My marathon training runs are getting a little longer- though still not super long as I’m following the Hanson’s marathon method- and some of my runs are now requiring me to carry some extra emergency fuel, and to practice my nutrition for race day.
I do the majority of my training fasted, as I prefer to get up early and run first thing, and I don’t want to wait around for food to digest. I tend to listen to my body though so if I’m hungry I’ll have a small snack before. At the minute I’m doing my easier runs fasted, and sometimes I’ll head out for longer ones and just start eating on the run, rather than before. For my speed sessions I am having a small snack beforehand, especially now they are getting up over 10 miles. Our bodies use carbohydrates as fuel for higher intensity workouts, so I tend to have a little something to top up my supplies before interval workouts. On longer slower endurance runs are bodies prefer to use fat as a source of fuel, and we should have ample stores to run off, but it is a case of getting your body used to tapping into these stores.
I’ve never been a big fan of gels, and probably other than my first marathon training cycle and race, I’ve tended to avoid them. I’ve played around for years with different food/drink on the run, and found what I like, and what I don’t like. This is what personally works for me but it might not work for you, as it really is quite individual- find a race strategy that works and stick to it. These are my current favourite run snacks:
1: Snack Bars/Balls: These can be homemade, or shop bought. Homemade are super cheap and you can control what goes in, though shop bought are easier to transport and convenient. I like Nakd bars, Beond bars, or any dried fruit and nut bar, for a quick sugar hit with a little bit of protein and fat. Recently I was sent a box of Go Bites to try out and I used these for quite a few of my training runs, either having a couple before, or during the run. They taste absolutely delicious- I love the Hazelnut chocolate one. The packet contains 3 small energy balls, perfectly bite-size, and great for snacking on during the run. The apricot and seed flavour are not Vegan as they contain honey, but the other two flavours are, they are all gluten free, and filled with natural ingredients.
2: Dried Fruit: Dates, Apricots, Raisins, Strawberries or fruit leather. Again really easy to transport, quick digesting and cheap. I usually just get a small freezer baggy, or some cling film to wrap them in. Medjool dates are my favourite. I have been known to combine them with a squeezy nut butter pouch for the mid run snack of dreams.
3: 33 Shake Chia Gels: These are the only “gels” I will use, as I think they are really high quality, and made up of easily recognizable ingredients and they work really well for me. 33 Shake use a simple blend of salts, sugar and chia which I have always found good for a boost before or during a run.
4: Nuts/Nut Butter Pouches: These are good to mix things up from all the sweeter stuff. I like getting salted or tamari roasted nuts, as they give that salty hit. Nut butter pouches are super convenient on the go, Mindful Bites even have one that has a little straw attachment which makes it easy to use.
5: Baby Food: I usually have a good look in the baby section, as they tend to have things based on simple ingredients, and high in easily digestible sugars. Dried fruit bars and squeezy fruit pouches are favorites, these are all cheap and easy to digest options on the run.
6: Coconut Water/Electrolyte mixes: Sometimes on a longer run, I just like to take some coconut water, the taste of something sweet and a little sugar hit is often enough to keep me going. I do tend to use electrolytes additionally as though coconut water is rich in potassium, it isn’t that high in other vital electrolytes. Right now I’m using Big Tree Farms Coco Hydro Powder, which is dehydrated coconut water powder with added electrolytes, sugar and salt too. I just mix it in my soft flask before I go, or have it once I come back. I like Elete Water too, which are simple electrolyte drops you add to your water.
7: Tailwind: I first used Tailwind on the NDW50, at the time I thought it was just an electrolyte drink, but later realised it also had carbohydrates too which made sense as to why I was able to get round the race having eaten so little, and feeling relatively OK. Really gentle on the digestive tract, and the perfect blend of energy, electrolytes and hydration.
8: Fruit: Not quite as easy to transport, but a banana is always a safe option in a race pack. Races that give out chopped up fruit are the absolute best- pineapple, watermelon, orange slices are all winners, especially on a hot humid day.
9: Trail Mix: Make up a homemade bag, with a mix of some of the above snacks. Dried fruit, salty nuts, even pretzels would be amazing too. It’s a perfect hit of salty, sweet and savoury.
10: Potatoes: White or Sweet. Roast up some slices/cubes of potato or sweet potato, make sure you salt them really good too. It sounds bizarre, but salty potatoes are one of my absolute favourite snacks, particularly on really long runs.
These are a few of my current favourite run snacks. If I am doing longer stuff and ultra training, I like to pack things like wraps and pittas with nut butter and jam, but I’ll tend to stay away from those for marathon training. I’ve been running for quite a few years and my body has adapted to need less and less food before and on the run, but if you are just starting out, you may need to eat quite a bit before and during runs. As I train fasted quite a bit, I make sure to put a big emphasis on my post-workout nutrition, to replenish my glycogen stores and support my recovery.
What are your favourite run snacks?
Disclaimer: I was sent Go Bites for review, all opinions are my own.