Running and Nutrition
Running and Nutrition
There is an abundance of information about what to eat and drink whilst running which can make it difficult to know where to start. I will try and break it down and give you some basic guidelines to follow and also share from personal experience about what has worked for me.
Let’s just say from the outset there is no one nutrition product that will magically make you run faster if you haven’t done the training. Putting in the hard miles consistently in training is vital. Also, what you are putting in to your body the rest of the time also plays a big part, along with getting enough rest and recovery. Nutrition is just one piece of the jigsaw to being the best runner you can be.
If we think about what we should eat and drink let’s break it down to what to consume pre-run, during the run, and post-run. Remember these are guidelines, we are all built differently and so you will need to experiment and find what works best for you. Also, other factors like the intensity and length of the workout, the temperature, and how much we sweat all need to be considered.
It is important to stay hydrated from when we first wake up to when we go to bed but even more so if we are planning on participating in any activity. Water is good but if you are planning on going for a run then a drink with electrolytes is even better. Electrolytes are minerals found in your blood that help regulate and control the balance of fluids in the body. These minerals play a role in regulating blood pressure, muscle contraction and keep your system functioning properly. The right amount of electrolytes in your body is needed for optimal health and physical performance.
Depending on how long you are planning to run then a snack may be required. For runs up to an hour in length then a snack of 100-300 calories, 1-2 hours before a run should be sufficient. For longer runs then you may need to consider taking on 300-500 calories, 1-2 hours before you run.
During the run:
This will depend on the length and intensity of the run. For runs up to 30 minutes or low intensity efforts you probably don’t need to consume anything. Running for 30-60 minutes and you may wish to take an electrolyte drink, although I can get by on runs up to an hour without anything. For higher intensity or longer efforts then we definitely want to be taking on some fuel and this can be from a range of sources – drinks, gels, chews. As a guide we want to be thinking of consuming 60g of carbohydrate and 200 calories per hour. A drink with electrolytes will also help promote hydration and will contribute to your carb and calorie intake. Tailwind Endurance Fuel for example mixes with water and meets all your calorie, hydration, and electrolyte needs, providing 25g of carbs and 100 calories per serving. Gels are an easy and convenient way to stay fuelled. A Torq energy gel is a naturally flavoured hypertonic gel with a silky-smooth melt-in-the-mouth texture and provides 30g of carbs with some great tasting flavours. But with gels you need to experiment to find ones that you like the taste and consistency of and that sit well once consumed. They all vary greatly so allow some trial and error to find the right one for you. Personally, I now prefer to go for gels made with 100% natural ingredients as I like to know what I am putting in to my system. Also, some products come with caffeine and I do love a caramel macchiato caffeine gel from Gu Energy which gives me an instant lift. Caffeine can give you a much-needed extra boost at the end of a race or long run effort.
When thinking of staying hydrated one of the the best ways to know how much to drink is to do a sweat test, as the rate at which we sweat varies so much in each person. As a rule we don’t want to lose more than 2-3% of body mass as a result of sweat loss. Training Peaks has a good guide on how to calculate your own sweat rate:
It is essential to practice what you consume in training. This is the place to find what works and what doesn’t. It’s definitely not recommended to try something new in a race and have a bad gut reaction!
Recovery starts as soon as you finish a run or race. Hard racing depletes muscle glycogen stores, causes muscle damage and results in fluid loss. Your recovery nutrition should therefore focus on both carbohydrate and protein intake to replenish muscle glycogen and repair muscle damage. A convenient way to kick start this is with a carbohydrate and protein drink mix within 30 minutes of finishing. Tailwind Rebuild is the first recovery drink based on a complete protein. Nothing repairs your muscles more efficiently and restores your energy faster. I love a protein shake after a long run whilst spending a good 10-15 minutes stretching. This definitely helps set me up to be ready for the next run. After this quick post-run fix you then want to follow this up with a carbohydrate based meal 2-3 hours post run. Also, make sure you’re still taking on fluids to replenish your hydration.
Nutrition is a vast topic and we have only touched the surface, but these are good basic principles to start with. But do consider it an important part of your training as it can make all the difference and ensure you are performing to the best of your ability. Running Form has a great selection of nutrition products including taster packs that will meet all the needs described above. If you want more info or advice on your own nutrition or running then please get in touch. I am a running and nutrition coach and a vastly experienced marathon runner.