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  • Writer's pictureRenee Little, R.D.

Can I eat intuitively while I am training for a marathon?

Running and nutrition can get complicated, but it doesn't have to be! The intuitive eating principles teach us to be in tuned with our bodies. If you listen to your body you can learn how it responds to different meals/foods.

# 1 - Tune in to your body for your base diet

What does your body tell you about which foods fuel your runs and which ones bog you down?

Tap into this wisdom to guide your eating choices!

Keep a journal about:

  • what you ate the evening before a long run and how your run went the next day

  • how much water you drank during training run days and how you felt in your run that evening

  • how close you ate a snack before a run then jot down how your body reacted

Your body will be a guide to let you know which types of foods, how much food, and how much water to consume to give you your best performance. Use your own experience to guide your future decisions.

#2 - Eating when running - keep it simple

You will need to plan out your carbohydrate intake during the run and you can use intuitive eating principles to guide you to know how much carbohydrate to take in.

1) You can use this exercise: try 20 grams of carbohydrate per hour to start off with (about 1 gel or 6 shock blocks).

2) If you:

  • feel tired during your run

  • feel a lack of power

  • if an energy slump comes on quickly

  • if you had a difficult time with recovery

3) Ask yourself: "do I need more energy during my run?"

If you think the answer is yes, try to increase your carbohydrates consumed incrementally until you find that sweet spot!

#3 I want to consume "real foods" when running - can I?

You can use your bodies cues to decide the answer, some of you will find real food irritates your stomach and others not.

The optimal way to try using real foods is to:

  • travel at a SLOW pace (slow = more blood to stomach). These foods will need to be practiced on a SLOW run and a run that you won’t be disappointed if you have to walk from cramps or have time spent on extra bathroom trips

  • foods have to be very low fiber (low fiber = digests quickly)

  • consume real foods more often but in smaller volumes

  • perhaps mix real foods and sport gels/blocks for the best results

What to try - real foods that do work for some people are instant mashed potatoes (put in a baggie once cooled), applesauce and white bread with honey or jelly.

#4 What do I eat for recovery, and how much?

After activity our body need nutrients. With running your body used up nutrients converting stored carbohydrate to energy and then used the carbohydrates to fuel your muscles. Your body also broke down a bit of muscle that it needs to repair (with protein).

Keep it simple Longer run = more food, Shorter run = less food.

Ideas of snacks:

  • Sandwich with meat/meat alternative and 1 glass milk/yogurt or a fruit

  • A regular meal just smaller size: rice/pasta/potato, meat, veggies

  • Protein/Fruit and shake

If you only had a small snack post recovery you may need a bigger snack later! Listen to what your body is telling you. If you are feeling hungry all day try increasing the calories/carbohydrates in your first or second snack after your post recovery meal and see how your body responds.

If you are always hungry...listen to what your body is telling you. You may not be eating enough at meals if you find you are hungry 1 hour later.

Tip #5 - Stomach issues can be complex - what do I do?

If your stomach is upset during your run try to figure out "what is my body telling me?"

  • Look at your pace, if you are running too fast for your body you will likely have stomach irritation

  • Are you drinking too much coffee before your run? Caffeine is a gastric irritant

  • Are you eating too close to when you last ate?

  • How is your digestion day to day? If it’s not great, the issues may be compounded with running. You can get help from a Dietitian to figure out what the root issue is

  • Are you dehydrated, dehydration can cause havoc with your stomach especially when taking in carbohydrates

  • Is the sport drink too high in sugar? Try cutting it with water

Enjoy your training runs and races! If you have any questions book a free coaching call with me and we can chat about them further.


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