Our legs are the wheels, iPods the radio, our heart, lungs and muscles the engine..
To make our bodies run we need optimal fuel, no different than a car. And from what I’ve learned and experienced first hand, what we put in our bodies directly impacts not only how we feel, our energy levels, our moods and our appearance on a daily basis, but the quality of our endurance workout experience. Not only what we are able to put into it, but what we are able to take from it.
Preparation for a long run (60+ minutes of continuous exertion) begins 24 hours before you step outside your door, especially if your run is first thing in the morning. What you’ve had for dinner will most likely be what’s providing you with energy. Make sure you stick with simpler meal choices: quinoa or brown rice with sautéed vegetables, spaghetti, double decker almond butter sandwich.. try to stick with foods you know and are familiar with, now is not the time to experiment. You want to stick to foods that are primarily carbohydrate based, contain some protein, and are low in fat and fiber to avoid digestive distress.
Pre-Run (2+ hours before or less):
Fruits (apples, bananas, pears, berries) are not only a great source of simple sugars, but will also provide you with some extra hydration because of their water content.
Bread, multigrain, whole wheat or a bagel
Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
LOTS of water
During your Run:
It is incredibly important to go into your run hydrated and to maintain your hydration levels. On shorter runs, bringing along a water bottle may not be necessary, but on runs 6+ miles I always have mine handy (and on very long runs a CamelBak). Water will get you through your run, but sometimes an extra boost of electrolytes is necessary to get you through the last few miles by helping to prevent cramping and get your muscles functioning optimally.
I have tried a few electrolyte additives and am most impressed by nuun’s fruity flavored electrolyte tablets. They are packed with sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium (all the good stuff). You add 1 tablet to your 16 oz (2 cup) water bottle and you’re out the door. What I like best about nuun is that it doesn’t taste like a sports drink, it left my water cold and refreshing with a subtle hint of flavor that actually enticed me to keep drinking. Fruit punch is definitely a must try!
I found this concept difficult to wrap my head around, but it was life altering: you need to eat during your run!
Not eat, like run while spooning oatmeal into your mouth, or even something as basic as a granola bar, but making sure that you have a small something, that is portable and VERY carb dense, that you can pop in on the go. On longer runs are bodies utilize all our of glucose stores, leaving us to burn fat. This sounds awesome, but fat takes a significantly longer time to burn than sugar which will leave you feeling unnecessarily exhausted.
After experimenting with a few options, I’ve settled on cut up dried apricot. I know there are multiple products available, but I like to stick with organic dried fruit that I know my body has no problem digesting and can utilize quickly. Before a long run, I slice a few in half, stick them in a zip-lock and I’m out the door. I have 2 pieces after about 4 miles and then every 2 miles thereafter for that quick glucose (sugar) boost. Try experimenting with whatever dried fruit you prefer.
Post Run (within 30 minutes of completing)
It is essential that you consume a protein dense snack or meal within 30 minutes of completing your run for optimal muscle recovery. Your stomach may be unsettled so liquid nutrition is more than adequate. A few suggestions include:
Banana & Protein Smoothie
Almond Butter Sandwich
Avocado spread on Toast
Chia Seed Pudding
Our bodies are all different so it may take you a little while to find what foods work best for you during the different stages of your endurance run. Remember to stay hydrated and eat up!
Andrew and me, post run