Fueling for Performance


Hi friends!

My friend Angela, from Happy Fit Mama, is joining me today to share some great tips for fueling before, during and after long runs:

Finding what works for you and your stomach before, during and after a long run or race is tricky. There is no “magic” solution. Everyone is different. What may work for your running partner may have you running for the port-a-potties or the bushes. We all have a different metabolic rate, stomach sensitivity, intensity of exercise, sweat rate, and other factors that determine our energy needs.

What to eat…


A good rule of thumb is to take in no more than 100 calories per hour, counting back from the time you’ll be starting exercise. My breakfast of whole wheat toast and a thin smear of almond butter before my run had approximately 150 calories or so. Even though I ate it 30 minutes before running, it worked just fine for me. On a race day, I would eat much more given the later start time. For my last half marathon, I had a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and banana.

I know for some people, coffee is a MUST before any length of a run. For caffeine reasons but to also get the bowels moving. Nothing is worse than having to go #2 while out on a long run! Been there, done that! ;)


I’ve begun to use Cliff Shot Gels or Honey Stingers during long runs over 60 minutes in length. I usually will start taking it 45-50 minutes into the run followed by water. I’ve tried downing the whole gel at one time but I do better breaking it up over a few minutes.

General guideline: for workouts and races lasting over an hour or 75 minutes, take in 100–200 calories per hour, plus 8–16 oz. of fluid.


This is usually the hardest for me. I don’t have an appetite at all after a long run or race. What I found that works for me, is to make a recovery smoothie.

Taking in a snack of 100–200 calories in the first 30 minutes after your workout will help replenish your glycogen stores and speed your recovery. There is no better time to fuel up because your ability to make glycogen is two to three times higher than it will be half an hour later. If you don’t eat anything, you will recover your depleted glycogen stores eventually. But those who opt out of immediate refueling may need to wait an extra 48-72 hours for their bodies to get back to pre-workout fuel stores (source).

So play around a bit, see how you feel with each test run and you will find what works for you. And remember, never try anything new on race day!

Thanks so much, Angela!! For more fueling related reading, check out these links from Heather at Better with Veggies:

Are you participating in any of the virtual races this week? Have you found what running fuel works best for your body?


70 thoughts on “Fueling for Performance

  1. That’s good fueling advice. I’m going to work on using sport drink this training cycle instead of gels or chews. Fingers crossed!

    I can’t decide if I should do my 5 by the 5th today (it will be slow) or as part of tomorrow morning’s speed workout. Ah, who am I kidding? I’ll use the speed workout. :^)

  2. Congrats on your 5 by the 5th!!!

    I love these fuel guidelines. I actually asked Heather about my calorie intake before my adventure race. I ended up taking in about 100 per hour… except the last hour. 8 hours in I was exhausted and nothing I brought sounded good. I needed to force myself to eat that last snack.
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted..Making Monday MarvelousMy Profile

  3. Totally awesome fueling advice! I sometimes have a hard time with the fueling before, since I have a sensitive stomach with running (we’ll leave out the gory details of my digestive system with long runs!) During is always Honey Stingers – those GU’s and similar gels are too sweet for me and sometimes the stickiness makes me think I’m going to choke. After I use P90X Results & REcovery formula – it’s dextrose and protein. I usually don’t have an appetite after either so drinking something seems to be the best solution!
    Rachel B @ Busy Mama Fitness recently posted..Change Your PictureMy Profile

  4. Great tips! I agree that everyone has to find their own thing. I like Nutella on toast and a few sips of coffee. Like you said, that gets things moving, but an entire mug of coffee sends me into the bushes several times! I have recently started drinking Infinit on my runs (previously just used it on my rides) and find it very gentle on my sensitive stomach.
    Alison @ racingtales recently posted..Infinit Custom Nutrition Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  5. After trying numerous gels and chomps and failed attempts, I have stuck with Clif Shotbloks only now. They are the only thing my tummy can handle apparently. I also carry salted almonds in my fuelbelt in case I need something more.

    Before I run, I have a cup of coffee and usually a Chobani yogurt. That’s usually enough fuel for me.

    For post run, I usually have a bagel with cream cheese and chocolate milk, but with anyone not doing dairy, that’s not too good of a suggestion.
    Melanie W recently posted..Virtually Running It! recapMy Profile

    • I haven’t tried Clif Shotblocks yet but I hear they are similar to Honey Stinger, which is the only thing that has really worked for me. It definitely takes trial and error, doesn’t it?!
      Laura recently posted..Fueling for PerformanceMy Profile

  6. I am glad that your shin is feeling better. Super speedy 5K! I need to run mine tonight after work.

    My favorite pre run fuel for long runs is oatmeal with a cup of coffee. For fuel during my run I eat the fruit smoothie honey stingers and drink Nuun. That is the only combo I have found that doesn’t upset my stomach.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Week 6: My foam roller is my boyfriend….My Profile

  7. These are great tips! It is always tricky to figure out what works, especially before runs. I know that I need to eat something but my stomach can be sensitive too. And I was just thinking about how there were a bunch of virtual runs and challenges going on this month! Great job on your 5K Laura!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Are you ready to ski?My Profile

  8. Great job on your run–nice numbers in the middle of a six-miler and on tired legs!

    Fueling is so individual, like you said, I have a pretty regular routine with mine, although I still do glycogen depleted runs on every other long one. Hopefully I’ll be able to nail it all come marathon day next month.
    misszippy recently posted..Super BowlMy Profile

  9. Excellent tips Laura! I am still tweaking and reworking my fueling strategy, for me it changes, when it’s hot I don’t feel like eating and in the winter months I eat a tad more. One week one thing works great, the next it upsets my tummy. These are great tips that runners of all abilities could benefit from. Thank you so much for participating in the Kyle’s Krusade run and for helping with some of the details.
    Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Book Review: Think Like ZuckMy Profile

  10. I went to a nutrition clinic with my tri group once, and the nutritionist actually said that the amount of sodium and other goodies in Gels can not be fully absorbed in one go. Rather, take half with some water, and the other half 10-15 minutes later. I started doing that and it definitely was less iffy on the digestion track. I also have switched to Stinger Waffles and salt caps (thermotabs for $5 a bottle on amazon), so take gels only 1-2 on very long runs!

