How to eat before a run

Posted: January 24, 2012 in diet tips, fit tips, nutrition, race training, thinking tuesday

What do you eat before you run?


What do you eat after you run?


Do you have a tried and true method for race day eating success or do you just wing it?


What I love about my dietetic program is that I’m learning the science of food.  Now eating isn’t so much guess work, but the result of a scientific equation to provide my body the energy it needs in different circumstances.
I wasn’t always this sure in my food choices.  When training for my first marathon in 2008 I gained 8 pounds.  I also ate peanut butter M & M’s and Gatorade for a pre-race meal.  Good stuff! 🙂

Yeah- I was a little bigger in 08. That’s the difference high intensity weight training and good nutrition makes! And avoiding bags of peanut M&M’s! And yes that really was my race number.


Here’s the science and the generally accepted pre/post workout food recommendations. Just in case you’re a nerd like me and wanted to know!


– Carbohydrates

  • They’re good. Mr. Atkins kinda cast them in a bad light, but in terms of performance they are your bestest friend!  
  • Your body uses carbs for energy during prolonged exercise and carbs require less oxygen to burn than protein or fat.  Less oxygen to burn = more oxygen to breathe! 

– Pre-exercise

  • A high carb meal pre-exercise will maintain blood glucose and maximize glycogen stores in your muscles.
  • The meal should be moderate in protein, low in fat, and low in fiber. Why? Well the fiber one should be easy to figure out (hello port-a-potty)…for the fat…fat  takes longer to digest.  If you’re digesting fat, your body can’t commit all it’s resources/energy to helping you run better.
  • The amount (in grams) of carbs you should eat depends on how far out you are from the start of your event.  I like to use the hour rule:
    • If you event is in 1 hour: 1 gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight.  To determine your weight in kg divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 For me that’s 130/2.2 = 59.1kg. So that’s 59.1g or carbs or 236 calories from carbs. 1.25 cups of cereal has about 27g and a banana has 19g. Add a swig of Gatorade and I should be good to go!
    • If your event is in 2 hours: 2g of carbs per kg
    • If your event is in 3 hours: 3g of carbs per kg
    • If you event is in 4 hours: 4g of carbs per kg
  • Test your pre-run meal.  Everyone’s stomach is different so find what works for you.
Kyle’s pre race meal

– During the race

  • If your event is over an hour your body will need not only water but food to fuel you!  
  • A good rule of thumb is 30-60g of carbohydrates during exercise.  This can easily come from sports drinks, chews, or gu’s.
  • Be aware that fruit alone might not be your best mid-race choice.  Fructose (the sugar in fruit) isn’t as quickly absorbed.
– Post- race
  • You did it!  Now eat!  If it’s a race you finished I’m sure you’re off to celebrate with a “cheat” meal…I know I do! 
    • If it’s a training run, however you might want to me more strict with your post race meal.  Post run/workout meals are vital, because that’s what helps refuel and repair your muscles for your next workout.
  • 30-45 minutes is the window in which you need to eat!
  • Aim to repair with 0.5g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.  For me that’s about 30g of carbs.  A little more then a banana.
  • Protein is also key here to muscle recovery so aim for 10-20g after endurance training.
  • It’s often said to recover in a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein and chocolate milk is a great example of a perfect post workout food.
Would we call that a good post race food? It has carbs!

– Fatigue

  • If you’re feeling exhausted during training/races here are some nutrition related causes of fatigue to look into:  insufficient calories, insufficient carbs, iron-deficiency, or dehydration.
For my race on Sunday I had my traditional race breakfast of a whole wheat bagel with 1T of peanut butter, coffee, and a banana.  I could also have had 1 cup of Kashi + 1/2 cup of chex + raisins. Both set well with my stomach. I’ll also have some honey and a sports drink 30 minutes before the event.


Once you’re fueled then it’s all on your and your training to have a great race!


What’s your favorite pre-race meal?

Kyle’s typical post race cheat meal



Love and glucose, 
Carissa & Kyle

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Comments
  1. I always had the same thing – peanut butter toast with a banana.

  2. fancy nancy says:

    I have such a cranky belly that I can only eat whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. I find other things come back to visit during the race! I also use Gu during a long run!

  3. Harold Shaw says:

    1/4 cup Oatmeal Tsp w/ginger & cinnamon, 1/4 cup blueberries with flax seeds. With cup of black coffee, fuels me most mornings 🙂 and before races.

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