What to eat or drink after a long run is a hot topic among runners. What you do or don’t consume can effect how you feel later in the day, as well as at your next workout.
After a long run, your biggest priority should be to replace fluids lost from sweat. Hopefully you drank some water or sports drink on your run, but you will still need to replace some fluid. The best way to determine how much to drink is to weigh yourself before and after your run (without clothes). For every pound lost, drink at least 16 oz of water; better yet, 24 ounces. At this point, there is little need for sports drinks, as long as you’re planning to eat something shortly. Your next meal or snack will replenish the lost sodium and glucose. However, sports drinks can be a good option if your stomach isn’t ready for food. Chicken broth, cola, or gingerale are other popular options that may help settle a queasy stomach.
Remember to continue to drink fluids throughout the day to continue to stay hydrated. You can monitor your hydration by the color and amount of your urine. When properly hydrated your urine will be a pale yellow (unless you take supplements, in which case, the color may be brighter), and you will urinate every 2-3 hours.
In addition to properly hydrating, you will want to eat shortly after a long run to replenish your glycogen stores. Make sure this meal or snack is a mix of carbohydrates (to refuel) with a little protein (to repair). While many runners strive for a ratio of 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 carbohydrates to protein, the exact ratio isn’t mandatory. Just be sure you fill-up with more carbs than protein. That is, don't have just a protein shake!
Some easy to prepare carb-protein recovery meals include:
- Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk
- Turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit
- Yogurt with berries and granola
- Bowl of beany soup such a minestrone, with whole grain crackers and low fat cheese
- Oatmeal with milk, raisins, and slivered almonds
- Peanut butter (or other nut butter) and banana sandwich
- Vegetable omelet with toast
If you aren’t ready for a meal after your run, make a small snack such as a glass of chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal with milk, or an apple with peanut butter.
Rapidly refueling by eating immediately after a run is most important for people who will be running again in the next 4 to 6 hours. Most of us can simply eat within an hour after running and will recover well. Yet, a benefit to eating shortly after your run is to keep the cookie monster from showing up!
Even if your stomach doesn’t feel hungry post-run, your muscles want fuel. Feed them! Signs of hunger include irritability and fatigue. Eating even just a small snack post-run and then your meal a few hours later can keep you from becoming ravenous and overeating later in the day. You will also likely feel more energized and recover faster.
Now that you know what to eat before your long run (and have hopefully been practicing), it’s important to figure out your fueling plan for during the race. When exercising for more than 60-90 minutes, it’s important to consume quickly absorbing carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout your run. Here are some recommendations on what and when to consume during long runs and race day.
How much to consume?
The amount of carbohydrates needed will vary from person to person (body size, speed, intensity, and training will all effect this), but aim for between 150-250 calories of carbohydrates per hour. This can be from a mix of sports drinks like Gatorade and food like Gu, candy, or dried fruit.
What to consume?
The goal is to consume food that is primarily made up of carbohydrates. When running for many hours, such as during the marathon, you will want to vary your food choices to keep you from getting tired of eating the same thing for 4+ hours. It’s easy to get through a half marathon relying only on Gu, candy, or dried fruit, but it’s difficult to keep that up for twice the time. You’re likely to get “sugared out,” meaning your taste buds or stomach may not tolerate the same food for that many hours. Varying both flavor and texture can help you get through the race without feeling like you can’t eat as much as your body needs. So, try out a few different options during your longer training runs to see what your stomach and GI tract tolerate and what gives your body the most energy.
Engineered vs. Real Food
The big advantage to engineered food such as Gu, Chomps, Sport Beans, and the like, is convenience. Most come in pre-packaged 100-calorie servings, and they are easy to carry with you. However, real food can work just as well, particularly for slower marathoners who will be pounding the pavement for more than four hours. Here are some common choices among runners:
- Raisins,dates, dried cranberries—or any dried fruit
- Swedishfish, jelly beans, gummy bears, or other chewy candy
- Minipeanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwiches*
- Banana(with peanut butter or other nut butter)*
* If you choose foods that aren’t convenient to carry inyour pocket, ask friends or family to stand along your race-day route at pointswhen you know you will need fuel.
If you drink Gatorade or other sports drinks, remember that this contributes to your carbohydrate intake. Just pay attention to how much you are consuming so you can adjust your food intake. Diluted fruit juice can work well for some too.
