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Do you find that you ‘hit the wall’ in the last quarter of your long runs?

You know what it’s like…

One minute you’re running at a good, solid pace

…and then the next you’re basically walking.

It’s not always easy to find a way to fuel for your long runs that suits you and keeps your body feeling energized. 

Ask any group of runners what their main source of fuel is and the majority of them will tell you it’s… CARBS.

Following an LCHF diet, as a runner will raise a few eyebrows at your local running club, needless to say, it is possible…

There are different low-carb ways you could be fueling your long runs so that you can finish feeling as strong as you felt when you started! 

Let’s have a look at them…

The Ketogenic Route Of Fueling For Long Runs

If you want to go the low-carb route for marathon and ultra-marathon running, it’s possible. But then you’ve really got to fully fat adapt and go fully ketogenic. 

People who are following a Keto diet consume 80 percent of their calories from fat, 15 percent from protein, and 5 percent of calories from carbohydrates.

That means having a very low-carb diet, and it means on race day, fueling yourself on products that are non-carb-based things like MCT oils and macadamia nuts.

If you’re going to fully adapt and fat adapt, then you’ve got to commit to it…. It is hard and you’re going to have to work at it… because it is going to take a good few weeks of adaptation before you go ketogenic.

This is what happens to your body on a Keto diet: It no longer has access to fuel from carbohydrates so it goes into a state called ketosis and becomes ketogenic. That means, your body looks for the next best fuel source: fat.

Once you are fully ketogenic then you will be able to go for very long periods of time on very small amounts of much more complex carbohydrates. 

The Low-Carb Route Of Fueling For Long Runs (With Some Tweaks Around Timing)

Another alternative is that you can carry on with your low carbohydrate diet, but then you have to understand that you are always going to be running a little bit low on muscle glycogen unless you make some small tweaks and those tweaks are around when you actually fuel.

You either need to fuel for exercise, or you need to fuel during exercise. 

The one place you have to fuel is immediately after exercise, particularly if you’re going to be on a low-carb diet because that probably means you’re not going to be taking in many carbohydrates outside of that very crucial 30-minute window.

I feel it’s important to give both sides of the coin…

Both Sides Of The Low Carb Coin

In my opinion, you can carry on with the low-carb eating, but what it does mean is that every time you are planning very high-intensity exercise, or exercise that’s lasting longer than 90 minutes, you need to fuel properly during the exercise. 

Firstly, that means you need to start carrying the kind of products that you’re going to be using on the side of the road so that you can get used to them.

The second, and probably more important point, is that you need to refuel. 

It’s important that you take in a high carbohydrate product 15 to 30 minutes after exercise, you’re aiming for around about 750 ml within the 15 to 30 minutes. 

A good approach would be to figure out a strategy of what high-carb food you can tolerate before going for your long run.. It might be toast with honey and slices of banana or oats with honey and nuts and fruit.

Examples Of Good, Pre-Race Low Carb Meals:

  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Bacon
  • Ground chicken, turkey, and beef
  • Peanut butter & other nut butters
  • Smoked salmon or trout
  • Greek yogurt
  • Edamame
  • Nuts & seeds

How to handle pre-race nutrition.

Pros Of Running On A Low Carb Diet

  • Improved fat adaptation: Being able to go for long runs that last for hours (fuelled by carbs first, fat second) without getting fatigued.
  • Improved sleep and energy levels: According to HealthLine, studies show a ketogenic diet promotes adenosine activity in the body, helping to relax the nervous system, as well as reducing pain and inflammation. 

Con’s Of Running On A Low Carb Diet

  • Decrease in running performance: Ketosis is good for training your body to be able to go at a comfortable pace for hours without getting fatigued. Carbs are still the best source of fuel. 
  • No guaranteed endurance benefits: Sports scientists are far from reaching a consensus on the effects of a low-carb diet.

While you may feel great running on low carbs, you will certainly improve your running performance with more carbs. See carbs as “Jet Fuel”.

The point is that you need to consume a higher carbohydrate nutrient-dense meal 30 to two hours before an event and then refuel correctly after the event. With trial and error in your training, you can figure out what timing works best for your body.

We’ve all experienced it…a delicious 600+ calorie lunch and that real full tummy, the button of your jeans undone, feeling of satisfaction… only to remember you’ve got a 10km planned with a buddy from your local running club for the afternoon and… it’s already the afternoon.

