Episode 11 - Eating on Your Feet - Fuelling Long Runs

Eating on Your Feet - Fuelling Long Runs

This episode is all about fuel rules for running. Fuelling on the move can be tricky so listen in as I give you practical strategies to help you eat on your feet.

I would love for you to feel confident in your ability to fuel, without being worried about toilet stops, how you’re going to carry everything, or running out of energy in the back end of long runs or races. 

If you are somebody that doesn't think they can tolerate nutrition when they're running, I promise you can! You just need to start slowly and practice. I encourage you to come up with a plan for your long runs depending on the distance, duration, intensity, the season you’re in and your goals.

Start benefiting from proper fuelling so you can train hard, recover faster and perform at your best!

To check how well you’re doing with your nutrition – download my FREE 50 point checklist to Triathlon Nutrition Mastery here: www.dietitianapproved.com/checklist

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Episode Transcription

EP 11 – Eating on Your Feet - Fuelling Long Runs 

Taryn Richardson 
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast, the show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy to digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Hello and welcome to this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I really hope you're enjoying it so far. Can you do me a favour? Can you please leave me a review in Apple podcasts? All you need to do is find the show, scroll down to ratings and reviews and you'll see a little square there with a pen in it.

Click there to write a review and if you don't want to leave something publicly, email me at [email protected]. It's really hard, I send this out to the world and get nothing back. So, I'd love to hear what you think. If you're loving it, if you're hating it, if there's anything you want me to talk about. So do either of those options so I can get some feedback. I would love it.

Alrighty, let's get into today's episode. What we're talking about today is eating on your feet. So, some fuel rules for those that like to run. Some of the challenges you might be experiencing at the moment is that you maybe don't feel like eating or drinking. It's really hard when you're running, I totally get it. Your tummy's jiggling up and down, you're trying to breathe. It's much more difficult to take on nutrition when you're running, particularly compared to say the bike which I like to call the rolling buffet because you've got plenty of access to food, and your stomach is still.

You might be somebody that feels really bloated or sloshy, or nauseous when you're trying to eat food or drink with running. It can be quite common and worst-case scenario is that we actually eject or vomit.

You might be somebody that fears the runs, pun intended. So those unplanned toilet stops. You might be experiencing symptoms of Runner's gut, which is actually preventable in most people. So go and listen to episode six if that's you. You might also feel like you don't need it.

A lot of athletes prefer to run on empty because they feel lighter and faster. I just spoke to a client who's been around in the triathlon Ironman industry for quite a long time, and he just did a two and a half-hour run on one gel. I was like, "how'd that go" and he's like, "not great, I felt pretty tired" and then he needed a nap that afternoon. So even if you don't feel like it at the time, often a bit of extra fuel can go a long way when it comes to running.

But I get it fuelling on the move can be totally tricky. Your tummy's jiggling up and down, you might be unsure about how to carry stuff. Every mL of fluid that you carry on you is an extra gram. So, if you're carrying a litre of water inside Camelback bladder, then that's an extra kilo that you are carting around. It could be good strength training, but it could also be not that helpful if you're trying to run fast.

Your tolerance to digest when you're running often feels way less than on the bike too because your tummy is jiggling around. Also, everything is sweet. There's not a lot of options for fuelling when you're running or road running. The longer you go for, if you're doing long-distance trail runs and things, you can get into real food and more harder to digest options. But if we're running shorter distances and running fast, then your options really are only sweet. You've got sports drink, water, energy drinks, like Coke and Red Bull. You've got gels and blocks and chews and sports lolly type things or normal lollies. That's about it really. You can maybe get some sports energy bars in and the longer you're going for, or trail runners out there might be using more real foods, but it can be quite difficult to digest those things when your tummy is jiggling and you're running at intensity.

My goal with this episode today is to give you some practical strategies to help you eat on your feet. Because what I want for you is to feel confident in your ability to fuel, without being worried about toilet stops, or how are you going to carry everything or running out of energy. I want you to be able to push through the back end of long runs or races. So, my strategies to help you eat on your feet:


  1.  Practice

Number one, which is super important, is to practice. If you're not used to eating while running, or even drinking while running. Even just drinking water can be difficult if you're not used to it. But start. Start by just having a small sip and see how you go. You're not going to die and then you want to slowly build that up over time. Your gut is very trainable. Just like we train our muscles, we want to train our gut too. Whatever you want to do in your race, you need to be building up to that slowly in your training.