When to consume?
Your breakfast will likely get you through the first hour to hour and a half of the race. So, most runners like to start consuming carbohydrates whether it’s from a sports drink or food beginning at 45 minutes to an hour into the race. But, pay attention to how you feel during your long training runs to figure out when is a good time for you to start fueling. Some runners choose to start slightly earlier or later. Earlier signs of hunger (or fuel needs) include thinking about food, reduced energy, or tired legs.
As noted above, plan to consumer 150-250 calories per hour.You can spread this out over 15-30 minute intervals, and mix it up between drinks and food.
Remember that it’s important to test this out during your long training runs to avoid any race-day surprises!
Here is Part II of this Marathon Prep series, written by guest blogger Sarah Gold.
What to eat before a long run can be a stressful decision. You need to figure out what foods will provide adequate fuel without upsetting your stomach or the rest of your gastrointestinal tract. As you read last week, training your gut to tolerate food is important, but knowing what foods to choose and which ones to avoid can improve the performance and enjoyment of your training runs. Remember to practice your race-day breakfast on your long training runs leading up to the big day!
What should I eat?
Before a long run, your meal should include carbohydrates that digest easily and are low in fiber. Aim for approximately 2 calories of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (0.5g carbs per lb). A 150lb runner would want approximately 300 calories in carbohydrates. This will add to your glycogen stores and play a role in keeping your blood sugar constant. It will also keep hunger down during your run.
Don’t go crazy counting carbohydrate grams; this is just a guide. Adding a little fat or protein can help with satiety and flavor, but the carbohydrates are the most important factor here. Also, too much protein or fat can sit in the stomach, making for an unpleasant run. Some good pre-run choices include:
o Toast (or a bagel) with jam & a medium banana
o Cereal with milk and a banana
o Oatmeal with berries or raisins
o Pancakes (1-2) with fruit
o Granola bar that is low in fiber
o Fruit smoothie: 1 large banana, ½ cup berries, ½ cuplow-fat milk (or yogurt for extra creaminess), ice cubes.
o Trail mix with dried fruit, cereal, and pretzels
o Crackers with hummus and fruit
When should I eat?
While you want to allow 1 to 2 hours after a substantial pre-run breakfast to allow enough time for digestion and absorption, you can likely tolerate a smaller (200 to 300 calorie) snack within an hour pre-run. If you don’t have any trouble with running with food in your stomach, you can shorten this window. However some runners with digestive concerns get up early, eat breakfast, and then go back to bed. Others eat an extra snack before they go to bed, and then eat something smaller in the morning only 30 minutes before a run.
What if I get an upset stomach or GI tract when I eat before a run?
By starting with small amounts of food, most runners can train their GI tract to accept some food. Even a little fuel can improve energy and performance. Some people like sports drinks because they may feel less heavy in the stomach. If you really struggle, try to eat your breakfast the night before. Before you go to bed, enjoy a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as a bowl of cereal or a bagel . However, I would not recommend running the full marathon without eating the morning of the race, so it’s best to try to train your gut to tolerate food.
Q. I am using an app that tells me I need to lose weight by eating 1,400 calories. I am having a really hard time eating that little bit of food. What should I do?
A. Without knowing your height and weight, I can only take an educated guess at answering your question. My guess is: If you are having a hard time following the diet, don't even try! A 1,400-calorie reducing diet is lower than I would recommend for even a sedentary couch potato.
For many of my dieting female fitness exercisers, I recommend 1800 to 2,000 calories to lose weight and 2,000 to 2,400 for athletes who are doing hard training. While that may sound like “too much”, it is not! In order to lose weight, you only need to chip off 100 to 200 calories (from your weight-maintenance calories) at the end of the day. Theoretically, this will contribute to a loss of 10 to 20 pounds over the course of the year.
Slow weight loss, with a small calorie deficit, allows you to still have energy to exercise and function effectively in your daily life. Semi-starvation diets tend to backfire. While you may lose weight quickly by sheer will power and white- knuckling the hunger pangs, research suggests you will gain it back —plus more — in a short amount of time. Weight loss is far more complex than any app can figure out, and not as simple as eating less and exercising more. After all, if weight loss were simple, than everyone who has ever been on a diet would be thin. Not the case! Rather than rely on an app, I highly recommend you get personalized help by meeting with a sports dietitian. To find this local nutrition professional, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.
