Those who have raced, are into running, or any sort of physical activity can tell you that any activity has a co-dependent relationship with food. And why not? Food is your fuel, your gasoline for your engine! If you put premium in your tank you’ll perform better that if you put regular!
One thing I have been asked lately is what to eat before a run. This is a loaded question, as it really depends on your body chemistry and how you digest certain foods, but I can definitely provide some tried and true guidelines and how to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ll also go over what to have after a run as recovery is just as important as any activity you do.
So here we go.
First off, become friends with carbohydrates. They serve a valuable purpose here and runners are not known for following the Atkins diet so get over your fear of carbs.
In the most basic terms (since I am no doctor/nutritionist/trainer/certified in anyway that relates to physical activity, I’m just a girl who’s done a lot of it and researched a bunch), when you exercise you use up energy (glycogen), so you want to give yourself some of that in the form of simple, easy to digest carbohydrates within enough time to use that energy, but not too soon after so your body’s effort is being put into digesting instead of running.
Typically 100-150 calories about 30-60 minutes prior to a run is a good idea to start. Obviously the more you eat, the longer it takes to digest so it’ll take some experimenting to find what works for you.
Here is what I like to eat before a run:
- 2 tbsp chia seeds soaked in water
- rice cake with almond butter
- 3/4-1 cup of sweet potatoes
- 3/4-1 cup of white rice
- Beet fudge
- A Lara Bar (or other fruit based bar)
- Honey Stingers (mostly when I do more taxing workouts like speed drills or long runs)
- Oatmeal (occasionally)
Since my digestive system likes to make things difficult for me, I don’t often ingest but would also be a good idea to try:
- Peanut butter
I have purposely avoided packaged foods like granola bars, because those are so full of processed crap that I believe that although they give you great energy (due to the amount of sugar in them), they’re really not good for you at all. Don’t be fooled, Nature’s Valley doesn’t really have anything to do with nature or natural foods.
So like I said before, refueling is just as important. You need to refill your glycogen stores and repair those muscles you used while running, so you will need some carbohydrates but also some protein (for muscle building and repair).
Unless you can have a balanced meal directly after a run, it’s good to have a snack of protein and carbs within 30 minutes, then a larger meal within an hour or so. So sometimes I have a snack right after, shower and cook then eat something larger.
My tried and true post-run snacks:
- 2 eggs and a banana or some yams
- Protein shake (Chocolate Vega Performance Protein + coconut water + coconut or almond milk = BEST THING EVER)
- Meatballs (I always crave these after a long run, don’t know why)
- Smoothie (banana, almond butter, spinach, blueberries and some non-dairy milk is my jam)
- My chia seed concoction from above
- Some chicken and yams
So yeah, that’s generally what I do before and after a run. Keep in mind, that fueling for longer runs is slightly more complicated, as longer runs require water, electrolytes and sometimes more simple carbs to keep you going. Here’s my breakdown for length of runs and how I fuel:
- Runs under 1 hour – follow snack rules, only bring water if it’s really hot out or on treadmill
- 1-1.5 hours – follow snack rules, bring water, electrolytes if it’s hot (sweat more = lose more salt)
- 1.5-2 hours – bring one small bottle of water, one small one of electrolytes (I rock one of these). Start with electrolytes after 1 hour passes. Bring a gel just in case.
- 2+ hours – water and gels NOTE I only drink plain water with the gels, not an electrolyte mix because you gotta keep those sugars balanced. You don’t want the scale swinging too far in either direction.
So there you have it! Feel free to shoot me any questions!
And since this is March 14 (aka PI DAY!) and about 1:59 (so it’ll be 3.14159 :D) I will leave you with some pictures of my favorite race tradition, PRE and POST RACE PI(E) TIME!!