You don't need to be fuelling while you're running at race nutrition all the time. You can definitely have an on and an offseason. But as you're heading into a key race, you want to be doing that gut training and gut building as you're heading into your key event. But build slowly. We don't actually really know how long it takes to train our gut. There are not clear guidelines. I think it would be individual, obviously, depending on who you are, and how long you've been exercising for, how reliant you are on carbohydrate or not, what your day-to-day diet is like. There are lots of factors so I think it would be individual. But you just want to start building up slowly, being gradual, and being consistent to your approach to fuelling and you'll figure out what's going to work for you.

With running, don't try and have a whole heap of nutrition in one hit. Small amounts more frequently are going to digest and absorb much better than if you try and have a whole thing, say one thing an hour. You're better off dividing that up into small little segments and nibbling on things or having smaller portions of stuff. Because that actually helps the blood flow to your stomach and when you're running, particularly running at intensity, the blood is not in your stomach. It's in your working muscles to propel you forwards. It's in your diaphragm to help you breathe. It's in your brain to help you put one foot in front of the other without tripping over. So, it's not in our stomach. We turn off the rest and digest things when we're trying to run away from a lion. We're not trying to digest a big steak if we're running away from a lion, trying not to die.

So just be mindful of that. If you don't tolerate things when you're running, that's probably why because that blood is not in your stomach. But again, your gut is trainable, so you can slowly build your tolerance up. To help with that, I'd have small amounts more frequently. Please do not follow carbohydrate targets per hour that you've pulled from the internet. It's highly individualised and one of the mistakes I commonly see clients make when they come and see me is that they've just pulled this target off the internet, or they're following the packet for their sports drink or gels. It says a certain amount every 20 minutes or per hour or whatever they're just following that. Those things on the packet are designed to sell you more of their product, and they want you to only use their product. So please actually do some thinking around what you need and do that. It's highly individual and again, it should be periodised.


  1.  Have A Periodised Approach

So, you shouldn't be fuelling the same way all the time. Because you need to build your gut tolerance up heading into races, in your offseason you can back it off. It depends on what you're doing. There might be times that I want to fuel someone really aggressively and there might be times where I don't want to fuel somebody or let them run through their glycogen stores because we do get adaptations from that as well. So rather than following the same thing all the time or following a set amount per hour off the internet, actually get some structure and purpose to what you're doing that's based around you.

  1.  Consider Your Overall Carbohydrate Intake

Now the other really thing that's important to consider is your overall carbohydrate intake. So, if you don't eat carbs, and then try and eat carbs in a racing situation, when we're trying to run away from a lion, where the intensity is high, you're pushing the pace. It's not going to end well. You really need to practice and train your gut to know how to deal with carbohydrate in normal life, so that you can make sure it knows what to do in a racing situation.

It's not going to know how to deal with it, if it's not used to dealing with it in day-to-day life. We need to increase our carbohydrate digestion enzymes, the pumps and channels that we use to absorb carbohydrate from our stomach into our bloodstream. If you don't eat carbohydrate, those things aren't going to exist at the level that you're trying to fuel at aggressively in a racing scenario. So that's a really important thing to consider. Don't suddenly go from not eating much carbohydrate to then throwing a heap at it in a racing situation. It isn’t going to end well.


One of my clients is a naturopath, she's an awesome athlete, but she doesn't eat a lot of carbohydrate in her day-to-day diet. She's got a very high-performance mindset and wants to win. So, she tries to fuel really aggressively in her races and training sessions. But it ejects. It doesn't digest, it doesn't go anywhere. Her tummy just fills up slowly over time and then she vomits. Generally, by the time she gets to the run. One of the things we're working on, I'm not sure how successful she is with my advice but is trying to increase her overall carbohydrate intake just on a day-to-day basis so that her body knows how to deal with it. I don't think she'll mind me saying this, but I will see if she actually listens to this episode.

Let me know if this sounds like you. Do you feel exhausted by the end of the training week? Do you crave sweets in the afternoon and feel like you need a nap? Training for three disciplines can be absolutely exhausting if you haven't dialled in your nutrition. It can be frustrating when you can't quite piece together the solid race performance you know you're capable of and confusing when there's so much information out there. But you're not sure what's the right method for you.

My goal for you is to unlock your true potential and feel like a supercharged triathlete, firing on all cylinders full of energy and not only smashing quality training sessions, performing in every race too. If you're finally ready to start nailing your nutrition, join a powerful community of likeminded athletes in the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Program. Head to dietitianapproved.com/academy to check it out now. For less than the cost of a coffee a day, you will finally have a plan for your nutrition instead of winging it and hoping for the best.


