here we are: one week out from race day! since we’ve been tapering back the miles, now ’tis time to focus on your fuel. this is my complete (natural) nutrition know-how for running, including fueling up pre-, during, and post-run so your body is geared up for greatness. runners, fuel your engines!
[2-3 hours pre-run]: think S-L-O-W
your body needs stored energy to be able to fuel those long runs – so you need to fuel up a few hours before with foods with a low glycemic index. this just means that they take your body a while to digest and won’t spike your blood sugar. what’s this do? well it allows your body to burn fat (not muscle) during exercise – and fuels you for the long haul. but don’t just think carbs carbs carbs – add (healthy) fat. did you know by adding fat to any carb source, you slow your digestion rate and further avoid a spike in blood sugar? (this is why i add walnuts to my fro-yo!)
natural fuel ideas: oatmeal made with milk (for added protein) + walnuts, whole grain english muffin + peanut butter, whole grain pasta + pesto, whole grain waffles + almond butter, or whole wheat bagel with cream cheese.
[TIP] studies have show that higher intakes of nutrient-packed whole grains result in lower amounts of total body and abdominal fat. paleo or just don’t dig grains? carb up with options like a potassium-rich sweet potato with walnuts + butter (yes, real butter) or a banana with almond butter.
energy boost fuel
[30-60 minutes pre-run]: think F-A-S-T
right before your run you want to get some quick energy into your bod so you can get a running start (pun intended). just the opposite of what you eat a few hours pre-run, you want this snack to be smaller and simpler, as in simple carbohydrates so your body can quickly convert them to energy. so no whole grains here – we want low-fiber, quick-digesting carbs.
natural fuel ideas: small apple or orange, small handful of pretzels + raisins, low-fat yogurt + walnuts, rice cake with a little jelly (no sugar-free!).
[TIP] research has shown that runners who consume simple carbohydrates 15 minutes before running were able to run 13% longer than subjects who took in nothing. not a fan of sugars? opt for natural sources found in fruit.
[during run]: think simple + sip
if you’re running longer than an hour, you need to think seriously about fueling your bod along the way. while you need to figure out what works for you, a good rule of thumb is to fuel up with 30g of high-octane fuel (aka simple carbs) each hour. but you might want to consider fueling up with smaller amounts more frequently, so perhaps take in 15g every 30 minutes to keep a steady stream of energy coming in so you don’t crash. the most important part: chase your simple carbs with sips of electrolyte-infused water so you stay hydrated. but sip, don’t gulp – aim for 4-8oz max along with your simple snack. personally, i’m not a fan of GU’s or any other chemical-packed substance. aside from being a disgusting gooey texture, they don’t settle well on my tummy and frankly, i don’t want that stuff in my body. plus, they’ve found that natural sources (like honey) are just as effective!
natural fuel ideas: honey sticks are a great portable option, frozen grapes for a cool option, mandarin orange slices, dried (no-sugar-added) fruit, or try honeystinger waffles for a natural, organic, gluten-free option that’s pretty tasty! get more natural race-food alternatives from active.com.
[TIP] consuming carbs while running keeps blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels up, which keeps you from “hitting the wall” by delaying fatigue. most importantly, experiment with what works for you and don’t try anything “new” on race day or you might find yourself frequenting the porta-potties!
[15-30 minutes post-run]: think post-protein + quick carbs
now, what you eat post-run while training is much more important than what you post-run on race day – because you need to re-fuel those glycogen stores and prepare your muscles for recovery. your post-race recovery might look more like a nap and a hard-earned steak and glass of vino! but while training, right after a long run you want to take in protein (for muscle recovery) and quick carbs (to restore glycogen stores). aim for a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein for an ideal post-run recovery. personally, my post-run is always breakfast but if you run at other times of the day, it’s still important to fuel up post-run so your body can recover and prepare for your next pavement pounding outing.
natural fuel ideas: oatmeal with milk + sliced banana, greek yogurt with berries + honey, protein pancakes with real maple syrup (recipe below), 2 eggs with 1 piece toast + grapefruit.
[TIP] bananas are a good option to include post-run to restore your potassium levels which are depleted during a long run. check out my banana peanut-butter protein pancakes, perfect post-run.
banana peanut-butter protein pancakes
- in a small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup whole oats, 1 egg, 1/3c egg whites, 1tbsp vanilla extract, 1tsp cinnamon, 1tbsp psyllium husks. after mixing well, add 1/2 sliced banana and stir.
- bring skillet to medium-high heat and melt 1tsp coconut oil; then add mixture, making sure the banana slices are evenly spaced.
- cook until it bubbles – flip carefully and fast! cook on other side ’til golden brown.
- spread 1tbsp peanut (or other nut) butter over the pancake (healthy butter!), top with the other 1/2 of the banana sliced, and drizzle with real maple syrup! [NOTE: avoid the fake or sugar-free types - you're better off taking in the antioxidant calories in real maple syrup than fake chemicals]
share your running nutrition knowledge with me! what’s your go-to fuel?