February 15, 2021
Running is probably the most popular endurance sport, whether it is a weekly 5km or training for a marathon, your food and nutrition can really make a difference to your performance.
Nutrition before, during and after your run not only impacts your energy levels, but it can help you recover faster and prevent that dreaded fatigue.
There are a lot of different factors that can be taken into consideration, however, below I have focused on four of the most important when it comes to fuelling your body the best you can for running and recovering.
If you are starting to take on running, now may not be the time to be trying out a low carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates are an important nutrient for long distance runners. Ensuring your diet is rich in high quality carbohydrates can help with performance.
Recommendations for carbohydrates pre-exercise are between 6-10g/kg/day. It is best to see what works for you, if you cannot stomach a lot of food before a run first thing in the morning, maybe have a carbohydrate rich dinner the night before and then a banana 30-60 minutes or so before you set off. If you are running in the evening, try consuming carbohydrates rich snacks and meals throughout the day.
Pre-Run Snack Ideas (30-60 minutes before)
- Handful of berries
- Granola Bar
Pre Run Meal Ideas (3-4 hours before)
- Porridge, berries, and nut butter
- Toast with jam and a banana
- Tuna pasta salad
Nutrition During Your Run:
For a run less than 60- 90 minutes there is no need to consume food such as jelly babies or sports drinks. However, if you are running for longer than this, consuming these types of carbohydrates may help delay fatigue and maintain blood glucose concentration. Recommendations are between 30-60g of carbohydrates/hour for runs between 1-2.5 hours.
Ø <1 hour run = water is sufficient
Ø 1-2 hours high intensity = 30-60g carbs per hour in liquid or food form
Post Run Nutrition
Carbohydrates and protein together have been shown to enhance recovery in endurance athletes. Carbohydrates replenish the body’s glycogen stores and the protein helps repair muscle damage. The classic beans on toast is a great post run meal. Don’t worry if you don’t have an appetite straight away, research shows that you don’t have to consume protein in the ’30 minute’ window. Consuming protein (approx. 15-25g portion) with each meal and snack throughout the day increases muscle protein synthesis (repairing muscle damage).
Post run snack or meal:
Ø Beans on Toast with grated cheese
Ø Chicken, vegetable pasta
Ø Banana Milkshake
Hydration, hydration, hydration!
Hydration is important and very personal to everyone, play around and find a hydration strategy that works for you, just don’t underestimate how crucial this is before, during and after your run.
A hydration strategy should be in place for long distance runners aiming to prevent >2% body loss. Drinking a moderate amount of fluids at least 4 hours before exercise approximately 5-7ml/kg of body weight, gradually adding more if necessary.
Personalised fluid replacement regimes are recommended by the ACSM (2016) due to the considerable variability in fluid loss between individuals. This can be monitored during training by estimating your sweat rates by measuring body mass before and after exercise.
Combining all these 4 tips may help your running performance as well as preventing fatigue. Ensuring you are correctly fuelled before your run is just as important as refuelling after, so focus on nourishing your body adequately for the intensity of your workout to see if it benefits your performance.
Jeukendrup, A. (2011). Nutrition for endurance sports: Marathon, triathlon, and road cycling. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(sup1), pp.S91-S99.
Burke, L. (2007). Nutrition Strategies for the Marathon. Sports Medicine, 37(4), pp.344-347.
Philp, A., Burke, L. and Baar, K. (2012). Altering Endogenous Carbohydrate Availability to Support Training Adaptations. Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, pp.19-37.
If you are unsure on any of the above it is important to work with a SENr Sports Nutritionist. The Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr) is run by the British Dietetic Association and is supported by UK sports clubs and English institute of sports. I am currently running an online clinic during lockdown to offer support.