Running fuel – do I eat before I run? Do I eat during my run, what on earth to eat after a run!
A few people have asked about running nutrition/ hydration so I thought I would write a quick blog!
Before I start, I just wanted to mention that all for me, the most important thing with nutrition for running is to find what works for you. Try things out, fuel your body in different ways perhaps – and when you feel you have something that works, stick with it and definitely do not change this come race day!
Let’s start with the carb loading versus a higher fat diet and, something in all honesty I am more experienced with more carbs. Generally speaking with running, we are told to carb load in the lead up to a race or even building up to a weekly long run to fuel the body. Personally, I usually use carbs as my main source of fuel in the lead up to a race/longer run, however, I am currently making an effort to change this a little – go for a higher fat diet.
The argument towards a higher fat diet would be that fat provides a slower release energy which would perhaps be better for long distance runs. Carbs can often leave you feeling bloated and can be used quickly. I’m not saying to go tee total, just to perhaps add more fat into your meals, alongside a smaller amount of carbs (if you have been carb loading). For me, this will be a testing phase and I am likely to notice that my energy levels initially drop, as my body is used to carbs. This is all food for thought (pardon the pun) and I have time to trial out a little over the next couple of months.
Anyway, below is some info from me on ways I usually fuel my body – for me, what I eat always depends on the intensity and duration of my run.
For example, on a Tuesday am, I often train fasted, with hill sprints or maybe a 10K run first thing. I like to go into this session feeling kind of light and Energised. So I make sure that on the Monday night I have a decent meal – a jacket potato, chicken and greens for example. Then I wake up Tuesday and will maybe have a banana or an apple first thing.
This gives me enough fuel to complete the session efficiently. Post session, give it an hour and I’m really hungry so a bowel of protein oats is on the menu – this will help to restore glycogen levels and re fuel my body. For me, I will have a scoop of whey protein, alongside some rolled oats (I have a large bowel so about 100-120 grams).
With the Tuesday morning session, this is quite a taxing so I find that I am hungry throughout the day due to the session intensity – 2 further meals over the course of the day. Lunch time would maybe be a chicken stir fry and then dinner steak, sweet potato fries and vegetables.
So the other run I wanted to talk about was my long run – I usually do one long run per week, often on a Sunday. Once I have reached the 8 mile distance, I ensure I have something more substantial in the morning before running – perhaps a porridge with a banana or avocado on toast. With this, I would suggest allowing an hour or 2 to digest – more of you feel you need but over time your body will get used to eating before running.
This is then also key as I build miles week on week to fuel dependent on distance and also how I feel – at times, in training and on race days, I will be out running for 2, 3 up to 4 plus hours – which is a long period of time…!
The general rule, for me, is to use whole foods as much as possible. These will give you a longer lasting energy source, rather than a quick fix gel or energy drink that should be used as an emergency source, if you like. If you can, take some nuts or a banana, for during your run and then, use a gel for the final push perhaps.
The concern with using gels too much and too early would be that your body would get used to them – the pick up would not be as significant and you would quickly lose energy again. However, there is a place for gels/energy drinks, personally, I set a goal in my run to not use the gels until this point. Perhaps it will be the last couple of miles of a 16 mile training run or from mile 12 have one and then again at mile 14. Use sparingly when you can and if you can get some wholefoods whilst running, this would be more useful.
So straight after your run aim to have some water straight away, allow 20 mins and then have some more. Try this, rather than going straight for a sugary drink – you will be dehydrated so keep it simple. Perhaps also a snack before a large meal – Peanut Butter perhaps with an apple or something.
Then, make sure you re fuel with a decent meal consisting of whole foods. This will not only restore your bodies glycogen levels but also help to refuel the muscles and aid recovery. The meal should be nutrient dense full of goodness! Should eat within a couple of hours of a long run.
If yo feel like you are not recovering well after a long run for your next session, perhaps look at increasing portion sizes or add in some snacks to your day to give you some extra fuel.
Another point would be to check in with your race – see what they have around the course on the day. Sweets? Flap jack? Etc – you will feel better for knowing and can then use this in practice runs.
Ultimately, with all of this the key will be to do what works for you and also if you haven’t had gels in the build up to a race don’t suddenly do 10 of them on race day (I’ve seen someone very sick, green sick to be precise from doing this – apologies)!
Anyway, I hope you found this useful. Would love to hear any feedback if you have any or if you have any extra tips please send them to me!
Happy run-fuelling 🙂