Eating on the run

After a little bit of advice please image

I fancy I'm not eating enough on my long runs - the last couple have been rather unpleasant towards the end. Is there any guidance as to how much you should eat on long runs in terms of calories and/or amount of carbs? What do others eat and how often?

I'm tempted to go back to good old fashioned isotonic energy drinks like Go as I'm better at drinking image and may get more carbs in that way

Any top tips - cheers, Rich


  • when I do long fell races I try to eat something at 120 mins and 180 mins. And normally it's either an energy bar or a flapjack. I used to get Mule Bars but recently I have been using CNP Profession Pro Energy bars, to give them their full name!).

    In a 4 hour race I might eat two which is 500 cals. But then I always make sure I have a good breakfast two hours or more before. If I didn't have that then I'd need more.

    It's interesting talking to cyclists, as they are recommended to eat something every forty minutes - but then it is easier in all ways to take on food when cycling.

  • While I eat on the move during races, I tend not to do it in training. 

    I try to make my training runs as hard as possible, and to that end I do many things differently to the race itself.  For example I will run up the steepest hills where I would walk up them in an ultra. 

    Pretty much the only barrier that I won't cross is dehydrating myself excessively, which could be dangerous. 

  • Ben - I can relate to that - I try and run all the hills, and hence the tendency to under eat in training.
    Probably just need to make sure do eat properly in a race
  • Hi,

    I struggle to eat in long runs, but for the real biggies I find that I have to eat. Relying on drinks alone is ok for marathon distance, but if you are running for 10 hours or more fluids alone just do not cut it.

    I always find that it is just a question of what you can keep down. A little and often is the only way for me even if it is just a bite of food every mile or so. I do use energy drinks as well occasionally, but tend to stick with Nuun mainly.

    Some of my favourite food on the go are pringles (salt and vinegar), frozen mini mars bars, small Mr Kipling cakes (two pack), skittles, Red Bull mixed in with Nuun, Bananas - Yes all rubbish food apart from the bananasimage

    Ultimately I think that most long runs tend to be miserable until you cross the line, then everything ceases up. Trying to eat when you are exhausted, dehydrated and when it is warm weather is really hard to do.

    Anyway, good luck with your long runs.


  • Fish and chips 53 miles into  the GUCR worked for me image

    Trev I disagree the longer the run the more enjoyable it can be.

    Its all about your mind set, If my experiences were miserable then I would pack in the whole ultra thing.

    Why allow yourself to get dehydrated, the exhaustion thing yes I agree can make you miserable if you allow it but you need to train yourself to embrace it, we all know its going to happen.

    In terms of getting food into you if you have to walk for 20mins to allow it to go down and stick then thats what you need to do.

    A great little quote I have heard is FOOD is MOVE. nuff said....

     For me the whole reason I do longer and longer Ultras is the feeling of not being totally in contriol of the final outcome, trying new things and methods to help me achieve my goal. You have to have a slight fear of ultras albeit a healthy fear.

  • agree with cragchick, got one on Saturday. My other tip is that I program my watch for hour intervals and try and ensure I drink 250/500 in that hour and more importanlty eat. You get very carried away and just forget to eat, ran same event last year, crashed after 18 miles due to lack of water and at 28 miles was feeling very guilty  about eating handfuls of jelly babies, then worked out I had been on the go for 7 hours and had a few cereal bars

    I have gone off NUNN and now into SIS electroylye, lemon which you can carry and add at the water stations   
    I like real food cereals bars and something sweet and final top tip for finnish is ready salted crips, the salt tastes great !

    I have been pratcining eating and running for a while, always have some thing on runs longer than 2hours 

  • Bret Runner,

    "Food is Move" may well now be my mantra fro next Fridays run at Grimsthorpe.

    I have only done a handful of ultras and am still learning to get enough fuel into my body to keep me going. I think it is really a case of trial and error.

    I did a double marathon three weeks ago and small packages of food definately worked better than what I have tried in the past.

    Perhaps my earlier statements could have been worded better. Yes long runs can be miserable, but I agree that if preperation is properly carried out and the 'mind set' is correct then things do tend to go to plan, well sort of!!!

    Kind regards,


  • Interesting comments everyone - thanks
  • DazDaz ✭✭✭

    Agree with others that its best to try in training first and even test yourself a little - I always finish a gym/swim session by downing a small tub skimmed milk and running home (1.2m) on it.  If my stomach can handle that then it can handle most energy drinks and gels!

