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Nutrition tips for the novice runner

It will take time to adapt to your running sessions and it won’t necessarily be plane sailing all the way! Getting your fuelling right will help support your training but it takes a bit of trial and error to find what works best for you. Here are a couple of tops tips to get you on the right path:

Carbohydrate is the main energy source during exercise. We typically have enough energy stored in our body for around 90 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise. However, it is important that we don’t wait until our stores have completely depleted before beginning to refuel, particularly when running for longer than 90 minutes.

A pre-exercise carbohydrate-based meal or snack is sufficient to fuel shorter runs and so hydration should be your primary focus (see below). Eating more carbohydrate than you need to will likely result in weight gain. For sessions over 90 minutes it’s important to consume carbohydrate to maintain exercise intensity. Aim for 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour. This is approximately the amount your stomach can absorb without gastrointestinal discomfort.

It’s not uncommon to lose 1-2 litres of sweat per hour during exercise, particularly in warm climates. If this fluid is not replaced dehydration will occur. Aim to drink around 500 ml per hour, sipping little and often. You may need to practice running with a drinks bottle to get used to it. Individual sweat rates vary and there is no one size fits all strategy. Therefore, always start exercise in a hydrated state and use a combination of thirst and a strategy such as the one above to reduce the level of dehydration to less than 2%. Using a sports drink that contains electrolytes lost via sweat, may aid performance further.

Running depletes carbohydrate stores and breaks down muscle proteins. Optimising your recovery is fundamental to getting the most out of your training by promoting adaptation. If you’re not exercising again for a couple of days, aim to eat a meal or snack containing some carbohydrate and protein within 2 hours of finishing. For example, chicken stir-fry with noodles, lamb chops and mashed potato with vegetables and gravy, peanut butter on toast with a yoghurt or porridge with a handful of almonds and berries.