Running fuel is an area where I really struggle when it comes to "real food" versus "manufactured food." Over the years, as I became entrenched in distance running and endurance sports culture, I let all kinds of un-food into my diet without really thinking about it: brightly-colored electrolyte drinks, carbohydrate gels, and bars chock-full of manufactured proteins. Every runner I know eats and drinks this stuff, and there's certainly all kinds of science behind it. (There was also science behind doctors' recommendations in the 1950s that we give babies Coca-Cola.) A few years ago, I began to feel pretty grossed out by all of these sports fuels, and one by one, they disappeared from my training. And again, it happened without my really thinking about it.
In an effort to understand what went wrong during training for my previous marathon, as I recovered I decided to read a couple of new books on marathoning, to see if there were any new "tweaks" I could incorporate into my training. I was startled to realize, while reading a chapter on some very basic principles of running nutrition and hydration, that at some point a couple of years ago I had stopped eating during my long runs altogether, and just hadn't noticed. As a person who borders on being obsessed with food and eating, I'm still shaking my head at this. Could it really be that my training has sucked because I'm hungry?
|What is all this weird stuff?|
After a few weeks, I gave up and decided I'd just try running with food, and see what happens. Turns out: it's awesome! There are plenty of things you can buy in the regular old grocery store that are cheap, easy to digest, easy to chew, and have readily available carbohydrates: whole wheat fig newtons, dried fruit, and even some fresh fruit. And now that I'm used to it, I have no problem getting in enough calories while I run. The hitch is that real food is a lot less compact than scientifically manufactured food, and I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of carrying it all while I run. But as with the problem of running food, I'm sure than an appropriately simple solution is out there, and that I'll find it. Suggestions are welcome.
|I just like food. Food's my favorite.|
So what's your take on running nutrition? How do you get in enough calories and hydration while you run? What's your food of choice? Do carb gels gross anybody else out?