- In Nutrition
Fueling Up for Broad Street: Nutrition Series, Tip #3 Timing Your Meals and Snacks
As we have seen the past few weeks, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and plenty of water is very important when training for a run. However, the timing of these meals and snacks is just as important as what you eat. There are two important rules to follow.
First, it is important to eat before the race or a training session, but not too close to the run. You want to avoid eating too close to when you begin running to avoid digestion issues and an upset stomach. I recommend eating in a window somewhere between 1.5-2.5 hours before a run, and trying out different timings on your training runs to see what works best for you. Before a morning run, or the race since it is in the morning, you may not have much of an appetite, but it is important to eat something to avoid glycogen depletion. Glycogen depletion occurs when the body runs out of glycogen stores in the liver, which are used to make glucose for energy during exercise. This would result in feeling like you cannot push your body anymore, and that you have run out of steam. Since our bodies fast while we sleep, much of the stored glycogen has already been used up by the time that we wake up. Therefore, not eating anything before a morning run or race, leaves you starting your exercise with partially empty energy stores. Breakfast helps replenish the glycogen stores, and ensures that our bodies have enough energy to complete the ten-mile race. It is not easy for some people to stomach food in the morning, but something like a piece of toast with nut butter or some oatmeal will be easy to stomach, and give your body enough energy for running the ten miles at its maximum potential.
The second important rule to follow regarding meal timing is to always refuel after a training session or run, no matter what time of day it is. Many runners may do a few long training runs after work, finishing their run late in the evening, and feeling like it is better to avoid a late meal than to eat so close to bedtime. However, in order to fully recover and be ready for your next run, it is very important to eat within 1-2 hours of finishing the run. Even if you plan on never running again, it is still important to do this in order to avoid injury by helping your muscles repair themselves. The first priority post-run is to replenish fluids, which we discussed last week. Next, within 30 minutes of finishing a run, you should grab a high-carbohydrate snack or energy drink to replenish the glycogen stores that were used for energy during the run. An example of this is a Gatorade and a pretzel, both of which will probably be at the Broad Street finish line! Finally, 1-2 hours after the run, you should eat a meal of carbohydrates and protein. The added protein enhances that glycogen replenishment that the carbohydrates start, and also stimulates muscle protein synthesis to repair your muscles.
Like anything, it is important to experiment with meal timing and see what works best for you personally. I suggest trying a few different types of foods within the 1.5-2.5 hour range before runs to see what makes you feel the best and most energized so that you can have a game plan for race day!
by Lizzy Greener
Lizzy is a Personal Trainer at The Sporting Club at The Bellevue and is studying to become a Registered Dietitian.