    PS. I did get your email on rescheduling, and that is totally fine with me. I still made it to Memorial Sat. It was so nice out!
    Crystal@TheFastFitRunner recently posted..16 Week Bumpdate!My Profile

  11. Great tips on fueling. It really is crazy how different people do things so differently and how we react. I think it’s the perfect example that not all bodies work the same. Some people who are stuck on the diet hamster wheel would probably benefit from learning that. And is it too late to sign up for 5 by the 5th? I did it in January and I ran a 10k on Saturday. Does that count or does it have to be just 5 miles even?
    meghan @ little girl in the big world recently posted..Weekend Update & Life LatelyMy Profile

  12. Nice tips!

    Fueling… ugh. Haha, I am still figuring that out. Before I have done pretty well, I eat toast/bread with peanut butter and drink some Gatorade/water. During I do energy gels but I am still figuring out how much/when. It will get even more complicated with half Ironman training and racing.
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman recently posted..Moving for CharityMy Profile

  13. Great tips and great 5km run!!! Do you have a goal time for the final 5bythe5th. I was just wondering that for myself last night. My intial goal was just to improve from run to run.

    Fuelling is tough and I am still experiementing at the moment. I am lucky in that my body doesn’t seem to discriminate against energy especially when it is sugar in terms of performance and gut issues. But my taste buds on the other hand… after a few fuel stops I struggle to swallow any more sweetness. Thats where I think the the PB, honey and dried fruit balls that were inspired by your lovely self will help…not quite as sickly sweet as Jelly Beans and Gels ;=)
    Jenelle @ MummyLovesToRun recently posted..10 weeks – Canberra MarathonMy Profile

    • I’d like to break 20 minutes by April/May, as my current pr is 20:22, but I know I’ll have to enter a race for that to happen… I can’t push myself that hard on my own!
      Hope you’re able to figure out what works best for you for fueling!
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Fueling for PerformanceMy Profile

  14. What do you like to do for calories during a full marathon? I have good success with Hammer Gels and recently ran my 12 miles with some Honey Stinger Chews (I like almost better now than Hammer!) … but I get hungry at some point on the long runs.
    Christina recently posted..Running has an empowering effectMy Profile

    • I did Honey Stinger chews for the marathon… it is definitely harder to get the same amount of calories in. Gels have 100 in a shot, and I used 3-4 honey stinger chews at a time, which isn’t even 50 calories. But I took Gatorade occasionally at stops as well for extra sugar/carbs, and it worked for me. Eating a good sized breakfast 2-3 hours before the run (400-500 calories) should help with hunger. Training is definitely the time to experiment!
      Laura recently posted..Fueling for PerformanceMy Profile

  15. I’m enjoying doing the 5 by the 5th. It’s nice that it motivates me to make sure I do a moderate run, even if I let my schedule get away from me in the later part of the month.

    I still shrug my shoulders a bit at fueling. I’ll pop a gel on longer runs (9 miles or more), but only if I think about it beforehand. I definitely have to make an effort to figure out what works best for me other than just not eating too much before a run. Thanks for the tips!
    Bryony recently posted..Baby Files: The Big SleepMy Profile

  16. You rock with a 21 min 5k in the humidity! There are a few local 5k’s in the spring. There is the Run for Wellness 5k(at George Bush Park) every last Sunday of the month. A very nice organization and great group of volunteers, and it’s FREE!


  17. Very interesting! I never feel like eating after a long run and usually don’t, my rule of thumb for eating is to listen to my body. However, I’m wondering if I’d feel better more quickly if I’d force some calories in.
    jan recently posted..Swimming PhotosMy Profile

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  19. Hey
    I’ve just started out with protein powder and have found that my muscles feel so much fresher the next day than the normally do, I was such a sceptic before but now love my shakes!

    I can’t eat at all 3 hours before any exercise/training/race or I feel/am sick so have had to work round this. I like drinking electrolyte to keep my salts topped up!

    Thanks for a great and useful post

    Ibbs x
    Ibbs @ LaLangostaYMi recently posted..Fitness Friday #2 ‘P’My Profile

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  21. The timing of this post couldn’t have been more perfect. I have been really bad lately (especially when I am traveling) about refueling within 30 minutes of my run. It seems I am squeezing everything in and I choose to skip the eating part afterwards…thanks for the reminder of how important this is!!
    Corey recently posted..Know When to Fold ‘emMy Profile

  22. I like your little snack plate. Can I come over for snack time at your house!? As you know, I ran the 5 by the 5th and really enjoyed getting a kick start on my month. My goal is to improve my 5 mile time by a little bit each month.
    Travel Spot recently posted..Cream or Sugar?My Profile

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  24. Great tips! I have been working on consuming gels during long races. I never did it before, but during my last half they gave one to me and I was instantly in love. Because I needed the energy. Duh! I need to try chomps or stingers next. Gels make me thirsty.
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