Fueling Your Runs
Running, especially any distance greater than 5KM, requires a significant amount of time and dedication to training. With this amount of exercise comes an increased demand on your body for constant tissue repair (muscles, ligament and bone) and refuelling your energy stores. Therefore it is important to think of yourself as an athlete not just an exerciser!
What you eat before and after your training runs and your races can have a huge impact on your performance, your recovery and in turn, your improvement. Below are the top 5 questions I get about nutrition for running.
What macronutrient balance do I need for running?
Like everyone, runners require a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to adequately fuel the body. However, as runners the body is able to burn more fat as fuel than some other athletes. Avoiding fats in the diet is a very common mistake athletes will make and a sure fire way to make performance suffer. As a general rule, runners require:
- Protein: 1.0 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight per day (25% – 30% of your diet)
- Carbohydrates: 1.6 to 2.0 grams per pound of body weight per day (40% – 45% of your diet)
- Fat: 0.5 to 0.6 grams per pound of body weight per day (30% – 35% of your diet)
Is skipping breakfast impacting my morning run?
The purpose of eating before a run or a work is to fuel your body for the output it is about to endure. Studies have shown that running on an empty stomach can impact performance and increase perceived exertion. If you don’t have time to eat a full meal before your run, even a small snack such as a banana, some dried dates, a small energy bar or an energizing drink or gel can help you fuel up for the run.
How much water do I need to drink?
As a runner or an athlete your need for water increases compared to the average person given your increased fluid loss through perspiration. As a general rule, you should drink between 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of water per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would need to drink between 75 – 150 ounces of water per day. That’s between 2.5 and 4.5 litres of water. So drink up.
Do I need to use gels during my run?
If you are repping out a 30 minute cardio session on the treadmill, you will be more than fine to get through your workout. However, when you start running training distances over 1 hour in duration you’ll want to start considering fuelling your body during your run. Consuming a small amount of easily digested carbohydrates during your run will help ensure that you are fuelling your glucose stores before you ‘bonk’. As a rough guide, you want to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate an hour as this amount can be easily digested while you run. Item such as energy gels or a small handful of dried raisins or a couple of dates will do the trick.
What should I eat after my run?
Post run refuelling is almost just as important as the run itself. After pounding the pavement with your blood, sweat and tears (well, hopefully not blood and tears), you’re body is asking to be refuelled – and it’s well deserved. There are three goals to post-race nutrition: refuel, rebuild and rehydrate! After a good workout, your body is in a catabolic state; you’ve drained your fuel supplies, you’ve stressed your muscles and you’ve dehydrated yourself, so the body is in need of a little love to say the least. Lucky for you, for an hour or so after working out you’re bodies ability to absorb and utilize nutrients is exceptionally high.
The most important post-race nutrients are carbohydrates, protein, water and electrolytes. The ideal ratio for your post-workout snack or meal is a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Consuming good quality carbohydrates post workout help refuel the body, while protein helps to rebuild the muscles. Ideally you want to try and consume these nutrients within 30 minutes of your run. Packing a protein shake, protein bars or simply munching on some dried dates with almond butter will do the trick. This snack will help ensure that the body leaves that catabolic environment and gets on the path to recovery before you can have your next meal. Don’t forget to consume lots of water post-run to help rebalance proper hydration and offset the fluids lost during the race. Water should be your number one choice, however if you are out in the heat for a long duration of time an electrolyte drink, or a little fresh fruit juice mixed with lots of water, can help replenish that electrolyte balance.