While training for my first (and only) 50k last year, I started seeing visions on my long runs. White clouds suddenly turned into hamburgers dancing through the sky. Pine trees were now hot dogs doing a comedy act, nestled in the dirt were all different styles of cooked eggs yelling at me to eat them. It was then that I had the epiphany that I should probably eat more protein.
But it wasn’t just the protein I lacked, it was eating food in general while running. This is where I protested. While I pride myself in being a multi- tasker, eating while running is just not one of my fortes. The thought of swallowing one more sticky, sugar packaged gel made my stomach turn. I was done with processed foods that held a shelf life of well, basically forever.
So, I started carrying real food on my runs. Boiled potatoes already salted, string cheese, hard boiled eggs and tortillas with hummus quickly became my running food mascots. I found by eating real food that my energy levels sustained for longer durations of time. I was hooked but overlooked the fact that prep for my long runs took a wee bit longer as I had to prepare the meals the night before. Also, finding places to store the food while running became a slight obstacle, but happy to report, I figured it all out.
Apparently, other athletes figured it out as well. My new latest obsession is the cookbook “Feed Zone Portables” by Biju Thomas & Allen Lim that holds fantastic recipes, tips and tricks for eating real food on the run. I just love the sweet or savory rice cake recipes. Proceed with caution though as the book warns you to stay away from such foods if you are not expending high amounts of energy.
Figuring out how many calories your body needs to burn while running and which ones come from fat versus carbohydrates can become quite frustrating. Especially if you are a number wizard like me (Insert sarcasm here). While others geek out on numbers, I stress. Fortunately, the book provides a lovely breakdown to calculate your calories burned. I learned that for high endurance activities lasting more than two hours, if I eat at least half the calories I burn each hour, I should be consuming an adequate amount to keep me going.
It’s no secret that the running community is led by the pre packaged sports nutrition industry all claiming to optimize exercise performance. And let’s face it, dealing with these pre packaged super stars are a convenience even if we don’t really enjoy them or care for them. If they work for you however, why ruin a good thing. If you are constantly getting stomach rot during your races, perhaps you should consider other options. As for me, I no longer see a mirage of animated food trying to entertain me out on the course. There are no highs or lows caused from sugar peaks. Just sustained energy that helps me run to the finish.