Fuelling your training runs
Your muscles store a limited amount of energy. Depending on how fast your run, this stored energy will start to become significantly depleted after 90 minutes of running. Therefore, when training runs are longer than 90 minutes you need to think about planning your nutrition and fluid intake. Carbohydrate is your muscles preferred energy source. It is therefore vital that a large part of your diet involves carbohydrates. This doesn’t mean you have a free licence to eat as much chocolate, cakes, crisps and pizza as you like, but it does mean you can afford to eat more than your average sedentary person!
- Drink 200-500ml around 2 hours before training. This provides just enough time for you to get rid of any excess fluid your body doesn’t need. Water, squash, fruit tea, herbal tea and juices all count towards your total fluid intake.
- Eat a carbohydrate snack 1 hour before your run to top up your energy levels. Sports bars, fruit, cereal bars, yoghurts, fruit bread and cereal are good options.
- During longer runs (>90 minutes) top up energy levels with sports bars, gels or carbohydrate drinks.
- You can only digest a small amount of carbohydrate (60 g per hour) when you exercise. There is no benefit from eating or drinking more than 30-60g per hour during your run, as it will only result in stomach problems. Read the nutritional information on the back of your sports drinks, gels or sweets to see how much carbohydrate they provide.
- You can choose to eat solid foods to refuel during exercise but this will slow down the rate at which you absorb the energy.
- Drink 125-150ml every 15-20 min during training. Be aware that the weather, your training intensity and the clothing you’re wearing will all influence how much you need to drink during your run.
- Replace electrolyte lost in sweat by adding a pinch of salt to your drink or by using a commercial sports drink. This will help you retain the fluids you’re drinking and reduce the risk of muscle cramps.
- Refuel by eating a high carb meal or snack within a 60 minute window of finishing so that the energy is quickly absorbed and taken directly to your muscles.
- Start rehydrating by drinking around 500ml of fluid after your run. Monitoring your urine colour in the hours after your run can help you work out if you are rehydrated. If your urine is dark in colour you are dehydrated. Aim for a light straw colour!
- Protein is just as important as carbs during recovery. It will help repair damaged muscles and boost your recovery in time for your next run. Use your palm to work out a portion of protein. A handful of nuts, a palm size piece of chicken, cheese or fish are all good options to add to your post run meal or snack.