This morning I shared with you that I had some issues with my Saturday Long Run because I didn’t fuel properly. While I have been reading running blogs and articles for the past few years, there are three things that I learned about fueling and running:
- Practice before you perform: make sure that you test out different foods and run combinations to see how your body will respond so as to avoid digestive disasters on the track.
- Proper fueling is important as the food you eat is like the gas you put in your car. You can no more expect your body to have enough energy to get through a run as you would your car to get out of your driveway on an empty tank.
- There is no one method that works for everyone. (See #1)
So with that said, I knew that I would benefit from some research and refresher on proper techniques and suggestions for appropriately fueling before a long run.
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HEAD’S UP!!!! * WARNING!!!
I am NOT a doctor. I am NOT a certified personal trainer. I am NOT an educated expert. I have no legitimacy in what I’m about to share with you other than my ability to copy and paste from other websites. I am only sharing with you what I have read on other websites. What works for me, might not work for you. So please be sure to consult someone who knows their head from a hole in the ground before following the advice on my blog.
Should I eat before my AM run? The problem that I have is that during the week, I get on the treadmill at 5am, and have no intentions of getting up and eating with enough time to completely digest my breakfast. For those of you who run later in the morning, here’s a great article from About.com
Don’t Skip Completely – Just Eat Soon After
The idea is to never skip breakfast completely. Research suggests that, for the average person, running a relaxed-pace morning run without carbohydrates in the stomach will not limit performance. The research also suggest that eating carbohydrates will not enhance performance in this scenario. These concepts also apply for the shorter duration, easier runs. However, no matter the intensity or duration, your body will be screaming for replenishment post-run. It is very important to consume breakfast soon after your morning run.
It may be tempting to jump in the shower and rush off to work or school to tackle that busy schedule. This is where training and performance can suffer. Recovering from a run plays a significant role in improving performance. Your body wants to get the muscle glycogen resynthesis process going. Feed your muscles with a post-run carbohydrate-rich breakfast. Adding a small source of protein to the meal will nicely complete your recovery meal.
Now this might work if you’re only going a handful of miles, but what about the Long Runs?
The 75-Minute Rule
On a run that’s about 75 minutes or less, you can rely on your body’s glycogen stores and the food you eat prerun to power you through. Run longer, though, and you need carbs.
Jackie Dikos, R.D., a consultant dietitian who heads Nutrition Success in Indianapolis, suggests that runners start “fueling before the onset of fatigue.” That means you should start taking in carbs between 30 and 60 minutes into your workout or race, depending on the intensity of your run. Dikos, who ran in this year’s Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, starts drinking a carb-rich sports drink about 40 minutes into a marathon. You should then continue fueling in frequent, small doses. The ideal is 100 to 250 calories (or 25 to 60 grams of carbs) per hour, after the first hour of running, says Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners. That’s the equivalent of one to 2 1/2 sports gels or 16 to 40 ounces of sports drink per hour.
That said, a runner’s exact calorie needs vary from person to person. As Clark puts it: “A Hummer needs more gas than a Mini Cooper.” Smaller runners might only need 100 calories every hour, while larger runners might need around 250 calories. The less fit you are, the faster you burn through stored carbs, meaning you’ll need more calories midrun to keep your tank full. Running at a quick pace or high intensity also uses glycogen at a faster rate-a car going 75 miles an hour uses more gas than one going 60.
Many runners rely on sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade) and gels (PowerBar Gel, GU) for their carbs. “Both are sugar by another name,” says Clark. “Sugar is what your body wants.” But feel free to eat it in whatever form works for you, whether that’s Gummi Bears, dried fruit, or Twizzlers. Clark, a veteran of nine marathons, eats mini Milky Ways on her long runs; Shulman, a runner and triathlete who routinely wins her age group, likes Fig Newtons.
My personal favorite “on the go” fueling choice are Gu Chomps. Typically I only use them to fuel my runs of at least 9 or 10 miles. On Saturday, I ate them at the 4, 7, and 9 mile markers. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it. I NEVER use them as a substitute for breakfast if I can help it.
And you should never play with your food!
Testing the Water
In determining the best morning run strategy for you, consider the time you ate your last meal or snack, the type of run you plan to tackle, and have a post-run refueling plan. Do you plan to test opting out of the pre-run snack since you had a late meal? Try carrying a small breakfast bar or a small bag of animal crackers with you on your next morning run. If you feel as though you need an extra something to get you through, enjoy your prepared snack.
Deciding when and how much to eat before a morning run is often a matter of personal preference. Become familiar with the way your body feels and adjust based on what you feel works best. Listen to your body, but by no means neglect your post-run refueling needs.