Fueling during long runs

Fueling during long runs

Fueling during long runs

Nancy, how many calories should I try to consume during my long training runs, in preparation for my first marathon? I will be out there for at least four hours…

Answer: Each person’s body is so different, so it’s hard to make precise fueling rules. In general, a heavier person needs more calories than a lighter person, and some runners can tolerate more fuel than others. Here is a target plan:

What you eat for breakfast before your long run should provide enough calories to fuel the first hour of your run.

After that, I generally recommend:

–a 120 to 170-pound person should target 200 to 300 calories per hour.

–a lighter person might want 100 to 200 calories per hour.

–a heavier person should target 300 to 400 calories per hour.

But how much fuel a runner should consume really depends on how much he or she can tolerate and the intensity of the exercise. There is not a simple answer.

Using the above guidelines, experiment to learn the right amount that works for your body and maintains your energy. If you feel irritable and droopy during a run, you likely need some fuel! Consume some maple syrup candy, gummy bears, or dried pineapple (or gel or sports drink), and see if you feel better and are energized. A noticeable rise in energy means your body needed the fuel. Your body is your best calorie counter.

Start experimenting early in your training, so you can train your intestinal tract to tolerate the fuel. That will help you have a lot more fun during your long runs.

With best wishes for smooth running,


For more information, read my Food Guide for New Runners: Getting It Right From the Start

Written by Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD is an internationally respected sports nutritionist, weight coach, nutrition author, and workshop leader. She is a registered dietitian (RD) who is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She is also a certified WellCoach. Nancy specializes in nutrition for performance, life-long health, and the nutritional management of eating disorders. She counsels both casual exercisers and competitive athletes in her private practice in the Boston area (Newton, MA). Some of her clients consider her to be their food coach, others their food therapist. Regardless, she enjoys the challenge of helping sports-active people transform their suboptimal eating habits into effective fueling plans. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, a best-selling resource, has sold over 550,000 copies and is now in it's new fifth edition.
Website: http://www.nancyclarkrd.com

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