I’ll be honest with you, my eating habits aren’t always the picture of perfect health. I’m trying but I do tend to use my running as an excuse to eat badly.
My wife, Charlotte, on the other hand (who is a fellow TempoFit running coach), is the wise one on the nutrition front. So she’s put together a two-part series on understanding the dynamic between food and running. Here’s part one:
New to running but don’t know what to eat, how much, and when?
Worried that you’re going to be ravenously hungry or exhausted before you’ve even put your shoes on?
Well, read on because I believe running, eating and feeling great can be as easy as tying your shoe laces once you know how.
1. When to Eat
It takes 30-60 minutes from when you eat to when your body is able to use the energy from that food. That means grabbing a bite the second you leap out the door isn’t going to give your jog any energizing benefits. In fact, you may end up with the stitch, so save it for when you get back.
Eating within 30 minutes of finishing your workout is the best time for the energy of that food to replenish your cells and muscles. Any later, and muscle fatigue may have already set in. So although you eat, you may still feel tired. Instead, for those of us who spend 30 minutes showering, moisturising, hair straightening and applying mascara–you may want to snack while stretching.
2. What to Eat
Sugary foods or refined carbohydrates aren’t ideal before your run. They give you a quick blood-sugar level high, then drop you down past where you were before you ate, zapping you of energy when you need it mid-run.
Stick to a whole grain/unprocessed, medium fibre carbohydrates with low fat protein. This will help to stabilise your blood sugar level throughout your run and prevent the sugar low. For example, mashed banana on wholegrain toast with a low-fat/low-sugar yogurt.
Got the stitch? You may need to try different combinations to see what your body agrees with. Swap muesli for weet-bix or a banana instead of an apple, or eat only half your portion an hour before the run-you’ll soon find what your stomach prefers. Sometimes it’s just time and practicing for your stomach to get used to digesting on the move. Just don’t try something new on the day of a race.
As soon as you get back, have some carbohydrate and protein again. Try a few rice crackers with cottage cheese and sliced tomato or half a can of baked beans on toast or fruit toast with a cup of tea and low-fat milk or milo. Your carbohydrate doesn’t need to be whole grain after running, as this will slow down the time it takes for sugar to get from your stomach to your muscles. So if you wanted a treat such as honey on white bread with a glass of chocolate milk or a small can of creamed rice with a trim latte, now is your moment.