    You're looking for around 3.5xweight(kg) in cals.  But depends on the product type and contents eg an expensive sports gel with suitably balanced electrolytes will be assimilated a lot better/quicker than a packet of cripsps! image

    If you're racing then just stick with gels and liquid (water to wash down foods and electrolyte carbs the rest of the time) - hitting your mark/hr.  If you're training or break the race up with walks (eg inclines, aid station and toilet stops, map checking, etc) then use those moments to eat esp if you want solid foods as thats when the HR will drop and blood will be diverted a little more to the stomach rather than the muscles.

    And always carry some salt or electrolyte tablets to add to water.  If you just drink water, esp on a hot day then its going to sit in the stomach causing all sorts of issues.

    Endurance Coach @
    Elite Ironman, Ultra Trail Runner
  • Small Packages of food I believe is the best way forward. I was talking to an International Ultra Runner last month and his stratergy for 24hr races is to consume 40-50 cals every 20mins.

    I think Crag chick hit the nail on the head you need to make sure you have different types of food. The furthur you get into a Long Ultra your body will start rejecting some foods so you need a back up food source to then call on.

    Trev - every thing will go to plan as long as you have lots of back up plans to rely on when they each fail in turn image

  • DazDaz ✭✭✭
    Yes the ultra pros will be able to breakdown more fat stores than the rest of us on the move.  Unfort doing an ultra on <=150cals/hr you'll be out of glycogen after a couple of hrs.
    Endurance Coach @
    Elite Ironman, Ultra Trail Runner
  • Daz  - I only used the pro as an example to eating little & often, I was no way implying that his calorific intake should mimic anyone elses. He is around 5ft 4 and weighs less than 10st so not your average build.

    For me the concept of taking on board food little and often is fairly new as before I would consume my whole food intake in my walking break  every hour. I have currently been trying the little and often method and it does seem to work for me. I am a bit of a water puist though I never use energy drinks or gels, for fluid intake I stick to water. So all my cals come from my solid food intake, I get my electrolyte replacement from tabs every half hour or so.

  • I'd agree with mixing up the sweet and savoury, and don't get too hung up on the 'science' of it all, either. After all, carbs are carbs wether it's an expensive sports bar (which will probably taste like cardboard) or jaffa cakes, fig rolls, mini pork pies or whatever else floats your boat. Food that you like eating is important, as it's easier to get down.

    I also find that the terrain makes a difference - I can't eat within about twenty minutes before a hill climb, it seems to weigh too heavy, as if climbing AND digesting is asking too much of my body; much easier to eat when tackling a gentle downhill gradient at an easy jog.

  • DazDaz ✭✭✭
    Eating what you fancy is def easier on the mind.  Shame it wont make you go any faster.
    Endurance Coach @
    Elite Ironman, Ultra Trail Runner
  • Question for Brett Runner and the other 100 mile veterans. 

    What food do you carry on your person in a 100 mile event?

    I have a tendency to over pack and carry things that I could get from the aid stations, but this time I need to get it right. 

  • Ben there is a big tendancy to over pack I think most folk try to air on the side of caution.

    With regard to the aid stations if you  know what they have on offer and its food you are used to then try and use this as much as possible. As stated before the longer the ultra the greater the chances that your body will start to reject food. Try and make sure you have food in your pack you know you can almost force yourself to eat if this happens.

    As to what and how much to carry in your pack, it very much depends on how often you can get hold of your drop bag in terms of what you need to carry with you. I have done 100milers where you have access to your bag at every CP and I have also done one where you have access only at the half way stage.

    Worst case if you have limited access to a drop bag and the food at the CP's is not agreeable then planning your pack is very important. In this case try and seperate out the food into small hourly food bags, it gets very frustrating 20hrs into a race having to hunt for the food you want at the bottom of the bag. Try and go for foods which are high calorie but does not weigh too much,

    A good food tip  most night section CP's will offer hot drinks, take one of the quakers porridge pots where you just add hot water they are fantastic and you can eat them whilst walking.

  • one factor that I don't think has been mentioned is weather: I find you need to take on a lot more calories in cold conditions to keep energy levels up.

    My worst bonk ever was on a long, cold winter run round the surrey hills.

    On the subject of uphill / downhill, I find differently to Mick W that in fellraces the ups are the opportunities to fiddle around in the bumbag and get some snacks down - but that's because the gradients are so steep and long that you slow down to more or less a walk (in AL cat. races anyway).

    In lower level trail running where you run most of the inclines that's less easy.

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