We’re taking a look at what kind of things you should eat to fuel or sustain strong and efficient running. It’s sometimes tricky to decide what you’re going to eat before a session because of the factors within, such as the the intensity, time (or duration of) and type of running you’re aiming to do. Once you have established the goals of a particular run, feeding your body for it doesn’t have to be as confusing.
Think of it as driving your car; If you drive fast and aggressively, it will use more fuel, and at a
quicker rate. If you maintain a steady course and speed, the fuel consumption will be lower and will last longer. It is the same for your body, although sprinting doesn’t amount to ‘a lot of running’ the intensity is massively higher than just going for a predetermined time at a lower intensity but will still require the right fuel at the
As a pre curser if your session is first thing in the morning, or sub 45 minutes in duration the chances are you wont even need to bother about fuelling. If your session is set to last between 60 and 90 minutes then you will require some food before, and maybe during (personally for a 90 minute effort I don’t need to consume during the workout). Longer sessions breaking the 90 minute mark will almost require pre fuelling and an in session strategy. Eating before a session will ensure there is sufficient energy to power through and stay strong. It will also stave away hunger, optimise glycogen stores and delay mental and physical fatigue. A high carbohydrate meal before a workout has been shown to increase oxidation of carbohydrates, utilisation of muscle glycogen, and improvements in performance in aerobic exercise. All things endurance athletes need to hit their longer training session goals. Consuming 90g to 100g of carbohydrates before (2 to 4 hours) your session will allow for it to be broken down and stored, then used. 30 to 60 minutes you would aim to consume maybe carbohydrate drink or an energy bar which obviously come in various forms. Theres no golden formula but as a general outlook, something high carb, low protein (20 to 25 grams) is a good pre workout meal. It is also worth noting that your food choice should be low in fat, by which I mean naturally low
in fat, not a ‘low fat’ something. Fat speeds up the transit of foods which can become very uncomfortable for running and a danger to your laundry! Oats, Rice, Pasta and Potatoes are all great sources of starchy carbohydrates. Any of those combined with a good protein source you’ll be set to run long.
Having identified some things you should eat before running, and what kind of time frames to look at it is worth taking note that you don’t always need to load up for your run. Think about how much energy a run will use. If it’s only going to use 300kcal, theres little point loading up with 400 – 500 kcal. Also, if it is first thing in a morning your body will have broken down all of your previous days food and stored it as energy, meaning you can just take on some water to give you some appetite satiety and away you go. Fasted runs are a very effective way of burning fat! Be careful with the water though, too much will make running uncomfortable, too little wont hydrate you enough to get through. Fasted sessions should last no longer than 60 minutes.
As ever, how food works with your own body is hugely unique, and what may work for one may not work for another so it is trial and error. Don’t be scared of trying a few different things out, just don’t do it on race day!