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A well-fuelled body will not only help you run further and faster, but will assist in the key recovery after exercise. For any runner, the key benefits of healthy eating are the ability to train well and to recover efficiently plus quickly, so you can enjoy your next session, however hard it is. This remains true whatever your standard – complete beginner or aspiring Olympian.
The harder you train, the more relevant healthy eating becomes: to enable you to tackle sessions like intervals, hills or tempo runs, as well as demanding gym sessions. A healthy diet can also assist weight loss.
What we eat in the few hours before a run can be a crucial factor in how good we feel during a workout. Are you the person who grabs a few biscuits as you head out the door? Or do you roll out of bed and straight out for a long run on an empty stomach?
We all have differing metabolisms and tolerances for different foods. The best thing is to experiment to find out what works best for your body. There are quite a few variables, such as length and intensity of run, time of run, your own unique metabolism and your food preferences.
Despite their best efforts, some people still suffer from digestion issues or stitches when running. Try keeping a food diary for a week, noting how you felt during a run. This can help identify which food types are causing you trouble. If you suspect certain foods are not agreeing with you, try giving them up for a week and see if you feel any difference.
To try and give an idea of what a group of runners fuelled up on we did a quick survey around Run and Become staff. The overwhelming favourites were bananas, porridge and energy bars, eaten anything from half an hour to two hours before running. Other choices were bread and honey, wholemeal bagel with banana and peanut butter, smoothies, raisins, cereal, jaffa cakes, oats soaked in milk with chia seeds.
If you are new to running you might ask: what should I eat when I run? The short answer is that for most people’s average daily run of anything from 5k to 10 miles, the answer is: nothing, or at least not a lot. There are two main reasons for this.
There are two main feeding windows after a run to be aware of. Immediate input of a snack in the 15-30 minutes after you finish, and then the longer-term 2-3 hours where more substantial food is needed.
It’s a familiar scenario for a lot of runners: you get back from a run knowing you need input and grab the first thing that comes to hand. Or you finish your run and pop into the nearest shop to be faced with rows of tempting but maybe not so sensible re-fuelling options. If you are tired and blood sugar is low you are likely to choose something high in sugar or without protein. You might also be tempted to head straight for a shower and a lie down without eating anything at all. Here's how to get round this...
In this time you should try to eat a meal or larger snack with a higher level of protein, and also some healthy fat and carbohydrates. You also need to be aware not to over-eat at this meal, as too much food will slow the absorption of nutrients. The body can only absorb 20g of protein in one go, so be careful not to overload your plate with protein.
Eating the right combination of nutrients here will continue to repair muscle damage, decrease inflammation and rebuild glycogen stores. There are almost endless possibilities for this meal depending if it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, and on your food preferences. The key thing to remember is to include a portion of good quality protein, some healthy fats and carbohydrates. Focus on vegetables, fruit and whole grains, for example:
All coaches and fitness instructors agree that whatever your standard, the body’s demands are basically the same. By allowing and planning for recovery both by sensible planned nutrition and some good quality rest, you will have a much better chance of feeling good and looking forward to your next run. With a bit of careful planning, what you eat in the few hours after running can help you recover better, minimise muscle stiffness and leave you better prepared for your next run.
Not by itself. You have to look at things as a jigsaw puzzle all fitting together.
Many factors help you run faster. Training and running of course are the main element. Other factors like stretching, strength, flexibility, rest / sleep and healthy running nutrition all help us run further and faster too. A healthy, well-fuelled body will run better and recover quicker, which with the right mix of training should help you run faster.
The best diet for runners is a healthy well-balanced one, with as much natural, fresh, unprocessed food as possible. If you have to look at the packets too long in the shops wondering what is in them, it probably isn’t that fresh or natural!
Humans were designed to work and exercise. A well-fuelled body will ensure you have enough energy to get through daily tasks without any crashes. It will also enable you to do whatever level of exercise you have time for as well.
In some ways all good things in moderation is fine but trying to avoid too much that comes out of a tin or a packet is not a bad philosophy. The body needs sugar and fat as part of its overall fuel, but high-fat, high-sugar food should be kept under control. We sometimes crave snacks like crisps and fizzy drinks, which are good as an instant source of energy, but they shouldn’t be “go to” snacks all the time.
Short answer: Nothing legal!
Longer answer: A well-hydrated body is also part of the overall jigsaw puzzle to ensure you are able to train comfortably. Drinking water, possibly supplemented with an electrolyte like NUUN or High5 tablets play a part too, to replace lost essential electrolytes like sodium and potassium through sweating.
Carbohydrate is the key long-term energy source, especially if you’re just beginning or are increasing your mileage. Carbs play a big role in a marathon runner's diet, as they are stored as muscle fuel and give the extra energy needed to draw on as you spend more time training. Good examples of carbohydrate sources to eat as pre-run food – 20-30 minutes before running – are bananas or flapjack-type energy bars. Longer-term examples in meals are potatoes, pasta and bread (preferably wholemeal), yoghurt and oatmeal cereals.
This is nutritional information that we found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not nutrition specialists. The nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or sports nutrition.
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