Eat Well Run Strong: Nutrition for runners – 3 key points to get you started

Guest Blog by Helen Morton, Nutritional Therapist, and Optibac gut health specialist

On the face of it, nothing to do with running nutrition is simple. There is not a straightforward answer to ‘What’s the best food for me to eat before a run?’ So many factors come into play when deciding what, and when to eat. Is it a morning or evening run? Distance obviously has a bearing as fuelling up before running an ultra marathon needs more careful consideration than food before a sociable Parkrun. Also to consider of course is your own personal situation – your gender, age, and fitness being the big three factors.

Nutrition for female runners is my personal passion, hence my book Eat Well Run Strong was born.

In this guest blog for Alexandra, fellow Waverley Harrier club runner, and club coach, I am going to share the three top areas of nutrition to think about if you really want your running to thrive.

Eat Well Run Strong

Hydration

We all know that water is essential for life. And for runners, staying hydrated is key to running well. Plenty of studies have shown that even mild dehydration negatively impacts running performance, increasing perceived effort, which is how hard it feels to run at the same pace. Fatigue kicks in much quicker too. Heart rate tends to be higher even on an easy-paced run – which for anyone using fitness trackers can be a good way to assess how well-hydrated you are.


The best way to run fully hydrated is to drink water regularly throughout the day, every day.
Remember to carry water with you on a run, particularly if you are out on a warm day or running for
more than 30 minutes or so. Electrolytes are critical in hot weather and on long runs. This is because
sweat contains sodium and other minerals which need replenishing alongside water. Don’t forget to
drink water after your run too – little and often is best.

Don’t run on empty

If you want to run strongly and enjoy the miles then make sure you start fully fuelled. If you run
in the evening after work and haven’t eaten eat since lunch then you’re starting low in energy and could struggle to finish. At the very least you’ll be making your run harder than it needs to be.

There is a knack for knowing when, what, and how much to eat before running. It comes with practice and some trial and error.

Things to consider include:

  • Many people find they need around 2 hours for a meal to go down before being able to run comfortably
  • A small snack, such as a banana or oat bar, can be useful 30-60 minutes before starting a run
  • Avoid fatty foods and anything that you find difficult to digest before heading out

Recovery

The hours after a run, especially anything fast, long, or hilly, are the best time to pack in recovery
foods. Protein is the most important macronutrient for recovery because it helps with growth and
repair. Healthy tendons, ligaments, and muscle fibres all need sufficient protein to repair well, plus a
whole host of other nutrients too.

Recovery foods include:

  • Antioxidant-rich foods are your friends – think brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, green and black tea
  • A variety of different protein foods is ideal – such as fish, poultry, beans, pulses, meat, and eggs
  • Magnesium – ok, not a food as such but magnesium is one of the most important minerals to help with recovery. It is vital for relaxation and sleep, which most of us know is another important element of strong, healthy running. Epsom bath salts and magnesium massage oils are my personal favourites

There is so much more to nutrition for running than these three areas. As a qualified Nutritional
Therapist and Optibac gut health specialist, I research and write about everything to do with running
and exercise, from hormones and mental health to probiotics and genetics.


If you have any questions about diet and running performance, then please get in touch.

Eat Well Run Strong

Helen Morton Eat Well Run Strong

I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to comment!

Words of Wisdom

"

''I am in competition with no one. I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone.  I simply want to be a better person than I was yesterday''
"

Alexandra Oliver

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