Running can be a very demanding exercise or sport so it is important to learn what to eat to run. While the proper training schedule is essential to becoming a better, faster and more efficient runner, optimal fuel for running is equally important. Eat properly and you will run more efficiently. Your body is like a car engine, when provided with the right kind of fuel, it will run optimally. Feed it with sub-par fuel, it will feel sluggish, function inadequately and may even give out on you. Your body performs at its best when your diet includes the right kinds of nutrients, in the right amounts and eaten at the right times. It’s that simple but not everyone knows what they need to eat to run.
Eat to Run – Foods You Need
In order to eat to run, it is important to make sure to include an adequate supply of carbohydrates, protein, fat and water. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. It is the carbohydrates that provide the continuous energy source during a run. Protein is an important nutrient that should be included in every athlete’s nutrition program. Protein is essential for recovery after a run or training session. Protein is the building block for the body’s muscles. Fat is also an essential nutrient in a runner’s meal plan. The recommended ratio of nutrients is fifty to sixty percent of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrates, twenty to thirty percent from protein and twenty to thirty percent from fat. An equally important nutrient that should be a mainstay in your nutrition program is water. Though water does not provide energy or calories, water is essential in staying hydrated. Dehydration will lead to fatigue, muscle cramping or heat exhaustion.
While what to eat and drink is very important, the timing of meals is just as important to guarantee you are properly fueled and are able to optimize your run or perform well in a race. The timing of meals becomes even more important if you are fueling for a long distance run or race.
What to Eat – Before Run
In the days prior to a long distance run or race, it is best to stick to your normal nutrition plan and gradually increase the number of carbohydrates a couple of days before the race. It is also important to load up on fluids to make sure you are properly hydrated. The night before you will want to eat a meal of easily digestible carbohydrates to make sure your glycogen levels are topped off and food is digested before the morning of the race. The morning of you will want to eat a light breakfast. You will want to aim to consume twenty-five to fifty grams of carbohydrates approximately three hours before run time. Options include an energy bar, bagel or piece of fruit. Drink eight to twelve ounces of water for hydration.
What to Eat – During Run
Try to consume about twenty-five to thirty grams of carbohydrates every forty-five minutes throughout the run. A gel pack is a quick, convenient source of carbohydrates. Gel packs typically contain the correct amount of carbohydrates and are easy to digest. You will also want to drink six to eight ounces of water every fifteen minutes.
What to Eat – After Run
Immediately post-run consume twenty to fifty grams of carbohydrates to replenish depleted glycogen stores. You will also want to be sure to rehydrate with water or a sports drink to meet your post-run carbohydrate needs. Within an hour of completing your run or race, you should try to consume a post-workout meal that includes both protein and carbohydrates which will aid in muscle recovery.