Pre/during run nutrition - Real food

Hey all,

I’m starting the process of training my gut to eat real food while running. Got my first 50k in November so bearing that in mind but also want to be able to have something in my stomach before/during early morning runs.

It would be good to hear your thoughts on some good introductory foods. I managed a piece of toast with dairy free butter this morning with absolutely no issues - but that was a very short/easy run. But also thinking ahead to my race, I may as well practice with what I’ll use!

Sweet potato pancakes? Home made rice cakes? Smoothies / fruit purees? I guess part of the equation is calorie density. Not so low that you need to be eating constantly and carrying it all, but not so high that you can’t process it quickly enough. Any thoughts / experiences would be appreciated!



One of my absolute favorite books on this the “Feed Zone Cookbook”. It was pulled together by Dr. Allen Lim who was tasked with fueling pro cyclists on the world stage. His recipes are awesome and are designed to get you the same nutrient load that many of the manufactured nutrition products strive for - but in real, whole food. My favorite recipes are all his different types of rice cakes (chocolate peanut coconut rice cakes, fig and honey rice cakes, cashew and bacon rice cakes, etc).

The only bit that takes a little bit of mastering is finding a way to transport the food out onto the trail. You will get pretty good at wrapping them with parchment lined aluminum foil.


I like to make bacon for my runs. I find that “bacon knots” travel well - I take a strip of bacon, cut it in half, and then keep tying the ends in knots till it’s about gumball size. Then just bake in oven at 375* for about 12-15 min depending on the desired level of crispness.

I also like to mash up all natural chunky peanut butter with raspberries or blackberries.

For longer self-supported runs, I’ve heard from friends that instant mash potatoes are great especially when the stomach is tired of sweets.


This is a great question! I used to down like 10-15 Gu/gels on ultras and eventually discovered that I hated them! You can only handle so much sweet/fruity/sour candy-like food…

A couple general guidelines –
For longer runs, focus on high carb foods.
Do your best to avoid high fiber foods…that’s a GI issue waiting to happen.
Mix in some protein – the longer you go, the more you’ll need long-lasting energy. Bursts of sugar energy are only going to get you so far.

A few specific recommendations –
Peanut butter, peanuts, chocolate, dried fruit (so kind of the components of trail mix, but I prefer to have them separately so I can customize the proportion). Experiment with nuts, though. I’ve known people that get GI issues from them.
POTATOES – Seriously. Boiled, salted potatoes are spectacular.
Fruit – mostly bananas for me, but oranges are great too
Whole oats oat meal for breakfast. I started having an oat smoothie before longer runs (15-20 miles) and honestly felt fantastic.

Finally, for emergencies, I add a swig or two of coffee along with any of the above…obviously you need to be careful of the volume though…GI issues!


Oooh, sounds like a great Book Club candidate :slight_smile:


Thanks for the book suggestion.

I think it takes practice and experimentation…

I like PB&J before. I can eat it pretty close to the start as well as mid run and tolerate it well, and it seems to be a good mix of carbs/sugar/fats to provide dense energy. Also, very plain salty snacks…crackers, pretzels, etc to add sodium and carbs that are easy to digest.

Don’t forget hydration…I prefer a hand held bottle to sip continuously rather than gulping down cups. Once you are behind, it is hard to catch up.

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Hey @SNFindlay

I just completed my first ultra on real food only. This was the best ultra race in my short running life.

I didn’t plan anything, I had isotonic drinks and gels in my backpack, but at the first refreshment station I found some cucumbers, so I said to myself “ oh, why not…?”

It felt so good that on the next refreshment station I took some tomatoes. … and it went on…

After the first 20k I just realized that 1.) my backpack was still untouched
2.) I felt stronger than ever

So I decided to take only real food. I took tomatoes, nuts, salted nuts, pickles , cheese, olives, and like anything from a proper Mediterranean cuisine :slight_smile:
I finished strong.
My backpack was put back in the car as I took in the morning.untouched .


Love this – totally agree that “real food” is preferable. Fruits and nuts/seeds have been a huge benefit in my running over the last couple years.


I love the little cutie oranges they pack well. I also make peanut butter and honey sandwich and cut it into 1/4 and snack on them. I love pickle juice and pure pressed coconut water. I have huma gels they are made with real fruit sea salt coconut water and chia seeds tastes more like real food!


This can’t be overstated. Gut absorption is compromised in dehydration.

Increasing salt intake and salt content of the sweet foods can aid in palatability especially when hydration is compromised. It blunts the sweet flavor but also the salty/sweet combo tends to generally be more preferably once you’re hours into an event.

Increasing sodium intake also aids in stimulating thirst to match water losses, better staving off the dehydration that, as mentioned above, tends to compound sweet avoidance or consumption-avoidance in general.


Very interesting…I usually have to take a lot of salt – like 1-2 pills per hour. Sounds like I should still consider raising this a little bit!

Yeah, probably can benefit from far more than that. Salt tablets have a ridiculously low amount of sodium in them. You should intake 500-1500mg per hour. If sweating heavily, definitely target the top end. Don’t exceed 1500mg per liter of water…mayyyybe 1800mg/L.

You’d have to take a salt tab like every 5 minutes for the entire duration of the activity, LOL. Maybe more often, in the case of some ridiculous products.

A couple of real foods I like are dates and sweet potatoes. I buy the baby food pouches that are “just sweet potato”. These two items have been a good way to incorporate real food that is packable and holds up in the vest for long runs or events that I will eat at mile 20 when it’s smoothed and warm.

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very cool. I bet the combo of sugar/fiber in the dates is a good way to get some energy without it being like straight candy.

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