Eight Ways to Fuel Long Runs

As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners. Today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Eight Foods to Fuel Long Runs (that you may already have!):

While lots of people favor the traditional, designed-for-running fuels like beans, gels, and blocks (you know I love my Sport Beans!), I also like fueling my long runs with tried-and-true, normal foods. There are some advantages to using fuels designed for running – they deliver the fuel you need in a controlled dose and are generally easy to use. Unfortunately, many people, like me, struggle with GI upset when using some of these foods. You can get good results by using foods you already have, or can get easily. For many people, these common foods provide results without GI upset.

Of course, not every fuel is right for every person. Experiment with different fuels in different situations. My best advice is to test each new fuel on short runs, or in the last two miles of long runs, to avoid potential GI disaster and to see how you’ll respond to the fuel. If you’re like me and have a sensitive running stomach, consider testing new fuels in close proximity to a bathroom, or even on a treadmill run. Be sure to test each food in several situations, and as close to race-day conditions as you can. By testing out new foods in controlled situations, you’ll learn if the fuel works well, is easy to carry, gives you energy, and is a viable option for longer runs. When looking for a normal food to use as fuel, try to stay as close to whole foods as possible for the best nutritional benefit. But, nutritional benefit aside, I go with what works for me and what sounds delicious during the run. Here are some great options to try:

  1.  Fig Newtons (original fig is my favorite, but those new raspberry ones are pretty good, too.
  2. Raisins (especially in the little boxes – easy to transport!)
  3. Honey, in the little condiment packets you can get at diners. Do not bring along the entire jar.
  4. Little jelly packets, in the little packets you can get from diners (Caution – messy!)
  5. Pretzels
  6. Gumdrops, gummy bears, Sweedish Fish, or Mike and Ikes (You can get little baggies, meant for pills, at most pharmacies. That’s how I carry mine.)
  7. Hard candies like mints and buttersctoch discs (Great if the idea of chewing something turns your stomach)
  8. Bits of cut up granola bars


There you have it – my suggestions for ordinary foods that can help fuel your long run. Before you start running around with candy falling out of your shorts, consider your fuel needs. You don’t need the entire bag of gummy bears. Save a few for after the run.

Happy fueling!

5 thoughts on “Eight Ways to Fuel Long Runs

  1. I need to try the newtons. I hate eating synthetic food, like GU, but need something portable. Maybe that’s the answer.

    • I like Newtons the best. I also take regular candy in little baggies meant for pills on most long runs. It works for me and I haven’t gotten sick from normal food yet. 🙂 Good luck!

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