Time to lace up and head out, with a full belly.

You shouldn’t run too soon after a large meal because digestion requires a large amount of the body’s energy. 

To facilitate the digestion process, the body directs more blood flow to the stomach and other internal organs to accomplish this work.

—This is why you would have rather opted for an afternoon snooze instead. 

Let’s have a look at what exactly happens in your body while you run with that full tummy as well as what and when you should eat to feel great during your runs…

What Happens If You Run RIGHT After Eating

Heading out for a run after eating a large meal can lead to feeling sluggish, and cramping and can give you digestive problems. 

If you have a large amount of food in your stomach running will be difficult and uncomfortable because the human body is not designed for digestion and exercise at the same time. 

Common issues people experience when running on a full stomach are cramps, stomach aches, gastrointestinal (GI) distress, and an upset digestive tract.

Some people even experience a queasy feeling when running on a full stomach…

Eating a lot of food can make you uncomfortable because the sheer volume of food can distend the stomach, which can trigger pressure receptors that tell the body when to stop eating.

In extreme cases, this discomfort can reach a point where it triggers nausea or vomiting.

Nausea Before, During, or After Your Run? Here Are 5 Reliable Ways To Prevent It

How Long Should You Wait After Eating To Run?

The length of time you should wait before exercising varies by sport and individual. Thus, you may have to experiment to find your ideal digestion period. 

Commonly, it ranges from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

The important thing is that you need to factor in your meals and snacks accordingly. 

To optimize your energy stores, we recommend eating just a pre-run snack before exercising.

Your prerun snack should be made up of simple carbohydrates and little or no fat and protein as these simple carbs are easier to digest, you may only need to wait an hour or so before heading out for a run after this type of snack.

The best way to know how much, what, and when you should be eating around your run is an experiment you need to conduct on yourself.

The above is true but there are also some guidelines you can follow.
These can be found here.

While experimenting, try choosing something light and easily digestible that your body’s familiar with like a banana with some nut butter, apple sauce, or granola.

Avoid things that are acidic or dairy-based as they have a higher chance of upsetting your stomach.

Keep a diary of what you’ve eaten before each run, how long you waited, and how you felt, that way you can compare your data over some time and this will reveal trends to help you find the right methods for your body.

Should You Eat Breakfast Before Your Morning Run? 

Yes, you should eat breakfast before your morning run… but, not everyone can. 

But it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. So if they struggle with food – a banana or glass of fruit juice will suffice for the carbs they need (and then of course need to refuel during longer runs).

Not everyone can because of individual circumstances but the idea is… yes. If you are training in the morning, you should consume something small.

After you’ve had a whole night’s sleep you will have depleted your liver glycogen stores and therefore when you wake up in the morning it is a good idea to have something small.

Running in a fasted state can have its detriments!

Some people have no issue with eating breakfast and other people struggle so if you are someone that struggles then even having just two bites of a banana and half a glass of fruit juice will be worthwhile.

I recommend running on a small piece of toast or half an energy bar…I wouldn’t use gels as they are too simple of sugar and they actually can cause rebound hypoglycemia.

Rebound hypoglycemia refers to low blood sugar that occurs after a meal — usually within four hours after eating.

If you are someone who struggles to eat breakfast before a run, then you need to compensate by making sure that most of the day you eat pretty well to make sure that your muscle glycogen stores are high.

The way you do that is by making sure you always take in something post-exercise and if you’re taking something within 15 to 20 minutes of exercise your muscle glycogen will always be high.

If you have to do high-intensity workouts then take an energy drink with you on the run or down to the track wherever you’re going to do it so that you can sip slowly on that energy during your training.

Many people are so busy and their goal is to maximize the amount of sleep they get, so when the alarm clock goes off they almost want to slip their running shoes on and head out the door immediately.

This is a great opportunity to practice your nutrition strategy for race day because as much you train during the week when races do come along… a lot of the time they require an early start.

The last thing you want to do is not be prepared or try something new on race day from a nutrition point of view…

If you’re waking up two hours before your run starts it’s an opportunity for you to test your gut and prepare your race strategy during training.

Examples of good, early morning pre-race breakfasts include:

  • Toast, or crumpets with jam, peanut butter, or Nutella (smaller amounts)
  • Porridge with peanut butter (smaller amounts), jam, fruit, and honey.
  • Fruit-based smoothie with oats in.
  • Cereal bars
  • Bowl of cereal with milk.
  • Fruit salad.
  • Rice cakes, or a bowl of rice with honey.
  • Banana with peanut butter.
  • Banana pancakes

“Should I be eating carbs?”,” Supplements… Yes or no?”, “What protein should I be eating?”,”Why am I still picking up weight???”

