• Helen Phillips

Avoid the Blasted Bonk! ... How to Eat Right for Your Long Run


We've all been there, out on a sunny Sunday long run. You're getting some miles in training for a race, jogging along maybe listening so music or the birdsong on the breeze. Life is good!

Then, suddenly, almost out of the blue, you want to stop. Not go slower ... stop ... you just can run any further.

You change to an upbeat track or turn left to avoid the hill ahead ... but it's no good ... you're out. You're out of gas and can't run any further.

If this is familiar you're struggling with your long runs, wanting to give up half way around, read on to understand why we bonk on runs and for my energy for tips to fuel your long slow runs, to ... Avoid the Blasted Bonk!

What's going on?

When you run long and slow your body burns fat for fuel. It's a bit like a candle ... you need the wick (carbs) to burn the wax (fat)!

Whilst we've all got enough fat to fuel us pounding the pavements for a very long time, your body is only able to store enough carbs (in the form of glycogen, stored in your liver and muscles) for about 90 minutes of running.

When you bonk, hit the wall or run out of gas in a long run, that's the point that your body runs out of glycogen which is needed to burn fat.

Fuel Up First

My first tip to beat the dreaded bonk is to fuel up before heading out to maximise your glycogen stores.

The evening before a long run, eat a meal high in carbs, such as pasta, rice or potato, have more carbs for breakfast and maybe a banana or sports drink before you head out.

Check out some of my Cheesecake Runner recipes for ideas for carb focused pre long run meals.

Macaroni Cheese My Way!

Perfect Pizza

Pea & Ham Risotto

Refuel on the Run

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts at pigging out on pasta, your body can still only store enough carbs in your muscles and liver for about 90 minutes of running.

Once your stored carbs are used you'll be running on empty. Struggling to continue, you brain playing tricks, you'll be in pain and wishing the wind would do one!

So if you're out for an endurance epic you'll going to need to refuel on the run.

For Long Run Success Get Used to Eating whilst Exercising

Try out energy gels, they're gloopy and sweet, but designed for the job. If they don't work how about energy chews, blocks and powders, jelly babies, gummy bears, and bananas.

You're going to need sugar ... now's not the time for fibre, fat or protein. Pure, easy to digest simple sugar is what the body needs, so it can get energy to your muscles quickly where it's needed to power your performance.

Top up Your Tank Before it Runs Dry

And don't wait for your energy levels to run low before you top up your tank.

It takes a while for sugars to be digested, transported to your muscles to be used as fuel.

Start eating about 30 - 60 minutes into your run and keep refuelling every 30 - 60 minutes, to keep stores high.

If you're out on a long run you'll need about 100 - 250 calories or 1 - 2.5 gels of fuel per hour.

Taking them early, even when you're still feeling full of energy. This will give your gut time to digest the gels and get you refuelled for running.

If you want to learn more about how to master long runs, including tips for pacing and recovery, get my FREE Long Runs Made Easy guide by clicking here.