Fueling Your Run

Fueling Your Run


Many times, runners like to live by the numbers. Distance, time splits, how long to rest and when to eat are all examples that keep the number game strong. While tracking of these statistics are important for improving strength, performance and recovery, the quality of your nutrition will also have an impact on your running success. By eating the right foods at the right times, “your body will recover and be able to perform the way you want it to,” says Lauren Antonucci, R.D., a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition and director of Nutrition Energy. “Plus, you’ll reduce your chance of injury and illness.”

Contrary to popular belief, it’s NOT all about carbs when it comes to performance and recovery for runners. Because running is very demanding on the body, it’s also critical to fuel your body with protein (Learn more about the importance of amino acids in your wellness regimen in this article.), healthy fat, vitamins and minerals. Specifically, fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, flax oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, butter (real, quality) and oily fish (ex. Salmon and tuna) aid in recovery, regulation of body temperature, absorption of nutrients, and act as a joint lubricant and another energy source in your body.

While it’d be great if it were as easy as “eat a banana 30 minutes before your run”, fueling your run (and workout) is more complex than that. Glycogen stores, insulin levels, duration and intensity of the workout all play a role; everyone is different. It is, however, valuable to notice that the length of your run and the energy expended during it is proportionate to the amount of fuel your body will require and ultimately how much you’ll need to eat in the time surrounding your workout. This holds true for any physical work you put your body through whether it be day-to-day living or workouts. For example, a short, easy run will require less fuel compared to a long, endurance type event or high intensity training. Makes sense, right?

Here are some suggestions on how to fuel in the time surrounding your workout based on duration and intensity of your run:

Duration and Intensity of Run: Short, Slow Pace. Example: Light jog first thing in the morning for 30-45 mins.

What to Eat: The timing (first thing in the morning) and type of run will tap into your glycogen and water stores from the day prior. Therefore, assuming you had a substantial dinner the night before. You will just need to bring a form of hydration for during your workout.

The same goes for runs later in the day. Your body will tap into its stored glycogen, so fueling within an hour prior or even during isn’t a necessity. A meal 2-3hrs prior to your workout with complex carbs, protein and healthy fat will suffice for your energy needs.

Example Meal: (If in the morning, this is a great dinner option for the night before. If later in the day, this is a good option 2-3 hrs prior to run.) Veggies (Carbs, vitamins, minerals): Salad with mixed greens, watercress, spinach, carrot, beet, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumber (as long as it’s a vegetable and it’s colourful, throw it in – they’re all carbs!). Protein: Wild salmon steak, chicken or turkey breast. Fat: Half an avocado. Additional Carbs: ½ Cup rice, whole grain pasta, or one medium, baked sweet potato.

Duration and Intensity of Run: Speed Work (Ex. Moderate-High Effort Tempo Runs, High Intensity Sprints, and/or Runs lasting more than an hour at a moderate-High pace).

What to Eat: Depending on your size, and how long before your run you’re eating, taking in 200 to 400 calories of easily digestible carbs 2-3 hrs prior to your run, such as quinoa porridge, oatmeal or sprouted bread with nut butter is a way to guarantee your body will have back up stores of glycogen once your initial stores are zapped. In addition, performance has been shown to increase when by replenishing your fast-twitch muscles (which are what’s primarily used during high intensity intervals/sprints) with a sports drink or gels between intervals (Note: Be CAREFUL with the ingredients in these products. You want to make sure you’re feeding your body QUALITY ingredients – Try to minimize additives, preservatives, etc.)

Example Meal:

Protein/Fat: Eggs (2-3) scrambled with diced tomatoes and a handful of spinach in coconut oil. Carbs: Half a cup of oatmeal with a sliced banana and cinnamon.

Duration and Intensity of Run: Long, Endurance Training or Race

What to Eat: Your body will benefit the most by allowing it to fully digest an entire meal with healthy fats, protein and more complex carbs three or four hours before you attack a lot of miles. If eating that far in advance isn’t practical (i.e. for early morning runners) just have that meal an hour or two ahead of the run. If your meal is closer to your run, adjust accordingly by including more easily digestible carbs, such as a banana with peanut butter and a high-calorie sports drink. Hydration and fuel DURING your run is almost more important in this case. Aiming for an intake of between 150 and 300 calories per hour during extra-long runs— gels, sports drinks, or other snacks you can carry and your body can handle during a run.

(See Example Meal for Low Intensity runs, but add more carbohydrates or fats as a fuel source.)

The Unfit List

Keep in mind, fats (the bad kind), fibrous and processed foods have the potential to hinder your performance due to the body’s inability to easily digest them. While some of these items may be nutritionally worthwhile, be careful of the timing of the foods. It’s suggested to avoid items your body isn’t used to, especially 24 hours before a noteworthy training day or race. Here are some to be weary of:

-Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)

-High-fat cheese

-Bran cereals

-Sugar-free or “diet” snacks and beverages

-Deep-fried foods

-Fatty meats

Do you like to train in the morning or afternoon/evening? How does that affect your meal decisions? What’s your favorite pre-run meal or snack?

-Health & Wellness Coach
Michelle C.


Resources: https://womensrunning.competitor.com/2013/07/race-tips/on-your-mark-get-set-eat_14107/6#6IpYLd7vfqWk88Hd.97