Everything you need to know about running nutrition before, during, and after your run!
There are three major components to think about if you're trying to run faster. The first is the actual training, whether that be running or cross-training, the second is rest and recovery, and finally the third is your nutrition for running.
In this article, we're going to focus on that last point, and what you should be eating to get faster at running.
Let's split it up into three sections, before, during, and after running. In chronological order, we'll start with what you should eat before running.
Before you run the most important thing you need to be eating is carbohydrates. I'm going to say it again, carbohydrates.
No, carbs are not bad for you, in fact, they're going to give you the energy you need while running.
See, when you run your body uses something known as, glycogen, to keep you going. Glycogen comes from the carbohydrates that you eat.
When you eat carbs, they get absorbed by your body, and if they're not used, they get stored as glycogen for later use.
Now you don't want to just eat any carbs because while carbs are not bad for you, they are not all created equal and some are worse than others.
You want to avoid the sugary, unnatural, processed carbs, like chips, cake, cookies that are bad for your health.
Before running you should eat whole grain, well balanced, nutritious carbs such as whole-grain cereal, pasta or bread, brown rice, and fruit. These types of carbs will absorb slowly into your bloodstream because they have a lower GI. (GI is the rate at which foods get absorbed by the body, lower is slower, and higher is faster. Generally, the processed unhealthy carbs have a high GI and should be avoided).
These foods absorb slower which means that energy will last longer and be better for your workouts.
You should have a bigger meal 2-3 hours before your run. This gives your body time to digest the food so you won't be running with a big lump in your stomach and get cramps.
If you're running in the morning and maybe don't have time to eat 2-3 hours before, then you can eat smaller foods before running, something like a piece of whole-grain toast, a banana or other fruit.
This ensures that you still get the carbs and nutrition you need, but it won't feel like you've eaten a lot and your stomach will feel better throughout the run.
What you eat during your run, is largely going to depend on how long the run is.
A good rule of thumb to follow is if the run is less than 90 minutes, you're probably not going to need any food during your run.
So what about if it's longer than 90 minutes?
If your run is longer than 90 minutes, then food is optional but could be beneficial.
The types of foods you should be eating are quick-absorbing carbs, my favourites include, gels, cliff bars, or gu's. These will be best because they don't take up much space if you wanted to carry them in a pocket or pouch, and they aren't a big meal so they aren't going to sit like a lump in your stomach.
I would argue the most important to piece to the nutrition puzzle, what you eat after working out is critical to having a good recovery.
The food you consume is going to have a direct impact on the recovery process and will affect how well you recover, which means, what you eat today will change how you run tomorrow.
This means, if you aren't eating the right foods, you're not going to have a good recovery, tomorrow's run may not go so well, and over time your body will break down which could lead to injury.
With that being said, after your run, you should eat a mix of carbs and protein in a 3/4:1 ratio. 3 or 4 grams of carbohydrates for every one gram of protein.
With your glycogen stores depleted, it is important to fill them back up to expedite the recovery process.
Post-exercise, the muscles absorb blood glucose and restore these glycogen stores at an accelerated rate if carbohydrates are eaten (or drunk) within 2 hours of finishing a workout. So for a short period of time, your body is absorbing these nutrients at an increased rate, creating the optimal time to have a post-workout snack or meal.
After this time period is over, your body has a harder time recovering due to decreased absorption. So it is KEY to eat as quickly as you can after finishing your workout.
Carbs help refill the empty glycogen stores, while protein is critical for muscle recovery because it aids in muscle synthesis. Muscle synthesis is the key to hypertrophy (growth in muscle cells) helping you get stronger and faster.
You may be asking, what about the third macronutrient fats? The answer is simple, it is not essential to replace fats after exercise, and due to the slow rates of gastric emptying in fats, they may also inhibit the absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.
Some foods you can after your run include:
Greek Yogurt with Granola
Eggs and Toast
Chicken and Brown Rice
All of these 5 foods fall into the range of 3/4g of carbs and 1g of protein, depending on how you make it. (Different ingredients in a smoothie is going to lead to different amounts).
To really maximize your results and reach your greatest potential, it is important to pay attention to your running nutrition.
If you really want to smash those Personal Best's, it isn't enough to just go out there and run, you've got to also eat the right things so you can keep training hard.
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