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Nutritional Fundamentals for a Long Run

Proper hydration is just one part of preparing for a long run.
Proper hydration is just one part of preparing for a long run.

Running is an individual sport. At no point does the defense take the field while the offense goes back to the drawing board. But there's a battle going on, just the same, whether you're a newbie, a middle of the packer or an elite. It's just that the warring sides are working internally.

There's the part of you that pushes on further and faster or, perhaps, simply toward better fitness. Then there's the part that tries to hold you back and bring your progress to a halt. Poor nutrition before a lengthy excursion is a prime example.

Your best nutritional defense is to avoid foods that cause intestinal distress, or to avoid lacing up those running shoes with an empty stomach altogether. To power your internal offense, you need fuel that burns efficiently while providing the longest-lasting power possible.

We call them fundamentals because they're far more than minor tweaks to a successful running lifestyle. They're prime components of training. Yes, training -- proper nutrition is something you practice. It's a discipline that pays short- and long-term dividends that go far beyond mental tricks and Hollywood motivation. As former marathon world record holder Juma Ikangaa once said, "The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare" [source: Will-Weber].

Click ahead to learn about nutritional pitfalls to avoid, foods that'll make your feel stronger for a longer period of time and the methods you can use to actually teach your body to burn calories more efficiently. With the defense and offense working properly, your team-of-one will have a much better chance of winning, regardless of the goal.