There are so many mixed messages & conflicting advice when it comes to nutrition for over 50-year-old runners.

All you really need is no fluff, science-based nutrition training, and relevant nutritional advice that tells you how much to eat and drink and why you need to eat and drink those certain things. 

Doing physical activity such as running brings a lot of advantages such as a lowered risk of chronic lifestyle-related diseases as well as longevity, but one of the amazing benefits that you get for free, when you train regularly is good bone health. 

Good bone health implies a little bit of strength, but also bone mineral density. Our bones support us and allow us to move. Our bones also store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, which help keep our bones strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses.

There are many things we can do to keep our bones healthy and strong…

We know that a high level of physical activity may prevent fractures; and even if it does not attenuate bone loss, it can decrease the fracture risk. 

Something everyone needs to know is that we will always lose bone…

What we’re going to look at is how we can preserve bone mass as we get older by taking advantage of the benefits we gain through physical activity. 

So, let’s break it down…

Everything You Need To Know About Bone Health

If we have a look at the bone and what it comprises, it’s 65% of minerals. Most of those minerals are Phosphorus and Calcium.  

This is the reason why aspects of your diet become more important.

Bone is also made of connective tissue. Connective tissue contains a lot of different nutrients.

This is the reason why you need to eat a large variety of foods to maintain your bone health as you get older.

Peak Bone Mass

Peak bone mass is usually achieved by the age of 30 to 35. After this age, there is a decrease in bone mass.

A decrease in bone mass means that the bone reabsorption rate is greater than the bone synthesis rate. 

  • Resorption means a decrease in bone. 
  • Bone synthesis is an increase in bone.

Bone Mass

We refer to bone mass as bone mineral density, it is basically how much mineral is in the bone & bone strength. 

Bone strength is the ability to resist the restraint that is placed on the bone, this is done with resistant training.

To have strong bones you need to minimize the risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone becomes very fragile and brittle, it basically feeds off of the bone.

Osteoporosis can increase fracture risk and affect your quality of life. 

So, what happens to our bones as we age…

In the image above, you can see the male bone progression on the yellow line and the female on the red line.

As you can see there is a period where we attain peak bone mass, then there’s a consolidation phase, and then there is that rapid loss of bone as we then pass a certain age and as I said, the activity that we do can delay the process, but it’s not going to make you build bone at the age of 50. 

In our early 20s, about 90% of our bone mass is attained. What a lot of people don’t know is that if you didn’t attain it then… then you don’t attain it ever.

That’s why our early nutrition needs to be so good. 

All we can do now is try to preserve the bone mass that we’ve got. 

If we have another look at the graph above you can see that at the age of about 30 years, that’s where we get our highest period of bone mass, then there is a decrease of 0.5% per year after we reach the age of 40.

The goal is to slow down that 0.5% decrease in bone mass each year.

Slowing down the rate at which your bone mass decreases depends hugely on what you had before you reached the age of 40, your genetics, the physical activity you do, and your hormonal status.

Bone loss happens a bit earlier and at a more drastic pace in females compared to males, this is due to a decrease in estrogen after menopause. Estrogen has a very strong protective effect on bone, so after menopause and after the drop in estrogen there will be a steep decrease in bone loss. 

The good news, as you can see in the yellow circles on the graph above is that even though bone mass will carry on decreasing, it can be slowed down through physical activity and proper nutrition. 

Let’s find out how we can maintain what we have for a longer period…

How To Support Bone Health

Key nutrients that support bone health:

  • Protein (meats, dairy, fish, eggs,) 
  • Calcium (Dairy, spinach, kale, okra, white beans)
  • Phosphorus (Dairy, meats, nuts, fish, beans)
  • Vitamin D (Fatty fish, cheese, egg yolk)
  • Magnesium (Whole grains, spinach, nuts, quinoa, avocado)
  • Zink (Meats, Shellfish, nuts, legumes)
  • Copper (nuts, shellfish, offal)
  • Boron (Fruits, nuts, lentils, beans, wine)
  • Manganese (Tea, bread, nuts, green vegetables)
  • Potassium (Banana, broccoli, parsnips, nuts)
  • Iron (Liver, meats, beans, dried fruit, leafy greens)

As well as these vitamins:

  • Vitamin K 
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins

The crux of the matter is that we have to try and include all the food groups in our daily diet. 

