By Rachel Eagleton
Nutrition for Runners
You’ve got your shoes and some new gear but now the important question - what should you eat and drink before and after your run?
BEFORE YOUR RUN
Start your run properly hydrated, a good sign is pale, straw-coloured pee. This doesn’t mean a big glass of water right before your run, instead try to drink throughout the day.
A popular myth is that exercising on an empty stomach means that your body burns more fat. It is true that a higher proportion of the energy burned will be from fat, however exercising on an empty stomach often means you burn fewer calories overall because working out with lower energy is likely to produce a less intense workout. So, for most sessions I recommend eating before you run.
The food you eat and drink before exercising helps you:
• Fuel and hydrate your body for the session
• Achieve the most out of your session by being able to train harder for longer
• Avoid getting hungry during the session!
Ideally you should aim to have a meal 3-4 hours before your workout or a small snack 1-2 hours beforehand. Everyone is different with what they like to eat and what agrees with their stomach. In general, your pre-exercise meal or snack should be:
- Rich in carbohydrate to top-up your fuel stores
- Low in fibre, especially if you have a sensitive tummy
- Easy to digest – avoid foods overly high in fat as these are slow to digest
Some ideas are:
- Small bowl wholegrain cereal or oats with yoghurt and fruit
- Wholemeal toast with sliced banana and nut butter
- Raisin toast with honey
- Fruit smoothie
Caffeine is a AIS Group A supplement, which means it’s proven to work and safe to use. Taking caffeine decreases your rate of perceived effort. This means exercise ‘feels’ easier and as a result, you perform better. For some people caffeine can be a gut irritant. A convenient option is Revvies energy strips. Orally absorbed caffeine, like Revvies, may eliminate gut complaints while still providing performance benefits.
It can be tricky to get your fuel in before a run at the crack of dawn. However, a small snack can make a big difference to your energy levels during the workout. Try to have something before you leave the house like a banana or 1/2 a fruit smoothie, or even just a couple of dates. A Revvies strip can also provide that boost to get out the door. They are absorbed in 5 minutes, rather than waiting one hour for coffee to kick in!
A lunch time workout is a great idea and will fire you up for the afternoon. Have a decent breakfast with carbohydrate and protein and then a small snack mid-morning to ensure that you’re fuelled up and ready to go at lunchtime. Again I find Revvies strips helpful here, the lower 40mg dose is less likely to cause sleep disturbances later.
After work workout
This is typically a time where energy levels drop off and all you can think about is dinner. Motivating yourself to go for a run is hard enough after a full day of work, but being hungry makes it much harder. Having a decent lunch and then a small snack before you head for your run after work is really important in making sure you don’t end up heading home to the couch instead!
Ultimately, it’s important to find a routine that works for you that you can stick to long term. This will depend on what time of day you exercise, where you do it and your own preferences regarding food. Once you find your routine – don’t think just go!
AFTER YOUR RUN
Once you’re home from your run it’s important to pay attention to your post run nutrition and stop you needing to reach for the banana bread at 10am. Getting it right will really help if you get late in the day “runger” where you can’t stay away from the fridge/pantry at 3pm.
The goals of recovery nutrition are to:
- Refuel and rehydrate the body
- Promote muscle repair and growth
- Boost adaptation from the training session
- Support immune function
Rehydrating should begin soon after finishing your run. The body is best at muscle repair and growth in the first hour after exercise. However, repair will continue over the next 12-24 hours. Usually the best bet is to use your next regular meal after your run as your recovery nutrition. Or, have a small snack to kick-start the recovery process, then use your next main meal to complete your recovery.
Post workout foods should be:
- Rich in quality carbohydrate to replenish muscle fuel stores
- Contain some lean protein to promote muscle repair (around 20 grams of protein is ideal)
- Include a source of fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate effectively
There’s no one “best” option for what to eat after exercise. Dairy foods such as flavoured milk, smoothies or fruit yoghurt can be a great option as they can provide carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolytes ticking all of your recovery goals in one handy option.
Some other options that you may like to choose include:
- Lean chicken and salad roll
- An egg with wholemeal toast soldiers
- Fruit smoothie - make this up the night before and have it on your way to work.
- Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries. Here's my muesli recipe, make up a batch today and have it for brekky tomorrow after your run
By Rachel Eagleton
Sources: Sports Dieticians Australia, Australian Institute of Sport
- Content in this fact sheet should be considered general advice only and may not suit your circumstances.
- The advice provided herein is not meant to replace the advice provided by your Doctor. You should always seek your Doctors approval before starting a diet, exercise or weight loss program.
- The program may not be appropriate for some people with certain conditions. If you are less than 18 years of age, are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking medications, have heart disease, a kidney or liver disorder, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gout, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes or have any medical conditions that require specific dietary modifications, you should seek medical approval.
- Even though we have endeavoured to provide prudent, healthy dietary advice, by following this plan you agree to do so at your own risk. Rachel Eagleton cannot be held responsible for any injury or incident that may arise from following the advice in the program.
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© 2020 Rachel Eagleton All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
About Me - Rachel Eagleton
Need help sticking to your healthy eating goals or to fuel your athletic performance? Let me help you – I’m a university qualified nutritionist based in Sydney. I am also a busy working mum of two teenagers, so am practical and realistic with my advice.
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