When it comes to running and nutrition, you get out what you put in. What you eat before and after a run affects how you perform, how you feel, and how well you recover. Here are a few nutrition tips especially for runners!
Decide if you’re going to eat before your run—and if you are, pick the right foods.
Runners generally fall into two camps: those who eat before running, and those who insist you shouldn’t. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference—and both options have benefits!
Some say that fasted cardio can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, and improve running performance. On the other hand, eating before a run gives your body fuel and prevents mid-run hunger pangs. If you do eat before your run, choose a snack-sized portion of carbohydrates and protein, e.g. a banana or toast with peanut butter, yogurt, or a hard boiled egg and sweet potato.
Eat enough protein.
One of the easiest recovery mistakes a person can make is not consuming protein within an hour of completing a workout. When we exercise at a high intensity or push ourselves to achieve new feats (longer mileage runs or a faster pace), we create microscopic tears in our muscles, which our body repairs with amino acids from protein. Without enough protein, our muscles aren’t able to recover. Women should have 10 to 20 grams of post-workout protein; for men, 30 to 40 grams. For easy post-workout provisions, try a smoothie made with protein powder, Greek yogurt, or eggs.
Avoid carbo-loading, unless you really need it.
While many folks associate running with carbo-loading (eating a lot of carbs to increase your energy stores), only serious endurance athletes truly need it. Generally, anyone running for over two hours could benefit from carbo-loading. The best carbs in that case are easily digestible ones like pasta, white rice, bananas, or potatoes. If you’re running for under two hours, just eat your normal diet. Unnecessary carbo-loading can mean water retention and weight gain—both of which can worsen running performance and overall health.
And of course, make sure you’re eating a nutritious and balanced diet day to day—whether you’re running or not. A healthy baseline and good meal habits that incorporate a variety of foods will set you up for success when you hit the road.