ask a runner: nutrition tips
posted: May 24, 2010
You’ve competed in Ironman competitions, and from a beginner’s perspective that’s an amazing task and your body must take a lot of abuse. How much does nutrition play in your training regiment? What are some secret foods that you eat to stay in top physical shape? – Trevor
Do you have any nutrition tips for runners? I am training for a 5km race and I would love to know what I should be eating at breakfast, lunch and dinner to help me improve my performance! I am also interested in finding out the answer to how you stay motivated and keep running? – Christine
For new runners, what are some nutrition and when to eat tips revolving around your running session and to support a running body? And big question, what is the best thing to eat after a run? - Annie
Can you help me with running nutrition? I’d like to know what to eat before a run and how long prior to running should I eat also what best to eat after a run and how long after the run to eat it. – Lauren
a runner responds
Trevor, Christine, Annie, & Lauren,
I’m clumping your questions into one because they are all similar. First off, I will begin this by saying that nutrition is HUGE, and plays a large role in my athletic accomplishments. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household where healthy eating was implemented from an early age. I eat a lot of food, but eat frequently throughout the day. My diet consists primarily of meat, nuts, eggs, vegetables, and fruit. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! Of course, there is always a time and a place for treats, but I would say that more than 80% of my diet comes from the aforementioned foods. Trevor – those are my secret foods! Nothing special.
Christine, Annie & Lauren – the key is finding out what works for you. Everyone is so different from the foods they can digest to the amount of time they can eat before running. I know that if I eat a larger meal, then I will have to wait 2 hours before doing a hard run. But that’s just the way my body is. What I can say is that you should be eating something before your run (anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours prior) that has carbohydrates or a carb/protein combo – think fruit, turkey sandwich, or sports drink. After your run, fuel is especially important. Think protein/carb combo – PB&J sammy, protein shake with some fruit, etc. My friend Beth swears by her pre-run peanut butter toast and post-run fruit and protein powder smoothie. Only you can determine what works and what doesn’t for your body. Don’t overeat – if you’ve been running 5km, then your pre-run and post-run fueling needs will be much lower than the fueling demands of a 20km run, so adjust accordingly.
For more information and complete lists of healthy foods for runners, check out Nancy Clarke’s “Food Guide for Marathoners“. In short, keep it healthy, keep it simple, and if it works, keep doing it!
I am training for my first half marathon that is coming up in 20 days! I usually wake up at 7:30 to be out the door by 8 for my morning runs, and I usually do not eat anything before I run. I have heard that this is fine before shorter runs (4 or 5 miles), but maybe not longer ones (6, 7, 8 miles). Do you eat before your short and long runs? And what do you eat? And how long do you wait after eating to start running? Also, is there something specific I should eat before my half marathon? And what about the night before for dinner?? Sorry for the question overload!! If you can help me out, I would really appreciate it! – Taylor
a runner responds
Taylor – always eat in the morning, no matter what. Even if you aren’t running, your body has come from a fasting state, and needs fuel pronto, ESPECIALLY if you are going for a run! I usually eat eggs and fruit in the morning, and depending on the intensity or duration of the run, I usually wait 2 hours before I head out. The key is practice eating now and seeing how your body reacts. If my half marathon was at 7am, then I would get up and eat at 5am. I would eat my regular breakfast. DO NOT try anything new on race day. So get on a good breakfast program now, and stick to it before your race. As for your night before, hydrate well, and eat a normal, balanced healthy meal that you would normally eat. Have a great race, and good luck!
Ainslie is the first run expert featured in our Ask a Runner series. Check out her website to get to know her better.