Fueling to walk or run is an individual process. While we may be engaging in the same activity, our tastes, tolerances and needs are different. There are numerous products on the market to help you eat before, during and after a hard workout. How does one know which ones to use – trial and error.
Trial and error occurs on training runs and walks. This is where your midweek workouts and our group walks and runs come into play. During your workouts, you should be testing your breakfast foods and those you think you can eat during and after a run. You need to test your fuel because race day is not the time to find out what doesn’t agree with you. Finding out on race day can mean you feel sick to your stomach, need to vomit or find that you have diarrhea. While this seems extreme, it’s very common, and very avoidable.
To avoid food issues, start by planning what you want eat before a run and start eating those foods before your midweek workouts. If those foods work well, try them before a Saturday workout. Each week, try a new food so that you have options and can also rule out foods that don’t agree with your stomach. Make note of what works.
Now that you know what you can eat before a run, start bringing foods to snack on during a run. Many people find that they can’t handle gels, others can’t eat nuts. Gels are high in sugar and nuts are hard on the stomach. The stomach requires blood and fluids to properly digest foods. Both of these are less available when working out as blood is moved to working muscles and fluids are used in muscles, and on your skin to cool you. You want to find foods that are easy on the stomach and move quickly to the muscles and don’t upset your stomach. To do this, try anything and everything and just find portable versions that will fit in your fuel belt or hydration vest pockets.
Once you’ve figured out what sits on your stomach when working out, you need to plan your post-workout fuel. This recovery meal should be consumed within 30 minutes of completing a workout so that your muscles can begin the task of recovering. Note that your muscles require protein and fuel to recover, and you require additional food to power your body for normal activity. If you don’t consume enough calories to power both processes, you risk injury. The nice thing about the body is that this added need for fuel for recovery, comes across as a feeling of hunger. Don’t ignore that hunger in the hours and days after a hard workout. That is your body saying it needs recovery fuel. Just feed it a light meal of 150 to 200 calories of good carbohydrates and protein and a glass of water.
Foods to consider for breakfast include a slice of toast with nut butter, oatmeal or a protein smoothie. Workout fuel includes gels, PowerBar or ClifBars, raisins, potato chips, pr”etzels, bananas and anything that you can easily carry and digest. Post run think chocolate milk, a turkey and cheese sandwich or a protein smoothie. For post run snacks you should keep a cooler in your car with ice and your snack ready and waiting. Grab your snack and then stand and talk with your running buddies.