I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding what I eat in order to fuel my long run days during ultra training. This past weekend, I decided to keep track of what I ate on Saturday, when I ran a 25 mile long run. The day before, I had run an impromptu 20 miler. Unfortunately, I did not follow this long run meal plan, so I entered Saturday in a depleted state. However, on Saturday, because I had more time to plan and prepare meals, I was able to fuel myself well. Here was my 25 mile long run meal plan in a nutshell.
Pre-long run meal
Eating before a run is important because you’ve just spent the whole night sleeping and therefore fasting. You need some blood sugar. Just like a pre-race meal, a pre-long run meal should be easily digestible, contain a mixture of simple/complex carbohydrates, and a little bit of protein and fat. I aim for between 200 to 300 cal for a long run, about an hour and a half before the run. Since I drive to most of my long run locations, this gives my body enough time to begin digesting the food.
Before the long run, I ate 2 pieces of toasted flaxseed bread with almond butter, avocado, strawberries and mango. This provided me with carbs, a little bit of protein and some fats to help sustain the 4 hour effort. They’re also all foods that I’m familiar with and know I can easily digest. I also drank some black tea for a little bit of caffeine. Just like you practice training runs, you need to practice your race day nutrition order to find out what works for you. What I eat before my long training runs is what I eat before my race.
Food during the long run
During a long run, I aim to get about 100 calories an hour. For me, it’s been really hard to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration. There are two mental barriers for me. First, I think, “I’m going so slow there’s no way that I’m burning the same amount of calories that I do during marathon training.” So I put off fueling. Secondly, I find that I’m not getting very hungry during a run so I don’t eat right away. Both of those issues lead to trying to play catch-up. Fueling is going to be the biggest issue for me to come race day.
For Saturday’s 25 mile run, a similar story happened. I packed 2 energy bites, a sweet potato cookie, a Huma gel, and some fresh mango. Each ball is roughly 100 calories. The sweet potato cookie is made with easily digestible ingredients and is also a mental treat in case I got tired (and BOY did I get tired by the end). The cookie is roughly 200 calories; I ate half at a time.
I also brought along Nuun tablets. I like the cherry limeade because it also has a little boost of caffeine, but I also had some of the watermelon flavor without caffeine. Nuun has the essential electrolytes for long endurance workouts. However, I ended up only eating one of the energy bites, the whole cookie and the Huma gel. I was more thirsty than anything. By mile 19 I ran out of water; I need to plan better for race day.
Within 20 minutes post-run
There’s conflicting research on the timing of your first post race nutrition, but I’d like to aim for within 20 minutes of finishing and get a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Unfortunately, after finishing a long run, my body doesn’t want to eat solid food right away. However, it’s really important get in some kind of healthy fuel in order to start the rebuilding process.
That’s where a post-run smoothie comes in handy. Almost immediately upon returning to my car on Saturday, I grabbed a water bottle and my post-run smoothie. My go to smoothie consists of Vega pea protein powder, tart cherries, bananas, blueberries, beets, spinach and cashews. Plus turmeric, ginger and some apple cider vinegar. I get a mix of protein and easy to digest carbohydrates in that ideal ratio. The tart cherries and apple cider vinegar are great for reducing inflammation, and beets have been shown to enhance athletic performance. All the beet studies focus on ingestion before the workouts for benefits, but I incorporate them into my diet daily to get a continuous effect (and most likely, I’ll be running the following day anyway)
I also had a blueberry turmeric breakfast muffin that I posted about last week. They’re perfect post-run because of the anti-inflammatory properties of the ingredients, plus it’s a small enough snack that my stomach can handle it after exercise.
Post-long run brunch
About two to three hours later, I’m usually ready for a bigger meal. Some people can eat a substantial meal sooner, but this is how my body reacts. That’s fine with me, because it’s usually perfect time for me to shower, do a contrast bath at the Edge, and get into the compression boots.
Long-run day dinner
Glycogen stores replenish at 5-7 percent per hour. That means that I still have to make conscious whole food choices for dinner in the evening if I want to fully replenish my stores and be ready for the next day’s runs. (Although, since Saturday was my second long run of the weekend I would DEFINITELY be taking a rest day on Sunday. But it’s always good to get in the habit of eating to train.)
