To maximize long distance running results, nutrition must become a major part in your training regime. Treating your long runs as trial races is a great way to see what works for you and what you should eat on race day. What, when and how much to eat is different for everyone, but there are some guidelines you can follow to find what works best for you.
Before a long run
There is nothing worse than having an uneasy stomach only a few miles into a race, which is why it is important to train your whole body including your stomach.
Foods to Avoid:
Foods high in fiber can often cause gastrointestinal stress, which often leads to an upset stomach, gas and bloating. High fiber foods also take up more water, causing you to feel heavy and slow. Fiber is an important part of your daily nutrition, but if you are sensitive to fiber, try eating fibrous foods later in the day.
Fatty foods can often make you feel sluggish. It might be obvious to avoid fast foods, but other healthy fatty foods, such as nuts and avocados should also be avoided a couple hours before a long run. Fat takes longer to digest and convert to energy.
Foods to Eat:
Carbohydrates are great before a long run. Both whole grain and refined carbs have their benefits, but it is important to find a balance. Refined carbs have less fiber than whole grains, and therefore are more easily broken down and quickly turned into the energy you need to tackle a long run. However, refined carbs have less nutritional benefits and should be eaten in moderation.
Fruits and vegetables that are low in fiber also help boost your running game. Low fiber fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cantaloupe and zucchinis are easily digestible and will not weigh you down.
Electrolytes, though not a food, are important before a long run. Endurance athletes lose a significant amount of electrolytes in their sweat, and without the proper replacement it leads to muscle cramping. For the casual runner who runs less than one hour, eating a well rounded diet with nutrient rich foods and proper hydration will most likely give them the amount of electrolytes they need. However, when heading out on a long run sodium-enhanced sports drinks can be helpful to keep electrolytes as well as carbs at an optimal level.
3-4 hours before a long run: A meal including pasta or rice with a low-fat sauce, baked beans on toast, or a baked potato with cottage cheese and milk.
1-2 hours before a long run: Snacks could include foods such as cereal with milk, fruit flavored yogurt, or liquid meal supplement.
Less than 1 hour before a long run: Sports drink, carbohydrate gel, or sports bar
Most athletes are able to consume carbohydrates within the hour before a run, but for some, their blood glucose levels drop due to the increase of insulin. It’s important to remember everybody’s system works a little differently so it is best to experiment with foods and time consumed before a big event like a marathon and find a routine that works.
For help developing a nutrition plan that is right for you, contact Viverant to optimize your training.
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