You may have heard the saying “don’t eat before you go swimming.” Eating before running, however? Different story. Food provides fuel for the body and it’s better to fuel up than run on an empty stomach. You wouldn’t want to drive a car without any gas in it, right?
What you eat right before your run can dictate how your workout will go. If you don’t eat before your run, you may feel tired, dizzy and fatigued; eat directly before your run and you may get stomach cramps. Optimally, you’d want to eat about a half hour to an hour before you strap on your running shoes; this will give your body enough time to digest and convert the food into energy.
You should opt for foods that are high in carbohydrates, as they provide for quick energy; these include whole-grain cereals, brown rice, yogurts and vegetables. Bananas also provide a nice, healthy option that you can bring on the go. There is no need to carb-load right before your run. The key is to eat light but enough to provide you with a substantial amount of energy.
The longer you run and the more intense your workout, the more carbohydrates your body requires. If you’re running for under an hour and going for an easy, quick run, aim to consume up to 150 calories and try these foods for fuel: a banana, English muffin with jelly, a peach. If your run is going to be over an hour-long, aim to consume up to 300 calories and opt for these foods: a cup of whole wheat pasta, a cup of cooked oatmeal, 8 ounces of Greek yogurt.
It may be tempting to go for a run after indulging on highly caloric foods such as burgers, fries, and ice cream. This is not suggested, however. Logically, you would think that by working out, you can counterbalance the meal but these high-fat foods are hard to digest. Saturated fats digest slower in your stomach and slows down necessary energy-delivering blood to your muscles. Instead, opt for foods that are low in fat and fiber as they will be more easily digested.
Post-workout, it’s also important to rehydrate, no matter the length of your workout. We recommend bringing a water bottle with you and drinking before and after your workout. Gatorade and Powerade help too to replace the electrolytes which are lost in sweat. Electrolytes, which are composed of sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other minerals, aid in proper muscle function and need to be replaced if you’re going to be exercising vigorously for an hour or more.
It’s also important to have a little protein to recoup your energy levels. Try to eat 30 minutes after you complete your run as the caloric intake will help replenish glycocen and rebuild muscles, enabling them to recover. Try to consume 10-20 grams of protein after your workout.
Remember, do not rely solely on coffee to fuel your run. Eat well and get in the habit of providing your body with the right nutrients to fuel your workout. Feel great after every run by opting for carbohydrates which provide for quick energy and avoiding fibrous foods.