Unsure about what to eat before a long run? Or indeed whether to eat at all before you hit the trails? Read on for five nutrition tips to get your pre-run nosh on track!
Yep, we’ve created a ‘point zero’. Why? Because we wanted to let you know that the rest of the points (1 through 7) are meant to fuel a long run, not a fun run! For a 5-10km fun run or training session, the rules are easy: for dinner the night before your race/run and breakfast immediately prior DO NOT eat anything you are unaccustomed to! Breakfast should be two hours prior to your race and should be a meal you have eaten before a run many times during your training or shorter workouts. Keep it simple; nothing too out of the usual… and include some good quality protein like a Chief Collagen Bar and a few slow-burn carbs (note we said a FEW, not bananas and honey on toast, right? OK now on to fuel your long runs…
Consume carbohydrates and protein, and include a little healthy fat. While the 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is almost universally advocated for optimal absorption of nutrients if you aren’t going for a long run or don’t have much time to let your stomach settle, halve the amounts.
Mark Verstegen, of Athletes Performance Institute, recommends a scoop of protein powder in a half-glass of watered-down orange juice. A teaspoon or so of healthy oil such as MCT oil (our favourite), is all you need to help deliver nutrients where they need to go as liver treats it similarly to glucose, a carbohydrate.
For energy now, including fast-acting, high-glycemic carbs, for energy later – it’s about sustained release (but not starchy!) carbs. This is a great tip we learnt from Brendan Brazier: professional Ironman, ultra marathon champion and best selling author.
Brendan’s tips pre-run: Half a banana and a few dates (glucose) as a high-GI, instant-energy sugar, or almond milk mixed with a little protein powder and some slow release grains like quinoa, barley or oats, plus fruit and almonds for slower energy release.
If you’re planning on sweating during your run, you’ll need electrolytes. Lack of electrolytes is one of the causes of the nasty “bonk” (that feeling you get during a long workout where you can-not-move-another-centimetre as you're depleted of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles).
A severe lack of electrolytes is really quite dangerous. Hyponatremia, the condition of having too much water and not enough sodium (an electrolyte) in your system, has proved fatal for endurance athletes who load up on water but don’t replace lost electrolytes.
When we sweat, we lose lots of salt and it is for this reason that consumption of electrolytes during a work- out is so important. While most sports drinks and energy gels are processed and full of garbage, fresh coconut water is nature’s own electrolyte (it does, after all, grow right along the equator!). Another way to get a head start on electrolyte replacement is by simply adding a pinch of salt to your pre-workout drink.
Consider caffeinating for improved performance. We’re not talking a giant latte with caramel syrup here but for runners, a small cup of black coffee, or a hit of matcha (green tea) powder dissolved in water has been shown to significantly improve performance in endurance events and workouts.
Try adding caffeine to your pre-workout smoothie! Here’s a little recipe:
- 1/2 cup cold black coffee
- 1 cup milk of choice (we love almond or coconut)
- 1 banana, peeled and sliced
- 1 teaspoon stevia, honey, or maple syrup
- 4 to 5 ice cubes
- Combine all of these ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into your travel cup and enjoy!
Add optional superfoods to go the extra mile! While the above guidelines should be enough to already give your run a good ol’ kick up the bum, you can always make your pre-run drinks even more super with the addition of a few superfoods.
Now unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Chia seeds are popular. The ancient Aztec warriors used to rely on these solely to fuel them through their long pre-battle hikes. Your body will absorb Chia seeds in either whole or ground form (we love them soaked overnight in a little fresh juice or coconut milk).
Maca powder is another great one for helping the adrenal glands recover from the stress of the long run. Acai, goji, chlorella, greens powder, ground linseed… the list goes on!
Timing For Nutrition Intake before and During A Long Run
Try to have your last big meal 12-16 hours before your long run. If you're running a marathon in the morning at 7 am, your last big meal should be lunch the day before the event. A light snack in the evening and the morning before the race will ensure your energy depots are full and ready for the first 60-90 minutes of your event. To minimise the risk of an upset stomach during a long run or race, try to stick to liquid energy. For a session longer than 90 minutes you will need to start refuelling 30-40 minutes into the session and keep maintaining a steady fuel intake from there on. As a general rule of thumb, you need about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour for ongoing endurance performance. This could be three packs of energy gels of 20 grams of carbs each every 20 minutes. Supplemented by approximately 750-1000ml of water with electrolytes every hour depending on the heat conditions.