It goes without saying that you need fuel to run – just like how your car needs fuel to move! Before each run, it’s important to eat right to make sure you have enough energy. And after running, the right meal will help your muscles recover and get stronger, improving your strength and endurance for the next time you hit the road.
Remember that your body is unique, these are just guidelines which you can adapt. Try to keep to familiar foods that you know your body accepts instead of trying out new foods which might upset your stomach.
When should I eat
When starting a run, you should not feel stuffed or starved. Eating heavy meals right before you run could lead to cramps or side stitches, while running on an empty stomach can leave you fatigued. Here are our tips on how to time your food intake when planning your run.
- Eat a full meal 2-3 hours before, or a snack 30-60 minutes before a run of any distance.
- For runs less than 45 minutes, you don’t need to fuel during the run.
- If you had a meal before your run (as per above), you will want to eat a snack 30-60 minutes after you start running.
Superfoods to supercharge your run
- Meals (2-3 hours before) or light snacks (30-60mins before) should consist of easily digested foods. try to ensure what you eat is low in fat, low in fibre, includes carbs, proteins and fluids. This could be a protein like dairy or egg whites paired with a carbohydrate like fresh fruit, fresh pressed juice or even honey. Try incorporating 1 or 2 palm-sized portions of protein, 1 or 2 fist-sized portions of veggies, 1 or 2 handfuls of carbs and 1 or 2 thumb-sized portions of fat
- Make sure you are familiar with the food you eat and don’t try anything that you’re not sure how your body will react to
- High-fat foods: Heavy sauces and creams, fried foods or foods prepared with a lot of butter or oil.
- High-fiber foods: Whole grains high in fiber, beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
Here are some ideas of pre-run food and drink.
- Bananas – are a great source of natural, fast acting carbohydrates as well potassium. The carbs provide the glucose which fuels for your body during your exercise while the potassium helps maintain nerve and muscle functions. Have a banana around 30 minutes before you exercise to receive the benefits during your workout.
- Oats – are another natural source of natural carbohydrates that are slowly digested by the body which steadily release energy throughout your workout and keep you going for longer. Have a bowl of oats with yogurt and berries at least 30 minutes before you exercise to help keep your energy levels up and train harder.
- Wholegrains – another source of carbohydrates whole grain breads are a great base for a pre-workout meal. Try a couple of slices of wholegrain bread with honey, jam, peanut butter or eggs around 30 – 45 minutes before your workout.
- Apples and peanut butter – a light snack which is packed with carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals which is quick, tasty and will fuel you through a light – moderate intensity workout.
- Coffee – leave out the sugar and add plenty of milk and coffee can be great before exercising. Apart from hydrating you the milk provides the carbs and protein to fuel your workout while the coffee puts a spring in your step.
- Fruit smoothies – as long as you use all natural ingredients, including protein and leave out added sugar smoothies are great pre-workout. Try adding milk or yogurt for extra protein
If you are running long distance or for more than an hour, you will need to eat during your run to refuel and rehydrate to replace the lost glucose that your body has used up. It’s recommended to eat 30–60 grams of carbs per hour spaced 15–20 minutes apart for runs lasting longer than 90 minutes. Keep in mind that you should choose something that will burn quickly and is easily digested. You need the energy to hit you fast!
Running snack ideas:
- Sports drinks: These drinks contain electrolytes, which you lose in sweat, and a high percentage of carbs to restore energy.
- Energy gels/bars: These concentrated packs contain sugar and other ingredients like electrolytes or caffeine and moderate amounts of protein, which helps your muscles recover.
- Other snacks: Dried fruit, packets of honey, gummy bears and other candies work just as well as their more expensive counterparts at restoring energy.
- Gummy bears/sugus – these little candies are easy to chew and give you a sugar boost
- Bananas/grapes/dried fruit – natural sugars, vitamins, and minerals.
After your run, it is essential that you replace the nutrition that has been used during your run. Aim to eat not more than 30-60 minutes after your run. You will need to replace lost fluids, restore glycogen levels, and rebuild muscle fibers. Good post-run options include snacks or light meals that include fluids, carbohydrates, and protein. If you don’t have time for a balanced meal, energy bars and protein smoothies can provide a good ratio of carbs to protein.
Examples of things you might eat include:
- A protein shake
- A bagel with nut butter
- Greek yogurt with a piece of fruit.
- Chocolate milk and apples
If you don’t eat anything within two hours after your run, it could slow your recovery and negatively affect your next-day performance. Don’t forget to replace your lost fluids with something like water, chocolate milk, or a recovery drink.
It’s important for you to drink water regularly throughout the day instead of chugging down a lot before your run. When running, drink when you’re thirsty.
When a planned run approaches, try to drink about 250-500ml of fluid an hour before heading out, and perhaps another 100ml right before getting started. Keep hydrating throughout a long run as well. If you are planning to run in the morning, make sure you drink water the night before.
If you aren’t running long distances, you don’t need to worry too much about extra electrolytes. For those training for a marathon during hot summer weather, it can help to have an occasional sports drink or drop electrolyte tablets in your water.
Depending on how much you sweat, you’ll also want to drink water throughout the race. by drinking around 200ml of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes, being careful not to overhydrate.
Also remember to start re-hydrating immediately after getting back from a run, as you can lose more fluid than you think, especially in the heat. Drink around 500-700ml for every pound of water weight lost during your run.