Running is pitched as the easiest workout for anyone to participate in. Two feet in front of the other, running your own street for free — what could be so hard? Then you start talking shoes, training schedules, even the beats per minute of your playlist, add in nutrition and it’s easy to run away from this sport.
Not so fast!
Take two seconds, educate yourself and yes, even you can be a well-fueled runner. Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift to Get Lean and founder of Women’s Strength Nation, likens the human body to a luxury sports car. She says the human body is 50,000 times more advanced than a Ferrari. You wouldn’t take your Ferrari out for a drive without a full tank of the best, premium fuel, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your body?
She absolutely wants you fueling before and after your run. i.e. Give your Ferrari the fuel it needs to race, and then reward it for a healthy recuperation afterward.
1. Eat a meal 2-3 hours before, or a snack 30-60 minutes before a run of any distance. You don’t want to go empty!
2. For runs less than 45 minutes, you don’t need to fuel during the run.
3. If you had a meal before your run (as per above), you will want to eat a snack 30-60 minutes after your run of any length.
No one accidentally takes off on a run, save for Forrest Gump. So when you know a run is 2-3 hours away, treat yourself to a light meal (or a light snack 30-60 minutes ahead) of easily digested foods. Perkins wants your running snacks to be made of a little bit of fiber and a little bit of fat. This could be a protein like dairy, powders or egg whites paired with a carbohydrate like fresh fruit, fresh pressed juice or even honey and agave.
- Sharp cheddar cheese and apple slices
- A protein shake and a clementine
- Egg whites and a fresh juice
When you finish a run, you need to get some nutrition in your body no more than 30-60 minutes after returning. Your body needs to replenish everything you just burned. Perkins has the same rules for a post-run snack as she does before: easily digested foods made of fiber and fat. Using those same rules, a few other snack options include:
- Add avocado to a protein shake
- Yogurt and peaches with honey
- Chocolate milk and apples
If your runs aren’t that intense and complete within 45 minutes, you don’t need to refuel during your run. Sure, when you’re pounding the pavement the thought of a snack sounds real darn good, but Perkins says you don’t need it. Just focus on staying hydrated during your run and get that nutrition in as soon as you’re home.
Runner’s World has several runner snack ideas for during a run. This is when you want some quick-burning carbohydrates to re-light that fire and give you an extra energy boost.
- Gummy bears
- Dry trail mix
- Gu/energy gels
If you’re following the macro style of eating, which focuses on consuming a proper proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, then you’ll want to aim for a 50/40/10 breakdown, respectively. Apps like MyFitnessPal can run the math for you if you’re inputting what you’ve eaten. Perkins says this macro balance is in line with easy digestion. She recommends:
- 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt + 1/2 Tbsp. agave
- 2 oz. turkey + 10 saltines
- 1 cup skim milk + 1/8 cup almonds
- Scrambled eggs with vegetables
- Dried fruit
- Celery and peanut butter
TapGenes Takeaway: If you’re going to run, you better do it with proper nutrition. Experts weigh in on how best to fuel your body before, during, and after a run.
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