One of the biggest mistakes I made as a runner was neglecting my nutrition. In fact, for a very long time, I believed that diet was not that important as long as I kept logging in the miles.
I was wrong. So wrong.
What I learned throughout the last few years is, fueling properly for training is an integral part of any training program. Diet matters as much as training for improving fitness, losing weight, and gaining endurance and strength.
One vital aspect of nutrition performance is timing—as in, pre- and post-workout eating, which a subject that eludes many runners, especially the beginner.
Get this: Without the proper fueling (and refueling) strategies, you’ll be setting up yourself for mediocre performance, nutritional deficiency, extreme fatigue, and injury. You want none of that.
And today I got you covered.
To help you make the healthiest choices, in today’s post, with you an easy guide to pre- and psot-workouit eating so you can stay motivated and well fueled to meet your running goals.
More specifically, I’ll discuss why you should address your pre and post-training nutritional needs. I’m also sharing a long list of my favorite post and pre-run meal and snack ideas.
Note: The strategies shared below might not work that well if your goal is to burn fat and lose weight. For weight loss eating plans while running, check my weight loss page.
What To Eat Before A Workout
Proper fueling for training is all about eating the right things at the right times. Doing so is just as important as the frequency and intensity of your runs.
If you don’t power up your body with the right fuel before a run, you won’t have the energy to perform at your maximum. Trying to run without the right fuel is like trying to go on a road trip without filling up the gas tank. You’re not going to get very far.
In other words, pre-workout nutrition ensures that you have enough gas in the tank.
Moreover, research shows that adequate pre-training eating can help prevent low blood sugar along with its symptoms. These include dizziness, fatigue, indecisiveness, lack of coordination, muddy thinking, and blurred vision.
Timing Your Intake
Timing is the secret sauce that makes pre-run fueling works. According to experts and my own experience, the ideal window to ingest food is between one to three hours before a run, depending on your personal preferences, eating habits, training intensity, and, more IMPORTANTLY, how big the meal.
The bigger the meal, the longer it’ll take the digestive system to break it down. That usually translates to less than one hour for a snack, one to two hours for a small meal, and up to three to four hours for a large meal.
If you’re a morning runner, have a small, carb-rich breakfast 30 minutes before heading out. Training in a fasted state may, but not always, use up all of your stored fuel, which can hinder your performance.
If having breakfast before a morning run is out of the question, then have a small piece of fruit, a smoothie, a hypertonic sports drink, or a healthy, energy-rich, dinner the night before.
The Right Choices
Here are some of my favorite pre-run meals and snacks. I found that these usually help keep me going strong without weighing me down.
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Multi-grain crackers with hummus
- Multi-grain bread with raw peanut butter.
- Greek yogurt with one granola and berries
- Apple with a serving of walnuts
- Two whole eggs with peppers, low-fat cheese, and onions
- Sweetened potato with steamed broccoli in olive oil
- Salad with roasted chickpeas and vinegar
- 100-calorie granola bar
- Half a cup of brown rice with black beans
- A handful of raisin and buts
- Oatmeal with fruit and low-fat milk
- Jelly toast and peanut butter.
- An apple or pear with one tablespoon of nut butter
- Banana and chocolate milk
- Crackers and cottage cheese
- Dried fruits with unsalted nuts
- Oatmeal with fruit and low-fat milk
- Veggies and hummus
- Bagel with cottage cheese
- Carrots and cheese
What you eat after a run is just as vital as pre-run nutrition. Neglect it and you’ll hinder your ability to reach your performance goals.
Post-training eating helps achieve some really important things.
For starters, it’s vital to replace the glycogen that has been used up during your run. Moreover, getting some protein into your body after a run is key for speedy muscle recovery, especially after a hard workout.
As a rule, consume something within 30 to 45 minutes of completing an intense workout. Research has revealed that postponing carbohydrate intake by longer than two hours post-exercise might reduce glycogen synthesis by up to 50 percent, compared to eating immediately after a workout.
For the post-run meal, research recommends a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Feel free to experiment with this until you find what works the best for you, depending on your personal preferences and needs.
The Best Choices
Here is a list of easily digested post-run meals and snacks:
- Fruit and low-fat milk smoothie
- Grilled chicken with roasted veggies
- Salmon with sweet potato
- Smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit
- Oatmeal with banana and almond butter
- Cereal and skim milk
- Tuna salad sandwich on grain bread
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Almonds and a piece of fruit
- Baked salmon and asparagus
- Whole grain toast and almond butter
- Sweet potato with cottage cheese
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Yogurt with berries
- Whole grain bagel with eggs whites
- Pasta with chicken, eggplant, and broccoli
- Egg white and spinach omelet
- Pita and hummus
- Vegetables and hummus
- Whole grain cereals with banana and milk
- Protein sports bars
- Oatmeal, whey protein, almond, and banana
- Turkey on a whole grain wrap with vegetable
- Apple with almond or peanut butter.
- A handful of raisin and nuts
Today’s article is by no means the full guide to proper fueling for runners. Performance nutrition is a very complicated topic, and it goes beyond my limited expertise.
All I’m trying to achieve here is to provide with a starter kit to get you going on the right path. The rest is up to you and where you want to take things next.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep Running Strong.