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I'm planning to train for longer distance races (first a 10k, then a half-marathon), and I was wondering about the detrimental effects of eating at irregular intervals during the day.

Having just started a graduate program, I find it increasingly difficult to eat regular meals. In the last weeks or so I get most of my food in the evening (after 8pm), constantly skipping breakfast and/or lunch.

My question therefore is, how important is the timing of your meals during the day ? (assuming that the total food intake per day is healthy and adequate). Also, given an irregular eating schedule, what food groups work best (to salvage the situation) ?

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It partially depends on when you're going to run. If you're doing the majority of your training in the morning, then you might have enough fuel in your system from dinner to get through it. However, if you then don't eat until dinner, you won't be giving your body anything to recover with. According to this article:

After running, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.

Additionally, if you're putting in the kind of mileage that you'll need to train for a half marathon, you'll be burning a lot of extra calories a day. You might not be able to make up for that deficit with just one meal, so you might end up feeling really weak.

As for your second question, I can't speak as to what you should eat in order to make up for irregular meals, but in general you should have a good mix of lean protein, complex carbs, and fruits and veggies. Here's a good link that gives information on what to eat as a runner.

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