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Running 26.2: How to fuel up for the long run

1/11/2013

What you put into your body is always important, but it becomes even more essential when you're preparing for an endurance event like a marathon. To get it right on race day, you have to make it through training. Once you figure out the best food and drinks for your body, you'll have one less worry on race day.

Here are my top three nutrition tips for the long run:

1. Test everything in advance: When you're running more than a few miles at a time, your body needs fuel -- that's true for all your long runs, as well as on race day. Your pre-run breakfast is just as important as your post-run recovery meal. The easiest way to create your nutrition plan is to try different foods until you figure out what works best for you. It's as simple as eating oatmeal and a banana before one long run, and toast with almond butter before another. Try different food options until you get it right, and be sure to include water and even sports drinks if you're in marathon training.

2. Learn to eat as you go: Eating and drinking on the run is something that takes practice. There are so many different options of gels, liquids and chews because it's really a matter of preference. Not everyone likes the same flavors or consistencies. Try different energy snacks until you're comfortable with one.

3. Don't forget about hydration: What you drink before, during and after your run makes all the difference in the world. Carrying water or sports drinks with you, or planning a pit stop along your running route, is the best way to stay hydrated. You should also include sodium, which can be in your drink or simply a packet of table salt. You may not notice how much fluid you lose when it's cold outside, but a pounding headache will tell all at the end of the day, and by then it's too late.

Rachel Cooperman is a contributor for espnW and training for her next marathon this February.