Nutrition for Runners: FAQ

What does a nutrient look like?
Based on my description in the Dumb Summary, a nutrient looks something like this:

  A NUTRIENT (ARTIST'S CONCEPTION), BY DUMB RUNNER

A NUTRIENT (ARTIST'S CONCEPTION), BY DUMB RUNNER

Why is his right leg atrophied?
Shut up.

I run early in the morning. Is it OK to run on an empty stomach? 
Sure, usually. If you try it and it's awful, next time try having a little smackerel of something first. You'll figure it out. 

How often do I need to fuel during a long run?
Did you really just say "fuel"?

OK, how often to I need to eat during a long run?
Depends on the length of the run, and what you had to eat the night before and morning of, and lots of other things, including your own gut. Some folks are able to "eat and run." Others, not so much. Dumb Runner used to take gels and stuff during long runs and marathons. But we gradually gave those up years ago, and the sky didn't fall. Today when we do a long run, we have a drink now and then – more when it's hot, obviously – and that's usually it. During a marathon we will gladly accept gummy bears or other bite-sized sugar-delivery vehicles.

There are no scientific formulas to answer questions like this, by the way, despite what you might hear elsewhere. And store-bought Sports Nutrition Products the Sales of Which People Wearing Slacks and Polo Shirts Discuss in Conference Rooms™ won't necessarily work any better or any worse than gummy bears, or whatever you happen to like. Experiment. Find what works for you.

I'm confused by all the sports drinks out there. Which one is best?
Dumb Runner has nothing against sports drinks. They have saved our butt more than once, and we can't imagine running a marathon without them. That said, we usually just drink water. Or, if we're taking a bottle on a long run, a 50/50 mix of water and whatever fruit juice is in the fridge, with a pinch of salt. You might try that.

This advice brought to you by BRAWNDO: The Thirst Mutilator. "It's got electrolytes."

Do I need to carbo-load before a marathon?
Nah. Just eat what you would normally eat the night before a long run. And don't overdo it. Packing every available cavity with rotini is not a shrewd move the night before a race.

Does caffeine really act as a diuretic, making you pee more and raising your risk of becoming dehydrated?
Short answer? No. The next time you hear someone asserting that, you have Dumb Runner's permission to dump fresh-ground French roast down the back of his shirt.

Do I need to take a multivitamin?
No.

Even just as an "insurance policy"?
No.

Can I stop worrying about how many grams of protein I should consume every day, and what the hell a "gram of protein" even looks like, and what carbs/protein/fat ratio I should be aiming for, and instead just try to eat a reasonably varied diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and sometimes a Boston cream doughnut, and really try to enjoy my food, and stop eating when I feel full?
Yes.

Do you have a question about nutrition that's not addressed on this page? Ask it on our Submit a Question page and we'll do our best to help you out.