Ask the Experts: Half-Marathon Nutrition Q+A with Ruth McKean



  • Timi wrote (see)

    Hi Ruth

    I am currently training for the Budapest Marathon in October. I am in the process of building up my long distance runs and therefore need to think about fuelling during my runs.

    I am all for going "natural" so my questions are:

    Do you have a recipe for a home made sports drink that can help you keep going during long runs?

    In your opinion, what are the best natural snacks during a long run (snacks that I can easily carry as well)?

    Thank you for your replies in advance image


    • Fruit juice such as orange juice (breakfast type) diluted 50:50 with water will give you an istonic sports drink if you think you need the salt (you may not) then a picth of this.
    • Natural snacks, depends on your stomach but you could make your own sports bars  or use a product such as clif bars who have  a natural approach to their products.
    • Sorry this is so short, running out of time!!
  • MDZ wrote (see)

    Hi Ruth - are there any running 'super foods' that you would recommend introducing to a runner's diet? (I'm currently training for the GNR)

    Thanks, Matthew.

    Hi Matthew

    There is no one super food or foods it is a combination of a variety in the diet, the trianing and lifestyle factors that will make the real different. There is a vast amount of products promising this but current popular ones are beet juice/shots with some evidence for helping the non-elite athlete.

    I am sorry this is so short trying to answer a couple more before I need to finish.


  • mike gregory 7 wrote (see)

    Hi i am always wondering whats best after a long run, and when is the best timing. Read in the asap after and/or within an hour. Suggestions welcomed. thanks

    Mike, eating asap /within 1 hours is vital if training twice a day, you have a little more time when training daily or everyother day but it is a good thing to do becasue if you do not eat after a long run  you can become very hungry and over eat later and be more tired for the reat of the day etc . Great recovery foods are a combination of carbs and protein so cereal & milk, milk based drinks such as milkhakes, drinking yoghurts , lean meat/fish sandwich with fruit or fruit juice or pasta/rice with some lean meat or fish all do the job very well.Tthe protein is best to come  from an animal source (unless you do not eat meat/fish/dairy). The carbs shoulD be around about 50g but more if stuggle to keep weight on and less if need to lose some weight (only need 0.8grams of carb per kilogram of your body weight and some protein if want to reduce the carbs).

    Hope that helps


  • Martina Garnham wrote (see)

    Hi Ruth

    I am preparing the New Forest Marathon brochure for our event on Sunday 23rd September and would welcome a cut down Q&A from you to feature in it?  Would that be possible?


    Martina (

     Hi Martina

    I will email later; need to dash away to a presentation after this but will be in touch. Thanks Ruth


  • Jonathan Meadows 2 wrote (see)

    Hi Ruth!

     I’m currently trying a low carb diet as I’m trying to shift some weight before my next half marathon in an attempt to improve my time, obviously I need carbs for long runs but what would you say are the top 3 sources to get good carbs from and continue the weight loss?

     Also is mackerel good for a diet, i've been eating ir more but it seems to be very high in fat but I keep reading it’s good? I was hoping you could put it into English for me!



    Hi Joathan

    I would need to see a little more of your diet to give best advice but I woudl base your meals on oats, wholegrain pasta or rice and sweet potatoes but portion control.

    Mackeral should stay in your diet; have a a couple of 125g portions per week . I think  this link sums it up very nicely and from

    Reputable/reliable & in plain English! :

    I hope this answers your questions


  • A big thanks to Ruth for joining us for today's webchat and for all of her great advice.

    Many thanks to all of you too for posting such interesting questions. We'll have another half-marathon webchat with the ASIS PRO Team on the site in a few weeks.

    Dominique RW

  • Thanks ruth, much appreciated. image
  • Adam Haylett wrote (see)

    Hi Ruth,

    Sports drinks and protein drinks have been in the news recently as to their effectiveness and whether average people actually gain any help or advantage from using them. I wondered what your take on them was.



    Hi Adam

    I don't think anyone NEEDS them but in marathons etc they can be very useful as compact readily avaiable. I totally agree with the recent news that kids and people who just exercise for a gentle hour do not need them nor gain anything from them! But kids also do not need coke and other sugary drinks  so I think used in the correct situation they can be useful.

    Thanks Adam

  • Hi All

    I think I have managed to answer all questions. Thank you so much for posted and all the very best of luck.


  • Which breakfast cereal/food do you think would be best for early morning runs, when I don't feel like eating at all, so only want the minimum volume-wise.  I can't do porridge, as it makes me want to wee all morning!  Cheers, GW.

  • Thanks for the help Ruth! Now I know where to start once I ramp up my mileage!

  • Geraldine Williams wrote (see)

    Which breakfast cereal/food do you think would be best for early morning runs, when I don't feel like eating at all, so only want the minimum volume-wise.  I can't do porridge, as it makes me want to wee all morning!  Cheers, GW.


    Geraldine Williams wrote (see)

    Which breakfast cereal/food do you think would be best for early morning runs, when I don't feel like eating at all, so only want the minimum volume-wise.  I can't do porridge, as it makes me want to wee all morning!  Cheers, GW.

    Hi Geraldine,

    For something light and easy a slice of plain toast/bread (no seeds etc) and some jam and honey or a small pot of natural yoghurt with a little honey and a very ripe banana or some fresh orange juice (dilute with water if wish) but if running for less than 45mins I would just get and up and go with a glass of water before you go. I hope this is useful start point. Cereal is a great recovery snack after as it has both a good source of carbs and protein.



  • smdj wrote (see)

    Hi Ruth,

    I'm reasonably new to long-distance running: I'm currently working towards a half-marathon in October and hoping for a full marathon after that. So far the furthest I've run is 11 miles.

    I find I often start to get stomach cramps around 10k, sometimes they remain in the background and I keep running the full distance, sometimes they get really bad and I have to walk or even stop. I've tailored what and when I eat on the days of my long run - usually a bagel with jam and fruit in the morning, pasta at lunch, I avoid dairy altogether, and stop eating altogether at 2.30 for a 7pm run - and while it's helped a bit, I do still get them. Do you have any other thoughts on how I can stop this from happening? Especially as I'm trying to build up my distances...

    Thanks very much!



    I was just checking back in case anyone has a further question and I think I missed this one, sorry! You are doing everything I would suggest although you do not mentioned fluid, do you have any sugary fluid before runs (sports drink, fruit juice etc?) If you do I would try just having water. The cause of stitches is still debated but most recent thought is that the 2 layers of membrane inside tummy wall can become irritated so not eating too closely avoiding sugary drinks like milk and the above can help as well as cutting down on fat and fibre as these can distend the tummy. Could your running style change when you get fatigued and cause you to change running style which may in some way cause this? I am just suggesting at this as I don’t know. Most people just need to change food and timing and this becomes a rare thing. If the pain was to continue after running stop then I would see your GP.

    Wishing you the best

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