Lots of people wonder about what to eat and drink before, during and after a run. Even more obsess about it to the point of worrying, which can negatively effect the fun and relaxation that a run often is all about.
The large amount of supplements that are available now can confuse anyone including us! To make it easier for you to figure out what you need to do, we've created an easy to follow chart that will help you to decide what you want to do. We've also included a few common sense suggestions that should help you with your pre, during and post run nutrition needs.
Many people just roll out of bed and hit the road or trail. However, having a little nutrition onboard before you start isn't a bad idea. About an hour before you start consider having a low-fiber, high carb snack like a banana, toast with jam, or handful of dried fruit combined with water or an energy drink. You'll want to experiment with this to figure out what works best for you as each person is different. A few easily consumed nutrition products that work well for this purpose are Honey Stinger waffles, Gu energy stroopwafels, and Nuun hydration. If you're closer to run time Honey Stinger or Gu gels or energy chews as they get in your system a little faster.
Most people take a gel or some chews about 15 minutes before beginning a run. Depending upon the intensity of the workout most will also take a gel or chews every 45 minutes during the workout. However, it's best once again to experiment and find what ratio works best for you. We currently stock 20 different gel and chew flavors from Honey Stinger and Gu with some having caffine and some being caffine free. It's easiest to pick a flavor that looks like something you might enjoy and try it on a run before buying a large amount of them. Experimentation with different flavors and timings will give you the best ratio. Currently I take a gel 15 minutes before and have found out that taking one every 30 minutes for the entire run works best for me. The flavors that work for me are caramel flavors or chocolate as anything fruity doesn't work well. However my sister uses only fruity as chocolate or caramel upset her stomach. That means she tends to use chews most of the time as they taste a little fruitier to most people.
As you can see, the choice between gels and chews is mostly personal preference. Chews have a solid consistency and are usually easier to digest and can be taken without water. However if you don't want to have to chew the nutrition, gels are the way to go. I find it tough to take chews when I'm running at race pace so I tend to use gels then. In the summer, I'll also tend to use gels as I take them with water which rehydrates me a little as well. Also, a gel left in the car is still usable but forgotten chews become a syrupy and unusable mess. In the winter though, when I'm generally just getting miles in, gels tend to thicken or freeze on longer runs so I'll use chews instead.
What to drink during a run is also highly personal. Some people like water while others use a Nuun hydration or Gu Roctane energy drink mix. Using water with gu or gels works well but you need to be careful about over-sugaring yourself if you combine a drink mix with gels or chews. Sometimes the combination can upset your stomach or make you nutritionally crash, also known as the bonk. It's a fine line between success in nutrition, average or feeling bad and like I've said above you need to experiment to find out what works best for you. Over the years, I've found that for drinking about 6 to 9 ounces an hour by sipping some every half mile works best for me.
After a run, in order to maximize any training benefits and to recover, having some properly timed nutrition is also a good idea. Most research points towards the optimum time being within 20 minutes but most people aren't able to do that unless they are ending their run close to home. As a result, within 2 hours is a good guideline to follow. Some good choices that will give you the carbohydrates and protein essential for recovery are greek yogurt, banana or a smoothie, cereal and milk, or a bagel with an egg. If you're running later or don't feel like breakfast foods a lean-meat sub like turkey or pasta with meat sauce can also do the trick. If you're running right before work and are rushed a little, a protein bar will get you started and then you can add in more after you get to work.
If all the above leaves you a little confused, stop by and we can go over your specific nutrional needs and make some recommendations that should get you started down the road to nutrional success. Getting it right can be challenging but once accomplished your running, mood and overall fitness will improve.
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