We plan our runs, our programs, our races, but do you plan what you eat before a run? Maybe you do or maybe you grab something quickly before running out the door? One thing is for certain, to run well you need to fuel your body.
Obviously you will have different fuelling needs based on the type of run you are doing and the time of day. Personal fueling needs are different for everyone but here are three of the reasons why I always like to eat before a run…..
#1 I don’t know about you, but I wake up starving! My number one reason for eating before running is to settle my stomach, which would nag me the whole run if I didn’t eat.
#2 The food fuels the muscles. It sounds simple and there is a lot of science to support it. I cannot expect the best from my body without giving it fuel.
#3 I have low blood sugar levels so I require food to ensure my blood sugar levels are sustained.
You might be agreeing with me now, but shaking your head saying “yes, all good in theory, but eating before a run upsets my stomach”. I know that fuelling up too much or the wrong way can give me stomach upsets, cramps and headaches, not to mention the nausea that occurs when you are running! That is why over the years I have experimented with different foods eaten at different times prior to the run.
Here are a few of my top foods with extra notes from Margaret Mielczarek (accredited practicing Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist and Sports Dietitian) Can you please link in Marg’s website here…..
Toast with nut butter:
This is my favourite. Readily available, easy to make, easy to consume.
What Marg says…. ‘A couple of slices of toast with nut butter is the perfect pre-run glycogen top-up. The aim of the pre-run meal is to top up your glycogen stores to make sure you’re fuelled and ready to run, particularly if the run is long (>90minutes) and if it’s a key session. Aim for about 40g carbohydrates 1-2 hours before the run – 2 slices of toast with nut spread will provide about that.
Bananas are packed with many wonderful things our bodies need. I can consume a banana even 5 minutes before a run without a stomach upset – LOVE bananas.
What Marg says…. Another perfect pre-run snack. A banana pre-run will not only provide you with carbohydrates (~20g carbohydrate, depending on the size of the banana) and potassium, which helps to prevent muscle cramps.
This might seem silly, but it is important to hydrate for your run long before the run actually starts.
What Marg says… Yes, this is especially true when running in warmer climates or if you have a high sweat rate (sweat rates vary between individuals). Try to begin each exercise session in fluid balance by drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to the training session.
Dehydration can cause a decline in performance. In fact performance is reduced when you’ve lost fluid equal to 2% of body weight (so for a 60kg athlete that’s 1.2kg weight loss, which is equal to approximately 1.2L fluid loss). Any more fluid loss, above 2%, will usually result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and other gastro-intestinal problems during exercise.
During exercise your body requires sufficient blood flow to your muscles, to supply your muscles with oxygen and other substrates, and to your skin, to convert heat to the body surface, where it will be evaporated, cooling your core body temperature. Being dehydrated usually means a decrease in blood plasma volume, which in turn compromises the blood flow to you skin, reducing your body’s capacity to cool itself during prolonged exercise. An increase in core body temperature and heart rate will cause you to feel fatigued, will increase your perception of how hard it is to exercise and will ultimately lead to impaired exercise capacity and performance.
Fluid requirements vary between individuals, and it’s important to acknowledge that it is possible to drink too much before and during exercise. To know how much fluid you need before, during and after exercise contact your local Sports Dietitian for advice and to develop a personalized fluid plan.
Handful of cashews:
Cashews are when I’m in a REAL rush and not overly hungry. They are always washed down with water
I can only really enjoy a coffee if it is a good hour before my long run. Coffee consumption is such a personal thing – it depends on how your body works/reacts with the caffeine.
What Marg says… Caffeine is rapidly absorbed and transported around the body and has been shown to enhance performance in a variety of sports, including endurance sports, like running. The main way it does this is by reducing an athlete’s perception of fatigue.
However, the effects of caffeine differ between individuals. Some people may experience negative side effects when consuming caffeine, such as tremors, increased heart rate, headaches and poor sleep. These side effects may negatively impact on sports performance.
Caution is warranted when using caffeine in an attempt to boost performance and a small-moderate amount of caffeine is generally advised.
How much caffeine is beneficial? Research is limited but exercise benefits from caffeine occur at small-moderate levels of intake (1-3mg/kg or 60-180mg caffeine for a 60kg athlete; so approximately 1 standard cup of coffee), taken before and/or during exercise. Beyond this level of intake, research shows no further performance benefits. For more on caffeine click here.
Apples, yogurt and oatmeal (I love my Oatmeal jumbles – see recipe here)
I always like to eat the same food/s before a long run that I intend on eating race morning, that way the body is used to working with those fuels. My next race is overseas, so I have already considered what foods I will have available and I know that I will be able to take my “standard breakfast” with me for race morning.
There are plenty of rules out there that can help you calculate how many grams of carbohydrates you should eat per kilogram of your body weight before a workout. I would suggest you check out the AIS website for further information.
If you are taking your running training rather seriously and/or you are trying a few different things with no luck, I would strongly recommend you go and see a sports nutritionist.
May all your muscles be fuelled wonderfully with no stomach upsets!