  1.  Pre Running Fuel

Now what you do pre running also counts. If you really struggle with having your nutrition when you run, then you might want to look at being more aggressive with your pre fuelling approach. That can be a way to get fuelling in to start with, without having to worry too much about what you're having during if it's new to you. Go back and listen to episode three, where I talked about pre-training nutrition for some tips here. I find that people don't tolerate certain things before running. You might be somebody that just avoids dairy before running. You might feel like it doesn't sit well with you and that's okay. But I try and get to the bottom of it, explore why it happens and what sort of symptoms you get. You may be avoiding it because you don't tolerate it on a day-to-day basis anyway.


  1.  Recovery

Now recovery after running is super important. I will always plan a different recovery strategy for people for their long runs because it's the riskiest modality really. If you're under fuelling long runs, then you're putting yourself at risk of low energy availability and that's not having enough energy to support your daily body functions, let alone training. You also increase your risk of injury and illness. I'd really focus on having really good recovery after long runs for those two major reasons. Plus, your overall energy requirements on a day we do a long run are probably generally pretty high, depending on what your long runs are up to. Because putting one foot in front of the other probably burns a bit more calories than riding a bike where you can pedal and roll for a few metres. So, running generally burns a fair number of calories or kilojoules, you know, our energy per hour. If you need some tips for what to do in that recovery window, go back and listen to episode four where I talked about recovery nutrition.


  1.  On And Off-Season Strategies

When it comes to eating on your feet, I think you should have a strategy for what you're doing in running season and then your offseason as well. I like to use a whole lot of real foods for people in the offseason or we do some fat oxidation. So, we're trying to train our fat burning pathways in the offseason. Versus in season when we're really trying to do some gut training to build your tolerance for nutrition when you're trying to run fast.

So rather than doing the same thing all year, really try and have a strategy around what you're doing in your season, what you're doing in your offseason and what that looks like from a fuelling perspective because you might have some other goals as well in your offseason. Whether that's body composition or different performance goals. Whatever it is, you shouldn't have the same strategy all year round. I'm going to say this again, and I bang on about it all the time. But you want to have a periodised approach because you shouldn't be eating the same thing all the time.


  1.  Practicalities

 Another key factor with eating on your feet is the practicalities. Like where are you going to carry stuff. You can't carry all the fluid that you might need. So, you need to start to think about how you're going to do that. If you're in race season and you're trying to practice race nutrition, you might need to set yourself up some sort of loop or something so you can stash some water bottles in a tree or something.

You might want to look at investing in a fuel belt, or a Camelbak or even just a racing run vest that might have some bottles on the front pockets, you know on your chest there, you can put some bottles or some soft flasks or even a whole Camelback in the back that's got a bladder of a litre or two. That's a good option to carry fluids when you're doing some training to make sure that you're not having to rely on finding bubblers everywhere. If you're a heavy sweater that's not going to end well. Or if you're just looking for some fuelling you can also get these cool little fuel belts that have say loops in them that you can stash gels or blocks or chews or something or little zippers where you might generally put keys or a phone, you can actually put things in there as well. So have a think about how you're going to carry stuff and what you're going to do.


So those are some of the key things to think about when you're trying to eat on your feet.

The biggest one is to make sure you practice, practice, practice, practice. Never try anything new on race day. If you are somebody that doesn't think you can tolerate nutrition when you are trying to run, then I promise you, you can. You just have to start somewhere. Start small and build it up slowly over time. Your gut is so trainable and adaptable, which is so cool. But you need to put that training in, do the hard work with your gut training, just like you do with your muscles.

I'd really encourage you to come up with a bit of a plan for your long runs, it's obviously going to depend on how far they are. So, the distance and the duration, the intensity of the session as well, where you are in your season, and also what your overall goals are. What that run nutrition plan looks like for you could be completely different to your training buddy.

You'll really benefit from proper fuelling for running and lower that chance of injury or illness when I think that running is one of the riskiest modalities. You can minimise the gut issues that come with trying to eat on your feet as well when that blood flow is not in your stomach to help with that process and really make sure that you have enough energy available to support your body's daily functions and training, particularly if you're a female. If you are a runner, and you don't have a natural regular menstrual cycle, so we're not talking about people that take the pill or anything like that masks it but somebody that is a natural cycler, and you don't have a menstrual cycle, that is a big red flag that your energy availability is low. So, fuelling those runs is one of the key things that you'll need to look at there. So, I hope that's given you some good practical strategies so that you can be confident with your ability to fuel and eat on your feet.

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned. Email me at [email protected]. You could also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media at @dietitian.approved so I can give you a shout out too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smash it in the fourth leg - nutrition!

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