Martha Norris, our resident health enthusiast, personal trainer and foodie (also known for her blog Simply Martha), is back with a guide on how to fuel up for your run. Exercising isn’t just about the physical aspect of it, your nutritional intake is just as important so make sure not to forget about it!
Nothing gives a runner a bigger sense of achievement than crossing that finishing line with beads of sweat lining their forehead and smiles from everyone they see. Running is still one of the biggest solo sports and hobbies completed by millions a week, all with different routes, lengths and reasons. But every runner – be they sprinter, marathon runner or exercise enthusiast – has the same thing in common when it comes to running: FUEL.
To break or fast?
Training while having fasted has become a ‘buzz’ at the moment (this being when you train without having food beforehand). For running this may affect two things: distance and pace. For years, I trained using this method but my mileage would only consist of 3 to 5 miles. I didn’t improve my times or distances. But I was consistent. For some this works well and if it does – brilliant. When I wanted to run further and in a quicker time, I noticed that I would perform significantly better when I had a meal beforehand. Find your preference and you’ll understand what works for you and your runs.
Fuel is the biggest factor when it comes to having a good run day or not. We can run as many miles as we like to prepare, but our body can only perform at its best when we replenish our energy systems and provide fuel for our muscles. You cannot expect your body to progress without fuelling post-run (whether or not you fuel up before is up to you). Without the right meal after a run muscles won’t repair correctly nor will they have the correct fuel to build up strength. Fuelling on the day of your run is imperative. No matter how you have trained before, you need fuel. Not only will this be used for when you’re running, but your energy systems will be going into overload due to feeling anxious and overwhelmed. On top of this, your adrenaline will be going into overtime (the excitement before a race is exhilarating but requires more energy than you would need compared to a normal run around your local route).
This is very personal to each individual runner and dependent on a number of different factors, such as the meal you have, when you are planning on running, how far you are running and time of day. Personally, when I was doing smaller runs (between 2 to 6 miles) I didn’t need to eat before I trained (as I previously said). When I started to increase my distances however, I would have a meal two to three hours before I would head off, giving my digestive system plenty of time to digest the food and be ready to be used as energy. If you have a small snack, give yourself at least thirty minutes before you go (otherwise a stitch can be the biggest killer of a good run). After a run, give yourself a window of thirty minutes to two hours to replenish your energy systems. It is important this takes place no longer than two hours after your run as your muscles will crave foods and need restoring in order to start recovery quicker.
My favourite part about running (yes, I am a massive foodie!) is what to eat before and after a run.
If you do choose to eat before your run (unless it’s race day, which as I said is a MUST!), a high-carb meal is essential. Carbohydrates are the body’s chosen fuel source and are most desirable for us to use. Porridge is my favourite way to get carbohydrates in if I want a big meal beforehand. A banana would be a good alternative if you wanted a lighter snack.
How can you expect a fast recovery if you don’t put nutrients back into the body? A healthy runner is a happy runner; protein and carbohydrates are the best for your body’s recovery and replenishment. Adding fats helps you become a healthier runner – they encourage the absorption of micronutrients that the body needs to maintain its perfect balance, as well as helping absorb the full amount of protein, which aids in restoring and building muscle. My ideal meals for achieving this perfect balance would be either a lentil and chickpea pasta or salmon with sweet potato wedges and homemade guacamole.
Words by Martha Norris
Featured Image: Going for a run © Martha Norris