Fueling Your Run: Nutrition and Hydration for Runners

Rebecca Robar, In-store Dietitian Halifax

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 recommend 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 bread, 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 fiber 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.

 

Healthy Meal Ideas

 

Apple Cinnamon Energy Balls

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.

2 Cups  Rolled or Quick Oats

1/4 Cup  Flaxseed, ground

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 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 large apple)

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and stir, then use hands to combine.

2. Roll into approximately 1 tbsp balls with your hands. Slightly wetting hands will help keep the dough from sticking.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Riced cauliflower stands in for couscous in this no-cook, gluten-free take on parsley-packed tabbouleh. For the most satisfying crunchy texture and best flavour, we’ve used raw cauliflower, rather than steamed florets (which can lend an unpleasant cabbagey aroma). Garnish with additional chopped fresh parsley and mint leaves, if desired. 

1/2 Head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into large florets (about 5 cups/ 1.25L)

2 Cups lightly packed Fresh Parsley

1 Cup lightly packed Fresh Mint Leaves

4 Green Onions, sliced

2 PC Organics Roma Tomatoes, diced

1 Sweet Yellow Pepper, diced

1/2 English Cucumber, diced

1 Clove Garlic, finely grated

1/3 Cup PC New World EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp Grated Lemon Zest

1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

3/4 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Directions:

1. Place half of the cauliflower florets in PC Cauliflower Ricer; pump ricer until cauliflower is finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.

2. Place parsley and mint in ricer; pump until finely chopped. Transfer to the same bowl.

3. Add green onions, tomatoes, yellow pepper and cucumber to cauliflower mixture; toss to combine.

4. Whisk together garlic, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until combined. Drizzle over tabbouleh; toss to coat.

Chef’s Tip: Don’t discard the delicate stems of tender herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and dill; they are full of flavour and can be chopped and added to recipes along with their leaves. The same doesn’t apply to woody-stemmed herbs – think thyme, rosemary, and oregano; however,

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!