At Get Fit Today we introduced a weekly running class every Sunday morning back in January to help around 25 people complete the ‘couch to 5k’ program. Due to the popularity and success of this, we decided to make it a regular thing and we have now progressed onto longer distances so it’s important to know how to fuel your body.
The first question that needs to be answered is:
Should I eat before I run?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straight forward. If you wake up hungry and have an early morning run of more than half an hour planned, then yes - it’s probably going to be beneficial to have something to eat.
Contrary to popular belief, running on an empty stomach doesn’t result in a higher fat burn. The theory is that as you haven’t eaten all night, your body’s stores of glycogen (energy) are already low, so if you run without eating, your body will start to convert stored fat into energy instead.
Unfortunately, research doesn’t support this - instead of burning fat, your body will actually get the energy it needs from your muscles and will then turn to muscle protein - which can lead to loss of muscle mass.
As your energy levels drop, you become fatigued and the risk of injury increases. So our advice is YES - you should eat before a morning run, which means the next question is:
What should I eat before running?
You want to eat something that will give you energy for your run, so ideally a slow releasing carbohydrate. The following suggestions are all ideal for this:
whole grain cereal
whole wheat toast
If you wake up late and don’t have much time to eat before you run, you should aim to eat a light snack of between 200-300 calories.
Here are some ideas to try:
Toast with peanut butter
Cup of yogurt
Grapes with a few almonds
Banana and walnuts
Cottage cheese with apple
Regardless as to what you choose for your breakfast, don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids prior to your run, especially in the summer.
Should I eat during my run?
If you’re running for less than an hour, you probably aren’t going to need any extra fuel. However, once you start to extend your runs over an hour, its worth thinking about taking some snacks with you.
Sports drinks: These drinks contain electrolytes, which you lose in sweat, and a high percentage of carbs to restore energy.
Energy gels: These concentrated sources of carbs contain sugar and other ingredients like electrolytes or caffeine. They come in small, single-serve disposable packets.
Energy bars: These tend to be high in carbs and moderate in protein. Protein helps your muscles recover and rebuild.
Other snacks: Dried fruit, packets of honey, gummy bears and other candies work just as well as their more expensive counterparts at restoring energy.
Thinking about what you are going to eat after a run is just as important. After the exertion of running, you'll be left with low glycogen levels, micro-tears in your muscles and depleted electrolytes and minerals.
To repair your muscles and replace the lost nutrients, it's essential that you eat the right post-run food, such as:
Fruit and low-fat milk smoothie
Grilled chicken with roasted veggies
Salmon with sweet potato
Smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit
Oatmeal with banana and almond butter
Cereal and skim milk
Tuna salad sandwich on grain bread
Cottage cheese and fruit
Almonds and a piece of fruit
Baked salmon and asparagus
Whole grain toast and almond butter
Sweet potato with cottage cheese
Low-fat chocolate milk
Yogurt with berries
Whole-grain bagel with eggs whites
Pasta with chicken, eggplant, and broccoli
Egg white and spinach omelet
Pita and hummus
Vegetables and hummus
Whole grain cereals with banana and milk
Protein sports bars
Oatmeal, whey protein, almond, and banana
Turkey on a whole grain wrap with vegetable
Apple with almond or peanut butter.
A handful of raisin and nuts
So there you have it - everything you need to know about what to eat, why and when for running! Most of this advice relates to other types of exercise too such as our ever popular bootcamp classes.
If you want any more information regarding nutrition and diet when exercising, please get in touch!