, I might have some wholegrain toast and honey and possibly some cashew nut butter in there too. I’ve tried the combination of a granola bar and a banana but ended up with a stitch that day so haven’t returned to it since. If I’m having anything before a long run, it has to be at least 3 hours beforehand and not too heavy or I find that that there isn’t enough time for digestion to work it’s magic and I end up with cramp.
DURING long runs, if I’m organised, I’ll have gone out the day before and strategically placed little bottles of water at various intervals along the route, along with small bags of jelly babies. I’ll also leave a bottle of lucozade sport around the 16 mile point. If I’m lazy, I might just tuck some clif shots or jelly babies into my shorts and bring a bottle of water. I try to keep it simple for the aforementioned fear of ending up doubled over in a ditch somewhere between here and Dublin. Fair enough, right?
AFTER a long run/ race, I eat the world 😀 No, I don’t actually. At least, not straight away. I know some people go straight for the cupboard/ fridge/ both when they get in from a run and while usually food would be a top priority with me, the first thing I want to do after 16+ miles is wash. I stretch, do the foam rolly bit, drown my insides with water and then take a long hot shower. It’s so good. I digress (because the goodness of the shower had to get in there somewhere). Then some recovery food. I have gotten better at sneaking in a recovery drink/ homemade smoothie immediately after a long run but sometimes I’ll admit, it seems like way too much effort and the beckoning hot steam and blissful water is just the winner, winner.
A typical recovery smoothie: greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, honey, cashew nut butter, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, banana and crushed ice. It’s pretty and it tastes glorious too 🙂
Post-run food: Usually, I go for a bagel and whack on some ham and tomato. It’s so quick and also hot and tasty. I am conscious however, that it’s a bit limited nutrient-wise so lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to improve on the post-run grub. Wholegrain sandwiches with tuna salad or egg salad have become regulars, as has the combo of chicken, avocado, low fat cheddar, pesto, mayo and salad. Why are they better choices? Because the wholegrain bread offers has more to offer in terms of nutrients than the refined bagel and the proteins in eggs, tuna and chicken are unprocessed (or at least, LESS processed) so restore more goodness to your body than the packet ham. I think.
I eat at regular interval for the rest of the day and make sure to get in some good quality protein for dinner. My favourite post-run dinner on a Sunday at the moment is fillet steak, chili and garlic chickpeas, roast butternut squash, spinach and french beans. It’s really bloody good and by then, I’m usually really bloody hungry. I’ll eat lots of fruit, some yogurt and I usually have an ice-cream or some chocolate throughout the day. Sunday is my chocolate day. I nearly always have a bar of a chocolate on a Sunday. I wouldn’t be bothered the rest of the week but take away my bar of chocolate on a Sunday and my face would look like this 😓, interrupted by 😡 and 😠.
Of course, I’m not an expert in any of this and am learning all of the time. I learn so much from the wisdom of other runners and run/ food bloggers and am always looking for new ways to do things and to improve. As Hannibal Lecter once said, “My mother always said it was important to try new things…” I probably won’t go as far as Hannibal, but I do hope to experiment more with food and discover alternative and better ways to eat my way through runs and ultimately, through the Dublin Marathon.
Any suggestions, advice or tips are most welcome!