Bone Health & Food Variety

Dairy is extremely important because that’s the group that supplies calcium and phosphorus, which we need to consume to strengthen our bones.

We should eat fruit & vegetables daily.  A few people try not to eat fruit & veg because they are watching their carbohydrate intake but they don’t realize how important it is because of all the micronutrients veggies and fruit contain. 

Grains and starches should be eaten every day, as well as protein as it forms the matrix in which mineralization takes place. 

In a nutshell, it is so so important that we include all food groups daily.

We should strive to eat unprocessed, in-season nutrient-dense meals so that every bite counts. 

If we have to break it down and if this is all a bit too much for you to take in… just remember these 3 nutrients…

3 Main Nutrients

If we have a look at nutrition and bone health, the 3 main cornerstones are Calcium, Vitamin D, and Protein. 

You should be getting about 1000 to 13000 milligrams of Calcium per day.

Calcium in food, especially in milk is the highest and easiest to absorb. One glass of milk or one serving of dairy products is about 300 milligrams, therefore it makes sense to have 3 servings of dairy products per day to get the correct calcium intake required.

If you are following a vegan diet then…

Good sources of calcium for vegans include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage, and okra.
  • Unsweetened soy, rice, and oat drinks.
  • Calcium-set tofu.
  • Sesame seeds & tahini
  • Brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs, and dried apricots

You should be getting about 1500 to 2000 international units of vitamin D per day.

Vitamin D is not found in a lot of food, tuna or a cup of milk do contain some vitamin D but not enough, the place where you can get a substantial amount of vitamin D is from the sun.

If you live in a place that gets little sun, we recommend that you consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement.

You should be getting 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal.

The protein you consume must be high quality so that it contains over essential amino acids. 

Nutrition Recommendations To Preserve Bone

Bone Health Problems Specific To Athletes

  1. Energy Availability
  2. Low Carbohydrate Availability
  3. Protein Intake
  4. Vitamin D Intake
  5. Dermal Calcium Losses

Energy Availability

When we talk about energy availability, we look at the dietary energy intake, so how much people eat, but we deduct from that the exercise energy expenditure, not the total energy expenditure.

For example, if I take 2500 calories of energy per day, but my exercise is 1500, it means I’ve got 1000 left….that is then what we call energy availability.

If we decrease energy availability by eating way too little or if we train too hard for the amount we are eating then that will have a profound effect on our bone health.

The 1000 calories that are left need to go to physiological functions, such as the liver to work for the kidney and the skin, for the brain and the eyes… all these processes cost energy.

If there is not enough energy left then these processes are going to slow down. 

If we have continuous low energy availability… it is strongly associated with bone health, so there will be a decrease in bone formation. 

The heavier we train, the more we need to eat to fuel the activity, therefore we need to ensure we are eating enough

For women, perimenopause changes how estrogen works and then a slow decrease in estrogen until it eventually flatlines.  The decrease in estrogen will cause an increase in bone resorption, in other words, an increase in bone loss.

There are two ways in which we can enter low energy availability:

  1. Decrease in food intake and keep physical activity the same.
  2. Increasing physical activity but not increasing food intake.

Keeping in mind that the body gives preference to activities… for example, I eat 1500 calories but my energy expenditure so that’s what I train is not 1500 it is 2000.

The body will still spend that energy on training, regardless.

Estimated Energy Requirements

The estimated energy requirements for active older people must be lower because they’ve got a decrease in energy expenditure.

These are ballpark figures of estimated energy requirements according to your age group. 

Low Carbohydrate Availability

Carbohydrates have been a controversial nutrient for years… a lot of people think by cutting out their carbs they can decrease their weight… but really it’s not like that at all.

A low carbohydrate diet will increase your risk of going into a low energy availability state… if not done well. To decrease your carbohydrate intake healthily, you need to add something else to your diet to get the kilojoules that you require. 

Different studies show us that low carb availability on its own without energy availability, without that part of the equation will also affect bone and bone loss.

The provision of carbohydrates decreases the bone reabsorption rate and decreases your post-exercise bone turnover…. In other words, it is very important to consume carbohydrates. 

The carbohydrates that you consume need to be whole grain so that we increase our fiber intake. 

