Keen to take your running habit the extra distance?
A good nutritional plan is just as important as a personalised training plan when it comes to going those extra miles. As you ask more of your muscles, they will ask more from you in the form of nourishment. However simply upping your calorie intake won’t be satisfactory – you’ll want to be eating the right foods to give you the energy you need to power on.
Need a little advice? That’s where we step in! Read on for some helpful tips on what to eat, when to eat it and how to make it work for you.
HOW TO FUEL A LONG RUN
Running on empty might work for short bursts of activity but if you’re playing the long game your body is going to need adequate nutrition to keep going and prevent yourself from injury and even, in more severe cases, a drop in your immune system.
So, what to eat pre-run? Well now’s the time to ignore the ‘carb-aphobes’ and get that glucose fix particularly if you’re setting off early in the morning. Try to eat a carbohydrate rich meal both the night before and on the morning of your run to ensure glucose levels are high and ready to fuel those muscles.
Got 1 or 2 hours to kill before you go go? Eat a balanced meal of carbs, protein and a little fat (eg. the Aussie fave: avo on sourdough with poached eggs). Only 30 minutes until race time? Best to keep it light with a small carb-filled snack (eg. slice of toast) to give you that quick glucose boost.
Try out a few different combo’s during your training and make note of how you and your stomach felt during the run, did it seem hard, how were your energy levels etc. so come race day you’ll know exactly what works for you.
THE NO-NO FOODS
Although fibre is incredibly important to the everyday diet – it’s time to say bye bye in the 12 hours leading up to a long run. Fibre takes a lot longer to digest which makes it much more likely to cause stomach dramas along the way. Avoid dark leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and fibrous grains and cereals.
JUST KEEP RUNNING, JUST KEEP RUNNING
You’ve nailed your pre-run feed but how do you keep those muscles energised enough to take you to the finish line? While you may have tackled a half marathon reliant on sports drinks and keeping hydration in check, you’d be surprised how a little ‘high-octane fuel’ such as energy gels, chews, blocks and beans could help you smash that finish time.
These sports specific products are designed to give you the vital carbohydrate your muscles need, keep your blood sugar levels steady and the electrolytes help keep you hydrated and prevent cramping.
Try a few forms and different brands on your long trainings runs and figure out what works best for you and stick to those come race day. Some of our favourites are GU Watermelon chews and Maurten’s Drink Mixes and Gels.
THE MAGIC FORMULA
So how much should you be fuelling up on during your race? The recommended amount of carbohydrates is 30-60 grams per hour of training or competing. But don’t let those resources deplete before you refuel – we advise hitting the high-octane products about 30minutes in but don’t smash it all in one as this could upset your stomach. Once again, we suggest trialling how often you refuel (every 15 or 30 mins) and how much gel etc. works for you. Be sure to wash it down with plenty of water so that the carbs can be absorbed into your circulation and you feel the full energising effects.
WAY TO GO H20
While the right nutrition is incredibly important to your performance, hydration is key! But that doesn’t mean downing a bottle of water every hour. How much water you need to drink will depend on how much you sweat and much like your nutrition, you should practise your hydration plan pre-race-day.
Start your run off with hydration levels in check (hello pale urine) and take 3-4 sips of water every 15 minutes. On the sports drinks? These provide both fuel and hydration to your body but choose wisely as drinks like Powerade and Gatorade contain a large amount of artificial sugars too that can affect your GI balance.
ROCK DOWN TO ELECTROLYTE AVENUE
Electrolytes play a key role in helping our cardiac, digestive, muscular and nervous systems to function at their optimum. And keeping them in balance is crucial for runners as the side effects of muscle cramping, spasms, dizziness and fatigue will definitely impact your run-game.
The two electrolytes sodium and potassium are often affected during exercise due to sweat. The amount of electrolytes you need therefore is dependent on how much you tend to sweat and the conditions of your run. Fast and hot humid conditions? Sodium replacement is going to be important for you and can be consumed in the form of sport supplement drinks, gel’s, nuun tablets for a stronger hit and even a salty snack for a quick boost.
Written by Elly McLean, Holistic Nurtritionist, Nutritionelly
Elly is a marathon runner, Nutritionist, wannabe yogi and yes, her favourite food is kale. Elly believes that food is fuel, but above all else, that it should be enjoyed. Elly has a bachelor’s degree in Health Science, majoring in Exercise Science and Nutrition, is a member of the Nutrition Society of Australia and a certified Integrative Health Coach.