Optimum Nutrition for Running in the 21st Century
Whether you run for fun, fitness or competition, chances are you probably have signed up for some sort of race. It doesn’t matter if you’ve signed up for a 10km race, half marathon or a full marathon, it is really important to practice good fueling and recovery strategies before the event. Starting only a few days before will not make up for poor food choices made during training.
In order to practice your nutrition and fluid strategy, you should compete in one or two events (eg. running event of at least 10km) before the big day.
The day before your practice events:
- Have adequate carbs, proteins and fluids
- Eat and snack regularly: every 2½ – 3 hours is ideal.
- Drink adequate water throughout the day and evening to avoid dehydration.
- Make sensible choices around dinner time: brown rice/quinoa/sweet potato teamed with lean protein and veggies are fantastic fuelling choices.
The timing of an event will dictate how much you eat and at what time. If the event is in the morning, you shouldn’t sacrifice sleep in order to eat and digest a full meal (usually 2 – 4 hours). You should aim to eat a light carbohydrate-based snack 1 to 2 hours before your practice event to top up your energy stores. Low fibre options are good to help prevent stomach upset e.g. a couple of pieces of toast with jam or honey, and a glass of water. Some runners suffer from nerves, and in these instances, a liquid meal supplement, a home-made smoothie, or sports drinks and bars may be a better option.
It’s important to practice how it feels to run long distances after eating various pre-race meals. Then choose the one that works best for you!
Make sure you start well hydrated and replace fluid losses after competing. Also, be careful not to over-drink before your event as this can lead to unwanted toilet stops. Slowly sip small amounts of fluid about 15 minutes before the start gun, which will help your body absorb the water. You should aim to replate around 150% of your fluid losses after your event. You can easily work this out by weighing yourself before and after the event.
A carbohydrate-rich snack with some protein is ideal within 30 minutes after training or your practice event. Easy to digest items, such as smoothies, muesli bars, or yogurt will help the body to rebuild its energy reserves quickly, and including some protein will help to repair and rebuild muscles. A follow-up meal, containing protein and carbohydrate should be eaten with 2 to 4 hours of finishing the event. Be careful of using sports drinks too often if your training or practice events are shorter than 90 minutes. These drinks do contain quite a lot of calories and need to be included in your total daily energy budget!