The right nutrition can mean the difference between an energised stride and a laboured plod, but food is often treated as an afterthought for many runners. What you put in your mouth the night before, the morning of, during and even after your run has the potential to seriously impact your performance. So, if you want to get the most out of your running then take some time to consider our tips below and tell us if you notice the difference!
Prep, prep, prep
Half the battle when it comes to nutrition is finding the time to prepare tasty meals that tick all of the boxes. It can be so tempting to pop into the chippy and grab a takeaway when you’re busy. Plan before you hit the supermarket and set aside an hour on a quiet Sunday to cook some meals you can keep in the fridge or freezer for lunches or dinners on the run.
Gimme all the snacks
Little and often is the mantra for runners with an active lifestyle. It will help to keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel and ensure you have enough fuel in the tank for your run no matter when you can fit it in. Keep some healthy snacks handy – those with decent carbohydrate and protein levels are best. Some of our favourites include a banana with a dollop of peanut butter, wholegrain crackers with avocado or cheese, oat biscuits or blueberries and almonds with a low-fat yogurt.
Water is a non-negotiable for runners and we don’t mean just having a water bottle at the ready once you’re finished. You need to be drinking enough water throughout the day, as by the time you’re dehydrated it’s often too late to fix before you exercise. If you’re running for less than an hour, water will suffice. Any more than an hour and you could benefit from an electrolyte drink. Everybody’s different when it comes to optimal water intake, so it pays to do a bit of trial and error. But as a general rule of thumb, you should aim to drink half an ounce (app. 14mls) per pound that you weigh.
Keep it real
Aim to get all of your daily nutrients and minerals from food, before you think about taking a supplement. Unless you’re really struggling to eat enough protein or have a true deficiency you simply cannot remedy with food, then supplements should be an optional addition to your diet, rather than a staple. Save yourself some money and spend it on a new medal instead!
What you eat after a run is just as important as what you eat before. You want to repair your muscles and replace the energy you’ve lost so you feel rearing to go again the next day. You have a 30-minute window after your run to get protein back into your muscles to do that all-important repair work and research shows the magic number is 20 grams. One to two hours afterwards you should aim to have a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein to top up your energy stores.
Train as you race
The secret to avoiding race day digestion issues is to practice your diet as well as your running. Avoid eating new and exotic foods ahead of race day and stick with foods you know will sit well in your stomach and power you through your run. It’s worthwhile keeping notes during your training so you learn which foods correlate with your best performances and which foods don’t.