Introducing Nutrition for Runners
Your runs are getting longer, you are training for a longer distance, you know good nutrition helps but aren’t sure where to start - this is the blog post for you!
Let’s start by looking at how good food can help you throughout the training week. A balanced diet with carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and containing plenty of vitamins and minerals won’t just fuel your runs, it will help you recover and grow stronger as you train too. If you can think of your food as fuel for your running, life and activities; it may help you make healthier choices.
Your body has two fuel tanks, your body fat and the glycogen (broken down from simple carbs and sugars) in your blood, muscles and liver.
The fat fuel tank has enough energy for days, but the process of releasing the energy into a form muscles can burn is longer and has lots of steps. So fat is used as a fuel when we are running more gently, at a pace where you can have a conversation. Long gentle runs train you to use this fuel better.
Our glycogen fuel tank only really has enough energy for 60-90 minutes (this varies a lot person to person). When we run we are always using a little fuel from this tank, you start using more as you put more effort in by going faster or up a hill.
So two things we need to do;
1. make sure this second tank is topped up before we head out for our long run or race
2. top it up while we are running so we don’t run out of this fuel - having to rely purely on the fat fuel tank will noticeably slow you down
Top up the tank first;
- Make sure you are eating the well the day before the long run or race
- You don’t have to “carb load” just make sure you have some carbs the day before - rice, pasta, bread, potatoes etc
- Have a good breakfast that morning - again make sure there are carbs in there
- If it’s more than 2 hours between breakfast and the start of your run have a snack
- It’s also worth remembering; stay away from fatty or spicy foods to decrease the risk of tummy trouble when you run and keep hydrated as this impacted performance too
Keeping the tank topped up;
- Experiment with lots of different options on your long training runs
- I like the test of running past a shop on a run to literally check your gut reaction of what you might want to eat. Sweet, savoury, what do you fancy?
- It takes up to 30 minutes for what you eat to get to your muscles as fuel, so bear that in mind and start eating around the 45 minute to 1 hour mark
- Then keep eating at regular intervals throughout the run
- Gels are handy but don’t work for everyone, try other things!
- Don’t try something new on race day!
Drinking is important too;
- Hydration has a big impact on performance
- Thirst is the best guide for when to drink
- Little and often works with drinking tooAdding rehydration salts to water, especially on warmer days or longer runs, can help
Want more details, a list of many of my nutrition related blog posts can be found here; https://www.ontherunhealthandfitness.co.uk/blog/sport-nutrition-101