Nutrition is one big balancing act and is also very individual - what works for someone else might not work for you. It can be daunting, overcomplicated and confusing. We (Outdoor Provisions) love an ambitious trail running adventure and staying out longer has informed the development of our energy foods. We’re also about eating things that make you feel good, that you look forward to and can stuff into your pack in the knowledge that they’ve got your back.
Stomach issues are the enemy of long runs so we always lean towards real food ingredients, champion plant based options and avoiding anything refined or artificial; being as kind to your tummy as possible.
We’re nut butter specialists. Being higher in protein and good fat content than most running snacks like carb-packed gels, they’re a great choice for longer, lower intensity efforts which generally use more fat for fuel than carbohydrates. So expect a few references to them.
Train and prep on real food
Train exclusively on the sugary stuff like gels, chews and sweets and it’ll rot your teeth and burn a hole in your wallet - get used to running on real foods to avoid this. Gels and chews are a good way to get carbohydrates in during an event or when you really can’t carry real food so it’s worth trying them out (in moderation!) beforehand to avoid any nasty surprises come event day.
Prep most definitely starts the day before for fluid and carbohydrate intake and you should try to consume a carbohydrate rich meal approximately 3 - 4 hours before a long run. Breakfasts such as corn flakes, porridge, bagels and fresh fruit juices are all rich in carbohydrates.
Unless you’ve got a stomach of steel, stick to familiar foods when you’re really counting on a big effort. Bring the foods that work for you and consider giving the event organizer offerings a miss if you haven’t had them before.
Carbohydrates are important, but don’t forget good fats
The need for carbs is well covered. 60 - 90g per hour (or even more some some research suggests) can be very hard to get in - hence why long distance runners often end up in a calorie deficit. Our energy bars are a tasty way to 24g of carbohydrates but you’ll need to think of other ways to hit your target. As mentioned, gels are good for carbs but overdoing them could lead to stomach problems.
The longer the race and the more the pace steadies, the more protein and fat will start to help. Into ultra territory or when running back to back days (think The Spine Race, Dragon’s Back, UTMB, etc.) you’re likely to be entering a significant calorie deficit. Our high in good fats nut butter sachets become your friend here, helping to plug the energy gap. Where carbs will give you 4cals/gram, fat gives you 9cal/gram. Being a source of protein too, they will also stimulate blood flow around your stomach and help alleviate stomach issues from all those carbs.
Nut butter can be used to bulk out breakfast, moisten any dry feed stop bits you get, act as a highly portable 200 cals mid run as well as post run to aid recovery.
Don’t get food fatigue
Most people underfuel on long trail runs because it’s genuinely hard to get that many calories in. But it’s also because you just start to get sick of eating the same flavour / texture / things over and over. Taste fatigue is very real and can see your careful nutrition plans quickly go out of the window. Mixing it up is vital to keep you interested and looking forward to the next bite. Something salty like our nut butter can do wonders to break up the sweet and sugary stuff. Bringing things that are moist and easy to chew is a good idea too.
How to pack for an overnighter or multi-day trail run is worthy of a whole different article (we’re partial to nerding out on gear) but what you bring to eat soon after day one will have a big effect on how you feel the next day. If you’re carrying it with you you need something good that’s highly portable and a stove to reheat it on. Our new range of dehydrated meals has you covered here.
Vital to having a good time. The key here is to make sure you're willing and able to drink what you’re carrying, i.e. does it taste nice enough to make you want to keep sipping? If regular water hits the spot then great, but if you need some flavour then add what you know you like - being from Manchester we’d recommend Vimto. Some electrolytes can help but consider if you need all that extra salt or if it’s just making you more thirsty.
Consider your impact
We’re a young and fiercely low impact company, so you’d expect us to highlight this. Portable foods and their consumption around events in particular can be a big producer of single use plastic waste and litter. Have you checked what your snacks are wrapped in? A few companies are trying to change that in the hope that some of the bigger ones will follow suit to allow real change for the better. All of our snacks are in home compostable wrappers that you can bring home and add to your compost heap or green/garden waste bin.
If you’d like to try one of our Starter Packs (a mix of our all natural bars and nut butter sachets) you can use the code TRYOP to get yours for just £12 (usually £16) - postage is free too. Lastly, a shout out to Paul Booth for his advice on trail running nutrition, which has been included within this article.
Feeling motivated to run?
We hope the above advice from Outdoor Provisions has given you some good food for thought. If, like us, you’re raring to get out on the trail and give their tips ago, don’t forget to take a look at our expertly designed running kit for men and women first. Featuring running packs, lightweight breathable waterproof jackets and running tights - you’ll be well prepared to tackle the changeable weather this autumn winter season.