Over the years, I have experimented with eating a lot of different things before a long run.
Usually, I can make it through anything 10 miles or less without really worrying about what to eat beforehand, but I like to plan it out if I’m gonna be longer than an hour or so.
First of all, I think it’s important to note that in training, you should limit the amount of mid-run fuel for any workout under around 2 hours. I say this because I believe it will actually not help your performance when it comes time to race.
The way I see it – you don’t want your body to always rely on a constant external energy source. There is a lot to be said for letting your glycogen stores deplete completely. You want to train your body to be used to running on empty, because I think this will ultimately force your body to burn fat more efficiently and in turn increase your running economy (think about how much more fat stores you have compared to glycogen). Then on race day, you can eat something half-way through and have a better response.
That being said, I like to test the waters a couple times during a 20 miler or something to figure out what will have the best effect when it comes time for competition.
My favorite mid-race fuel? Honey packets. I used to be a big advocate of GU, but I prefer my sugar to come from a more natural source these days.
As for before hand.. A couple hours before a race or a long hard workout, sweet potatoes all the way. with almond butter and cinnamon on top – YUM. sometimes i even throw some honey on in there if I’m feelin’ real naughty.
Then When I’m about to walk out the door, Dates are my go-to. I like to take a few dates, fold some almonds in there and swish it around with water. It almost tastes like a larabar or something and I can immediately feel the energy boost.
I’d love to know what works for other people because i’m all about experimenting:)