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September 7, 2018

Keeping Fueled For The Long Haul

Hydration is the No. 1 intervention in providing performing-enhancing effects when running. Sweating increases electrolyte loss, which can cause up to a 10 percent loss of contractile strength and an 8 percent loss of speed while training.

Hydration & Fueling Tips for Distance Running

Hydration is the No. 1 intervention in providing performing-enhancing effects when running. Sweating increases electrolyte loss, which can cause up to a 10 percent loss of contractile strength and an 8 percent loss of speed while training. Hydration is important before, during and after exercise and competition. Luckily, fluid can be consumed in various forms, such as fruits and veggies, milk and smoothies, fruit juice, sports drinks, water and soups.

Fluid recommendations for prior to exercise include:

  • Drink approximately 5-7 ml/kg of body weight four hours before exercise
  • If weather will promote profuse sweating, drink an additional 3-4 ml/kg of body weight within 20 minutes of exercise

Fluid recommendations during competition include:

  • Start drinking early and often
  • Drink 4-8 oz every 15 min. per hour of exercise
  • Practice with hydration during training so your body can adapt to the water demand
  • If event or training is more than 60 min., sports drinks should be used to accommodate the sodium loss

Fluid recommendations after competition include:

  • For every pound of weight lost, replace with three cups of water or sports drink
  • If urine is a dark yellow, that is an indication that you need more water

Hydration packs are also an option for use when training and during competition to ensure you have adequate fluid intake throughout the run. Options include a belt with water bottles, a handheld water bottle or a backpack hydration system for example.
Workouts that are less than 60 to 90 minutes should have a pre-exercise snack that is mostly carbohydrate as that empties out of the stomach the most quickly. Extended exercise would require the addition of protein/fat to extend the life of the snack.

If starting to fuel up 2 hours before exercise, it is recommended to have 1 g carbohydrate/pound of body weight (for a 150 lb person this would be about 600 calories). If starting between 5 to 60 minutes before exercise it goes down to 0.5 g carbohydrate/pound of body weight. This is more than most people tend to eat and it is recommended to experiment to see what works before the actual event. The below food choices could be used to meet these needs.

  • Yogurt, milk, cheese
  • Bananas, apples, pears, grapefruit
  • Oatmeal, bran muffins
  • Bean soups, lentils
  • Energy bars

Fueling During Exercise
If exercising for less than 45 minutes, carbohydrate intake during exercise is likely not needed and drinking plain water if thirsty is adequate.

Exercise from 1 to 2.5 hours (such as a half-marathon) would require 30-60 g carbohydrate/hour after the first hour. Remember that the pre-exercise snack is fueling the first hour.

For exercise lasting greater than 2.5 hours of low to moderate intensity (such as walking a marathon), carbohydrate intake is recommended to be according to appetite but at minimum 30 g carbohydrate/hour if not more.

For exercise lasting greater than 2.5 hours of moderate to high nonstop intensity (such as running a marathon), carbohydrate intake is recommended to be 60-90 g carbohydrate/hour from a variety of foods. Note that higher intakes are associated with better performance.

During competition or training, use of gels, shot blocks or sports beans can be used to meet the carbohydrate needs listed above. It is crucial to consume at least 8-10 oz. of water with these gel options to avoid stomach cramping.

Duration Pre During Post
20 minutes Water Water Water
30 minutes Water or 10 oz sports drink Water Water or 8 oz sports drink
45 minutes 150 calorie energy bar, 10 oz sports drink or fruit Water 10 oz chocolate milk, 6 oz yogurt with 1/3 c. high fiber cereal
60 minutes Cup of cereal with skim milk or 1/3 cup of trail mix Gel, honey packet, 8 oz sports drink ½ bagel with tablespoon of peanut butter

Chart caption: A quick sample guide to hydration and fueling before, during and after exercise.

Post workout foods for recovery should be consumed with training lasting greater than 45 minutes. The optimal time for replenishment after exercise is 30-60 minutes post workout. Options for replacing glycogen stores should have 3x more carbohydrate than protein.

  • Bagels, rice cakes, graham crackers, popcorn
  • Cranberry, apple, orange juice
  • Baked potato, couscous, rice
  • Raisins, watermelon, banana, orange
  • High fiber/low sugar dry cereal
  • Chocolate milk has a ratio of 3:1 of carbohydrate to protein

Remember that recovery foods can be lined up with mealtimes. This is especially helpful for people that are trying to lose weight as this prevents additional calories from being eaten.

Ashley Krautkramer is a Registered Dietician at ThedaCare.

Additional Reference:
Clark, Nancy. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guide Book. 5th ed., Sheridan Books, 2014.

About ThedaCare
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 31 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

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