  • 45% to 65% of total calories OR 5-7 g/kg/d (0.08–0.1 oz/lb/d) for general training needs
  • Endurance athletes: 7 – 10 g/kg/d (0.1-0.2 oz/lb/d)
  • Ultra-endurance events: 10 g/kg/d (0.2 oz/lb/d)
  • CHO during exercise > 1 hour → 30 – 60 g CHO (1-2 oz) per hour (food or beverage)
  • CHO after hard exercise (> 90 minutes) → ↑ recovery

For athletes who train hard and daily: 

  • Immediately post-exercise period> 1.5 g/kg (0.02 oz/lb)
  • Additional CHO 2 hours later → ↑ muscle glycogen synthesis

Protein Intake 

Protein is highly important because it is the matrix in which the bone will deposit calcium and phosphorus. It is recommended that athletes consume more protein than the general population. 

Acid Ash

For a long time, there was this hypothesis called the acid ash hypothesis…

People said that if you consume extreme amounts of protein, that will cause higher acidity levels, this is true as high protein diets do cause high acidity. 

To counteract this the body must use one of its buffer nutrients like calcium to make the acidity alkaline, the body does this on its own so there is no need to take alkaline powders or any of those types of products. 

The hypothesis said that if we consume high amounts of protein, because of the acidity, the body will withdraw calcium from the bone to try and buffer the situation. 

This hypothesis is flawed in the sense that when people have higher protein intake, there was an increased amount of calcium that was absorbed from the protein intake. 

The jury’s out. It seems that protein intake might actually be beneficial for the bone because it’s an important part of the bone structure.

The indication is usually to have one to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. And then with the emphasis on the timing, to rather have a regular intake of smaller amounts of protein. 

We should try to get to about 20 to 25 grams of protein per meal that we eat, and rather have at least four to five meals per day. 

20 grams of protein equates to about 90 grams of meat or chicken or fish. The amount required is about the size of your palm.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is extremely important as we get older because as we age we become less efficient in making our vitamin D from the sun, this is because of kidney and skin functions. 

By not intaking an adequate amount of vitamin D we can experience musculoskeletal pain and a decrease in muscle strength.

The easiest way to obtain vitamin D is from the sun:

  • Moderately fair-skinned people → walk with arms exposed for 6-7 minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon in summer.
  • Bare skin exposure is feasible for 7-40 minutes at noon in winter, on most days.
  • Dark skinned, indoor training or training at low latitudes → assess vitamin D status.

Good food sources: oily fish (e.g. tuna, sardines, mackerel), cod liver oil, liver, eggs, cheese, and margarine.

  • At-risk population (Those who train indoors, who are extremely fair-skinned, those who don’t get as much sun because of where they live) → blood test to see what levels are before supplementing.

Vitamin D supplementation:

• 600IU/day for people aged <70 years.

• 800 IU/ day for people aged > 70 years.

Dermal Calcium Losses

During high volume or very prolonged exercise, especially if it’s in hot and humid conditions, there is an increased rate of sweat loss. 

There is calcium in the sweat, so therefore we have to increase what we call dermal calcium losses.

An increase in the loss of calcium means there is less calcium in the serum, in the blood.

As soon as calcium decreases in the blood, the body triggers a hormone called PTH.

The job of this hormone is to try and get calcium back into the blood, it does this by withdrawing calcium from your bone to normalize the blood levels of calcium again.

Over the long term, this can lead to a decrease in bone health.

Studies state that if you consume 1000mg of calcium before extended periods of training in hot conditions you can keep the blood calcium levels neutral.

Calcium Content of Foods:

Remember to eat enough energy, it’s important that if you go on low carbohydrate diets to understand you’re harming your bone health. 

High protein can benefit bone health but just make sure that if you consume high protein you do include some dietary calcium.

Vitamin D is important, so get into the sunlight, or have levels tested if you are unsure. 

Understand that dermal calcium losses can be important. So take calcium in around your training sessions, especially before exercise. 

If you need to supplement sometimes it’s okay because as we covered at the beginning of this article… there are a lot of nutrients involved in bone. So it does sometimes make sense that if you’re taking a supplement to take a multivitamin-mineral supplement rather than individually try and manipulate nutrients. 

Remember, the greatest at risk for a poor micronutrient status is those of us that restrict our energy intake, or that are busy applying severe weight loss practices.

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…