By Kirsten Todd
Hooked on Running
The right fueling strategy for training, racing and recovery is crucial to performance, but figuring out what works best for you can be a matter of trial and error.
Each person’s training and nutritional demands are different, and just as importantly, people respond differently to different foods. What works for one person may make another person feel positively sick and cause gastrointestinal problems when running. You therefore need to experiment with your pre-race breakfast on some of your long runs. You should also practice taking in fuel along the way, not only on your long runs, but also on some runs which you are doing at race pace. How your gut reacts to food can be very different when you are pushing yourself hard and much of your blood is being shunted towards the working muscles and away from your gastrointestinal system.
A Few suggestions for your pre-long run/pre-race meal
Treat your pre-long run meal as an important part of your training. Practice what you plan to eat the morning of the race, and eat before your long run, the same amount of time you plan to eat before start time on race day. Try to replicate race day as much as possible on a few select training runs. Take note of how you feel so that you can pick what works best for you. And be sure to make a note of what you eat on race day, along with how your gut felt, so that you can either replicate what you did the next time or try another approach if it didn’t work!
Again, everyone will be different, so you should experiment with some of these options.
- A bowl of porridge (made on water) and a glass of water will stay with you during your run, but you might find it’s a bit heavy. You could try having this a couple of hours before your run
- Toast with peanut butter and honey. Honey is good for fueling glycogen stores, and the protein in the peanut butter is good for muscle rebuilding
- Toast with vegemite. – a good option if you find peanut better too fatty
- Banana, with or without toast
- Fruit smoothie
Nutrition During the Race
For races of less than 45 mins duration, there is no need to refuel during the race. Your body will have enough stored glycogen to make the distance.
For races of 45-75 minutes, there seems to be some benefit from taking in carbohydrates during the race. It’s thought that the benefit mostly derives from stimulus to the central nervous system. As your body gets low on carbs, your brain starts to inhibit your ability to recruit muscle fibres for running. It slows you down before you actually run out of carbs, in order to help you survive.
You can trick your brain into thinking your body is about to get a carb boost, by rinsing your mouth with a carbohydrate solution. Your brain will then allow you to run faster. This means you’ll get just as much benefit from swilling a sweet drink around your mouth and then spitting it out, as you would from actually taking the carbohydrates into your system. This is a great benefit for anyone who finds fueling during a race makes them feel sick.
For anything over 75 minutes, you are probably going to benefit from taking in some carbs during the race. Again, just how much is dependent on several factors. If you’re running hard, you’re going to be burning carbs like there’s no tomorrow, but if you’re running at well below your maximum speed, you may not need an extra carbohydrate lift until you’ve been going for 2 hours. The irony of this is that it will be much easier for you to take in food if you’re running slowly. There will be less blood required by the working muscles if you are running at low intensity, and therefore more blood available to the gut for digestion.
|Estimated Race Time||Need to Refuel During Race?||Suggested refueling strategy|
|Up to 50 mins||No||No need to take anything in during race, however if you feel in past races you could have done with a lift, try rinsing your mouth with a carb drink at about the 40 min mark|
|45-75 mins||No, but need to stimulate nervous system||Rinse your mouth with a carbohydrate drink and spit it out. Or you could pop a jelly bean or two.|
|75-105 mins – racing as hard as you can, not just having an easy trot||Yes||If you’re likely to finish in 80 mins, and you find it very difficult to take on fuel during a race, then you can probably get away with just rinsing your mouth. Otherwise, take about 15-25 gms of carbs at about 50 mins, and then a carbohydrate mouth rinse with about 15 mins to go|
|100 mins + running at 70% plus||Yes||Take 15 gms carbs at the 40 min mark, then every 20-25 mins. If you start to feel unwell, switch to a carbohydrate mouth rinse|
Note: rinsing your mouth with sugar is not exactly great for your teeth, so try to follow this up with a pure water rinse a few minutes afterwards.
Gels should always be washed down with water
Post –Run Recovery
After a long run, (or any run longer than 60 minutes), you’ll need to refuel within 45 minutes of completing your workout-30 minutes would be better. You need to take in a four to one carbohydrate to protein ratio.
- A great commercially available recovery drink is Endurox R4.
- Endura also make a recovery drink called Endura Optimiser, but in my experience, both personally and from feedback from our runners, Endurox R4 works better.
- Alternatively, you can make your own milk shake with skim milk and flavouring (Sorry, no ice-cream)
Home Made Caramel Recovery Drink
Each brand of skim milk and flavouring will have slightly different nutritional profiles, so you’ll need to do a few quick calculations. Here’s the nutritional info for one brand of skim milk.
- There are 8.5 grams of protein in a 250ml cup, so you would need 34 grams of carbohydrate in total, to make a complete recovery drink.
- Take off the 13.3 grams of carbohydrate in the milk, and you need to add roughly 20 grams (or mls) of carbohydrate from the flavouring you use.
- Caramel topping has 15 gms of carbohydrate per 25mls, (approx)
- So a bit over 30 mls of flavouring per 250mls of milk, will give you a complete recovery drink.
You should have at least one serving of this, two servings are fine after your longer run (2hrs or so), especially if you have not refueled whilst running. You need to use skim milk, not just low fat, as any fat in the milk will slow down the absorption of carbohydrate, and delay delivery of glycogen to the muscles.
After Your Recovery Drink
After a long or hard work out, you should refuel with your recovery drink immediately, then refuel every 2 hours after that. A late breakfast of eggs on toast is great. Eggs contain protein and choline, which is a nutrient that helps counteract fatigue. Pancakes made with whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal or almond meal work well. Here’s a recipe for a perfect pancake which delivers the right carb:protein ratio for post workout recovery.
The author, Kirsten Todd, has over 15 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry. She’s on a mission to have more women astounded by their own achievements.
In 2007 she founded Hooked on Running, in response to the growing demand from busy women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, to train smart and make the best use of their scarce training time. As a small business owner and mother of two, (and a past life working in the corporate world) she knows first-hand the juggling act that’s required to fit training around family and work commitments. She coaches women online locally, interstate and internationally, runs weekly group interval training sessions in Sydney and conducts Learn to Run training courses for running novices.