RW's 60-Second Guides: Nutrition on the Run

What to eat and drink before, during and after a run


Posted: 20 February 2007
by Catherine Lee

Eating the right combination of carbohydrates and protein can help you become a stronger and faster runner, and help your muscles recover quicker from each exercise session. What will suit you best depends very much on your level of training, your personal tastes and your digestive tolerances, although recommendations from other runners can be helpful too.

Before

Starting out with sufficient energy reserves is vital, but it’s best to allow one to four hours after eating a proper meal before setting off, otherwise your body may not have had time to digest the food properly.

If it’s been a while since you last ate and you’re already peckish, or you’re heading out first thing, think about grabbing a quick snack like a banana or energy bar, perhaps a slice of toast or half a bagel. Alternatively, a few swigs of a sports drink can give you a quick boost – these are easier to digest than solid food, and are a good source of carbohydrate if you can’t stomach anything more substantial.

Keeping hydrated while training is also an absolute must. As a rough guide, try to drink 500ml of water, diluted juice or a sports drink two hours before a run, and another 150ml just before you leave.

During

If you plan to run for less than an hour, plain water should be all you need to top up your fluid levels while you’re out. Exercise for longer, though, and you may find sports drinks helpful. These usually contain sugar, maltodextrin and electrolytes including sodium – the exact constitution will vary between manufacturers. Experiment with several varieties to see what suits you best, and which flavours you prefer.

For long runs (over 60 minutes), consider taking a snack with you so you’re not left running on empty. Energy gels washed down with water will give you an added boost, as will jelly beans or a banana. Few runners are able to tolerate anything more while on the run.

If you’re planning to eat or drink during a race, try doing so a few times in training beforehand. There’s no way of predicting how your body might react to anything new and you don’t want any nasty surprises!

After

Replacing fluid after a run is just as important as before and during. Drinking around 500ml of water or diluted juice in the first 30 minutes after your run should be plenty, but if you have a headache or feel nauseous you should have more.

After hard sessions, especially if you plan to train again the next day, think about having a recovery drink. The carbohydrate-protein ratio of these drinks will speed up muscle repair, rehydrate you quickly and also give your immune system a boost.

Energy bars are also good for topping up your fuel reserves when you get back. Like recovery drinks, they contain a mixture of carbohydrate and protein that will help your muscles recover faster. Other good post-run snacks include eggs on toast, a fruit smoothie and a tuna sandwich. If you can, try to eat within an hour of completing your run, as this will maximise the benefits.

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Discuss this article

Yhanks for that runner world! Ive recently started reading your old(ish) magazines that my mum gave me and am enjying the stories and tips in those too!
Liz, West Midlands
Posted: 20/02/2007 at 22:32

Yes, a good article ....
Posted: 20/02/2007 at 22:51

lol Boston Green :)
Posted: 20/02/2007 at 22:56

Thanks for the positive feedback guys. I'd love to know what you'd like to see from our next 60 Second Guides... Hills? Beating those training blues? Using the forums without your boss noticing? Let me know.

Cheers

Daniel RW

Posted: 21/02/2007 at 10:01

Using the forums without your boss noticing?

LOL!


Please make it look like an Excel spreadsheet - I've been asking for years!
Posted: 21/02/2007 at 10:38

Oh yes - an excel spreadsheet would be great!!
Posted: 21/02/2007 at 11:59

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