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Nutrition for Long Distance Running

By Mitch Kemmis

Long distance running requires sustained production of high rates of energy over prolonged periods. Performance is therefore largely limited by the availability of energy stores in the form of carbohydrates. The primary store of carbohydrates within the body is muscle glycogen.

Pre-event/Training Nutrition

Ensuring you have the right amount of glycogen stores is important prior to training or events. Scientific research shows that a carbohydrate intake between 5-10g/kg of body weight is beneficial depending on training volume and intensity. This is based on a range of training 1-3 hours per day.

Protein intake is also important to promote recovery from training and events. Scientific research shows that a protein intake between 1.2-1.6g/kg of bodyweight is ideal, depending on the training volume, type, and intensity. Aim for the upper end of the range on any days when you incorporates weights into your training.

Fat intake provides an easy way of allowing energy input to match the output that is experienced with high training volume. An intake of 1-2g/kg of body weight is considered sufficient. Make sure you focus on consuming unsaturated fats, so enjoy that smashed avo on toast!

Hydration is also key to performance. Dehydration is considered one of the greatest performance issues that can be experienced by an endurance athlete. In order to ensure adequate hydration levels, the following daily guidelines are recommended

- Consume 480-500ml prior to going to bed

- Consume 480-720ml on awakening

- Consume 240-300ml each hour prior to training

- One hour before training, consume 480ml-960ml

During Training/Events

Due to the length of endurance-based events, fuel replacement during exercise may be required. Most studies would suggest an intake of 70g of carbs per hour of activity to be appropriate. This can easily be achieved through sports drinks.

Maintaining hydration is also essential to performance. The athlete should aim to consume 120-180ml of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise.

Post Training/Event

Post training/event nutrition is key to recovery and ensuring positive adaptions from training.

It’s important that carbohydrate intake occurs as close to completion as possible to replenish muscle glycogen stores. An intake of 1-1.5g/kg of body weight within 30 minutes of completion is recommended. Focus on high GI carbs (bread, pasta, rice etc) that are quickly absorbed by the body. Also aim for 20g of protein within that 30-minute window to quick start muscle recovery and repair.

Finally, don’t forget to rehydrate. It’s recommended to consume 1.5 litres of water for every kg lost through sweat. If weighing yourself before and after a long run isn’t practical, aim for 0.6L to 1L as a rough guide. Consuming a sports drink for rehydration will also help with the post carb recovery.

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