Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned veteran, fueling properly for your training can be more difficult than anticipated. It can be challenging to know exactly how much you should eat, what it should consist of, and when it should be consumed to fuel and recover properly. Here are some tips to feel your best before and after a workout – and all you have to do is eat!
1. Timing is everything: Many runners struggle with nausea if they eat too soon before heading out on a run, so experiment a bit to find your perfect window. Generally, a snack 30 minutes to 1 hour before a workout is tolerated by most people, but more sensitive stomachs or tougher workouts may require a longer lead time. After a run, aim to get a mixture of carbs and protein in a small or medium-sized snack within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.
2. Calories count, even for runners: Many runners have a tendency to overestimate the number of calories they burn during workouts in addition to incorrectly guessing how many calories they actually need to fuel and refuel. Our bodies have enough glycogen reserves to sustain a run of 30 – 90 minutes with no additional fuel necessary, so only a small snack (100-200 calories), such as a banana, energy bar, or yogurt with granola, might be needed to power you through – and that’s only if you’re hungry. After the run, keep in mind your effort level and eat a balanced ratio of carbs and protein to refuel. Consider a small portion of pasta with meat sauce, an energy bar, or some cheese and crackers to give your muscles the fuel they need to rebuild.
3. Nutrition matters: It can be tempting to refuel with whatever sounds the most delicious – beer, nachos, an entire pizza – after all, you earned it, right? While one of the benefits of running is certainly a little extra flexibility for indulgences, it’s extremely important to provide your muscles with nutritious food before and after runs so you’ll feel your best during your workouts. For runs lasting less than an hour, aim to eat or drink something that contains both carbs and protein, such as chocolate milk, cheese and crackers, or half a PB&J sandwich. For longer or harder runs, aim to refuel with a ratio of about 4:1 for carbs to protein. This ratio helps your body replenish its glycogen stores more efficiently than by eating carbs alone.
Remember, each runner is different, so do some experimenting to find what works best for you. Feeling sluggish regularly during your workouts may mean you’re not fueling or refueling properly, so make your nutrition a priority to get the most out of your runs.