Fueling Your Run: Nutrition and Hydration for Runners

Stacey Glennie, Dietetic Intern, Atlantic Superstore

 Running can be an excellent way to keep our minds and our bodies healthy and fit. While physical activity plays an important role in health, what we fuel our bodies with will determine how well we perform. Good hydration and foods rich in nutrients before, during and after exercise can make all the difference when it comes to training and your performance on race day. Here are some key points to keep in mind when considering how to properly fuel and hydrate your body for running, whether you are brand new to the sport or a seasoned marathoner.

Hydration.

Proper hydration will help you maintain physical and mental stamina as you run. On average, people need at least 2 liters of fluid per day, and this amount may increase as you exercise. Dietitians of Canada recommends drinking 1-2 cups of fluid 4 hours before exercise, sipping fluid during activity and then 2-3 cups of fluid per pound of body weight after exercise. Water is the fluid of choice, but beverages such as sports drinks, coffee, tea and juices all count toward fluid intake as well.

Before a Run.

What you eat leading up to a run will greatly impact your result. One of the most important things is making sure you consume enough calories. Eating enough helps to maintain your normal bodily functions, and the amount of energy you need will increase as you run longer distances or run more frequently.

The next thing to consider is meal timing. The more time in-between eating and exercise, the bigger the meal or snack should be. You should aim to eat 1-4 hours before running, enough to feel satisfied but not overfull. Foods rich in carbohydrates like whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, fruits or starchy vegetables are great choices, since carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for muscles and the brain.

Protein is also important before a run as it helps keep you fuller for longer. Choose lean protein options like poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and yogurt. Foods higher in fibre and fat should be limited closer to a run as these foods are more likely to cause gas and bloating. If you are someone who doesn’t like to eat before a run, a smoothie can be a great option for getting in some energy without eating solid foods.

After a Run.

Refueling after a run helps you recover faster. Replacing energy and electrolytes lost during exercise is especially important if you run frequently or intensely, like long-distance runs. For optimal recovery, eat within 30 minutes after a run. If eating a meal is not an option, have a small snack immediately after your run, like a piece of fruit or a small smoothie, and then eat a larger meal 1-2 hours later. Choose foods that are rich in carbohydrates (fruit, whole grains, milk) and protein (lean meats, nuts, tofu, eggs). You should aim to get 15-25g of protein for a recovery meal or snack.

These Apple Cinnamon Energy Balls are a great option after a run. Whip up a batch to keep in your fridge for a quick and satisfying grab-and-go snack.

Apple Cinnamon Energy Balls

Ingredients:

2 cups              rolled or quick oats

¼ cup               flaxseed, ground

1 tsp                cinnamon

½ cup             nut or seed butter of choice or WOW butter

2 tbsp              honey or maple syrup

1 tsp                vanilla extract

Pinch               salt

1 cup               grated apple (about 1 lrg apple)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and stir, then use hands to combine. Roll into approximately 1 tbsp balls with your hands. Slightly wetting hands will help keep the dough from sticking.

The best rule of thumb for proper fueling is to listen to your body. If you are feeling more tired than normal during or after your fun, or are having a harder time recovering, you may need to eat more post-run. Your in-store dietitians at Atlantic Superstore can help you build an eating plan that works best for your exercise goals. Check out www.atlanticsuperstore.ca/dietitians and find a dietitian near you!