Eating for Optimal Performance

Hi Friends! We survived Sandy’s fierce winds and rain unscathed. We were super lucky in only losing power for a couple of hours. Hope everyone else did just as well. Be safe in clean up now!

I just found out this morning that I’m featured on Pavement Runner’s an Easy 10. If you don’t know Brian, you should. He’s a very funny guy who does amazing things like run 38 miles with a friend to help them celebrate their birthday. Now that’s what friends are for! Check it out!

Finding what works for you and your stomach before, during and after a long run or race is tricky. There is no “magic” solution. Everyone is different. What may work for your running partner may have you running for the port-a-potties or the bushes. We all have a different metabolic rate, stomach sensitivity, intensity of exercise, sweat rate, and other factors that determine our energy needs.

Over the course of time, I’ve found what works for me most of the time. Believe me, it takes time to find the right combo. There are still days when I’m glued to the bathroom after a race or long run. It happens to ALL runners. Join a running group and you’ll be entertained for miles with stories. That is, if you like bathroom humor stories like the 12 year old boy that I am. ๐Ÿ™‚

What to eat…


As I mentioned yesterday, finding the right combination of foods to eat before a super early morning run, has been a whole different obstacle. A good rule of thumb is to take in no more than 100 calories per hour, counting back from the time youโ€™ll be starting exercise. My breakfast of whole wheat toast and a thin smear of almond butter before my run had approximately 150 calories or so. Even though I ate it 30 minutes before running, it worked just fine for me. On a race day, I would eat much more given the later start time. For my last half marathon, I had a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and banana. That gave me no problems either.

I know for some people, coffee is a MUST before any length of a run. For caffeine reasons but to also get the bowels moving. Nothing is worse than having to go #2 while out on a long run! Been there, done that! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Before I started training for my first marathon, I had never used any type of supplementation during long runs. I never felt the need for anything less than 13 miles. But since then, I’ve begun to use Cliff Shot Gels or Honey Stingers during long runs over 60 minutes in length. I usually will start taking it 45-50 minutes into the run followed by water. I’ve tried downing the whole gel at one time but I do better breaking it up over a few minutes.

General guideline: for workouts and races lasting over an hour or 75 minutes, take in 100โ€“200 calories per hour, plus 8โ€“16 oz. of fluid.


This is usually the hardest for me. I don’t have an appetite at all after a long run or race. If it’s a long run, when I get home, my plan is to stretch and foam roll right away. But really what ends up happening is I get attacked by my kids and I get pulled into Mama mode immediately. What I found that works for me, is to make a recovery smoothie. My Pumpkin Pie Recovery Smoothie is one of my favorites.ย  I can drink it and stretch at the same time. That is, if my kids will let me have at least a little bit of it!

After a race, I usually can find some bagels, bananas, or soup(if it’s Fall/Winter) that I can choke down till I can eat more.

Taking in a snack of 100โ€“200 calories in the first 30 minutes after your workout will help replenish your glycogen stores and speed your recovery. There is no better time to fuel up because your ability to make glycogen is two to three times higher than it will be half an hour later. If you don’t eat anything, you will recover your depleted glycogen stores eventually. But those who opt out of immediate refueling may need to wait an extra 48-72 hours for their bodies to get back to pre-workout fuel stores (source).

So play around a bit, see how you feel with each test run and you will find what works for you. And remember, never try anything new on race day!

I made the mistake of taking a GU and Gatorade during a race. Why didn’t I know about this lethal combo before?

Sportโ€™s drinks and gel, your stomach will give you hell.

True statement. Very true. ๐Ÿ™‚

16 comments on “Eating for Optimal Performance

  1. It really is so different for each person too. And I swear it changes as well making it even more fun to figure out ๐Ÿ˜‰ Bananas are one of the easiest things I can digest before a run or a race. Afterwards, I need to get in protein. I know most people want more carbs, but I feel so much better with higher protein.

  2. These are some awesome guidelines. Thanks for sharing! I love Clif Shot Bloks! Had no idea that Gu and Gatorade would give you stomach problems. I ran a race where I was drinking Gatorade and tried to eat/slurp that Gu but it was too weird for me and I didn’t finish the packet.
    Kate @ Kate is eating recently posted..Birthday cookiesMy Profile

  3. Great post! Everyone is different and reacts differently to certain foods so it’s really about finding what works for you!

    As for me, I rarely (if ever) eat during a run. But, I’m always prepared in the event I need something during a longer run.
    Kierston recently posted..Lost in Time…My Profile

  4. I’m bookmarking this post for sure! I’ve never run more than a 15K, so I have stuck with nothing during a run but loads of great things before/after. I’m a little nervous for when I can pick up running again and shoot for my first half marathon – testing different gels/drinks/snacks during a run is going to be a fun task ….. Just hope there will be no running to the bathroom mid-race!
    Nicole recently posted..6 Week Old Baby: Weekend MilestonesMy Profile

  5. I simply had no idea about GU and sports drinks effects on the stomach, especially since it was my first half marathon. I learned that lesson the hard way. UGH!!! I’ll be bookmarking this post for future reference.

  6. Nice post! The emphasis on the first 30 minutes, post exercise is usually over-exaggerated. Assuming you eat fairly healthy during the day, your body will replenish those stores during the course of your normal eating. You don’t have to quickly rush back and pound something down, and in fact that normally causes people to flip out and eat something they wouldn’t have before.

    The time it really becomes important is if you are going to work out again within six hours or so of the workout you just ended.

    Now, is it bad to eat 30 min after? No, but just don’t want to eat, and I’d rather wait 1 hour after and have a good, nutritious meal than to have a bagel or something that isn’t going to truly give the nutrients we need.
    Ryan Knapp recently posted..The false bravery of the injured runner :: Day 1 of a 60 day rest streak.My Profile

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