For dinner that evening, I opted for grilled tempeh, steamed vegetables, half of a sweet potato, and again some avocado and black bean toast. Can you tell that I really love avocados? Tempeh is another great source of vegan protein and has a thicker, more substantial texture to it than other plant-based proteins. The sweet potatoes are my favorite way to eat quality carbohydrates. All of the vegetables provide me with healthy, whole food, non-processed nutrients that help speed up the recovery process and make me a stronger athlete.
Late night snack
I was still somewhat hungry a few hours later, so I chose to make myself a bowl of homemade vegan ice cream. I ADORE this simple recipe and make it quite frequently. On Saturday, I made a variation that was similar to Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. It was frozen bananas, tart cherries, chocolate, and almond butter. Simple and AMAZING.
So that was my long run meal plan for Saturday’s 25 miler. TLDR, I may or may not have an obsession with avocados and avocado toast. It definitely still needs some tweaks, but you can see that I aim for high-quality, plant-based nutrition in order to fuel and recovery from endurance workouts.
What are some of your go-to long run meals?
Ultramarathon Training Week 10
(To catch up on previous weeks, click here)
Monday 3/27: EZ RPE 4
Not much to report. It was lightly drizzling and I was sleepy. Total: 5.08 miles
Tuesday 3/28: Speed. Hill Tempo Sandwich
I loved the workout from last week so I did the same but with a longer tempo portion: 4 hill sprints (4th one fast down), 3 mi progression tempo, sprints, tempo, sprints. Warmed up 2ish miles to the track. Met Callie for NP Track Tuesday but she and I were the only ones to show up! I modified the workout for her, but felt bad I wouldn’t be around to support her. We were able to do the first set of hill sprints together before parting ways, and I saw her stretching when I came back after the second set of hill sprints before starting my next tempo. Finished with a slow cool down home. Total: 13.0 miles
Wednesday 3/29: EDGE strength class + EZ RPE 4
Went to EDGE in the morning for strength; my inner thighs were definitely sore the next day! Brendan joined so he could see what EDGE had to offer in terms of classes and recovery. I’ll gladly share an ice bath with my clients any day if it means they’re serious about recovery! Did my run in the afternoon; I literally ran errands and returned a library book and bought stamps. Total: 5.04 miles
Friday 3/31: NP + EZ RPE 5. ACTUAL: NP + 20 mile long run
I had an opportunity to get my long run in on Friday with Katie out at Swallow Cliff and jumped at the chance. That would save me the stress of trying to fit it in before spectating the Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday. The trails were MUD CITY but it was so nice to have company. I’m getting tired of running on my own. I was really worried though because my left foot was a bit swollen at the end on the inside by the ankle. It feels very tight compared to my other foot so I’ll have to keep an eye on it. I think all the jumping around I had to do on the wet and rutted trails put an extra stress on it. Total miles: 1.7 at NP, 20.05 at Swallow Cliff, 9:24 pace
Saturday 4/1: Long run part 2
Made plans to go to Waterfall Glen with Lydia and Nancy (they had 20) and then some November Project people came out too. Ran the first seven with the girls and then the next 8 with NP. I was on my own from mile 16 to the end. Legs felt great up until mile 19 but then I ran out of water and had to stop and stretch. It was a mental battle from then until the end. I felt weak and low energy, plus my legs were very tired, probably due to my poor fueling strategy that I detailed above. My left foot didn’t hurt like I expected it to (I was wearing compression socks on under compression tights to support it), but it didn’t feel 100% great either. I dug deep and pushed through to the end. I got a LOT of strange looks in the parking lot when my watch finally chirped 25 miles. Probably because I shouted YES FINALLY and punched both fists into the air. Total: 25.05 miles, 8:52 pace
Sunday 4/2: No way I’m running today.
I’ll take another rest day, thank you very much. After 45+ miles in two days I didn’t feel at all guilty to just spectate the Shamrock Shuffle and not run. I did Divvy down there though… After cheering at the Shuffle, I went to recovery yoga with Nancy at the EDGE.
Total weekly miles: 70.0 Total time: 10 hours, 25 minutes