I recently received a rave review for these muffins. (“Yummy!!!) They are remarkably sweet and moist, despite having no added fat. The 3 grams of fat per muffin are from the health-protective fats in the ground flaxseed meal.
Flax is a source of anti-inflammatory fats that have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. Flax has a very mild taste and tastes good when mixed into muffins and breads, as well as sprinkled on cereal. This muffin recipe is one way to add the recommended daily one tablespoon of flaxseed to your breakfast and snacks.
Women aren’t the only ones who complain about their body. Men also fret about body image. Like women, men want to look good. Negative body image is a serious issue among men and women alike. Negative body image is also a key risk factor in development of eating disorders. Men searching for the “perfect body” often find themselves sliding down the slippery slope into an eating disorder.
According to a recent study done by the Centre for AppearanceResearch at the University of the West of England, four out of five men confess to being unhappy about their body. The study involved 384 British men with an average age of 40. The biggest body issue was the “beer belly” followed by "lack of muscles." About 60% said that their arms, chests, and stomachs were not muscular enough.
Their solution? To eat a high protein diet! Sorry guys. Eating a steak for dinner will not create bigger biceps by breakfast. Hard exercise builds muscles. You need to go to the gym and lift weights. And in order to have the energy to lift weights, you need to fuel your muscles with carbs.
Eating a high protein diet will not lead to fat loss (unless you knock off calories when you knock off carbs). To get rid of the beer belly, you need to get rid of the beer – or at least some of it—and consume fewer calories each day (or most days of the week). By cutting out two beers a day (300 calories), you can theoretically lose 30 pounds a year. Cutting out just one beer a day (150 calories) theoretically contributes to 15 pounds of fat loss a year – assuming everything else if your diet stays the same.
Sounds simple? Yes. Fat loss should not be hard. But if you want professional help with sculpting your body, I suggest you consult with a sports nutritionist for personalized advice. To find a local sports nutritionist, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.
Save the dates: March 10 (NYC) and March 31 (Boston)
Please come join me at Multisport World NYC and Boston. These annual events bring together everyone in the triathlon and running communities to learn, have fun, and meet each other. I am participating in both events and would love for you to come be a part of it too!
These are some of the highlights:
1) More than 25 lectures and panel discussions on all aspects of running and triathlon health and fitness
2) Local and national experts speaking on injury prevention, performance enhancement, and nutrition
3) A huge expo with more than 60 vendors with cool stuff to try out
4) An indoor bike time trial and indoor triathlon with awesome prizes
5) A really fun day
Entry to the expo is free, as are the general sessions. There are more specialized workshops that can be purchased (including running and swimming technique sessions and video analysis). Check out the website:
What’s the right ratio of carbs and protein? I was on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet to try to lose weight but my workouts sucked. I know carbs are important for athletes -- but what’s the right balance?
The good news is carbohydrates are NOT fattening so you have no need to cut back on them as a part of a weight reduction plan. Excess calories are fattening, in particular,excess calories of fat. People lose weight when they give up carbs because they actually give up the dietary fat that accompanies the carbs:
--butter on the potato,
--mayo on the sandwich,
--cheesesauce on thepasta.
Initially,the dieters also lose water-weight, because for each one ounce of carb stored in your muscles as glycogen, your body stores about three ounces of water. When you deplete the carbs by exercising, you lose the water (weight).
The carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables and grain-foods are important for athletes because only carbs convert into muscle glycogen, the fuel that keeps you from “hitting the wall.” Glycogen depletion is associated with fatigue. You'll have trouble doing hard exercise with a low carb diet.
You should plan a sports diet that includes quality carbs as the foundation of each meal, such as
--cereal for breakfast,
--sandwich bread with lunch, and
--starch(rice, noodles, pasta, potato) with dinner.
Round out the meal with more carbs from fruits and veggies.
You want more grams of carbs than grams of protein. Include at least 200 to 300 calories of grain-food per meal—about 1/3 of your plate. Protein should take up about ¼-1/3 of the plate and be the accompaniment to the carbs, but not the main focus of the meal. Choose additional “quality carbs” from fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads to round out the meal. These are preferable to the sugary carbs (sweets and treats) that can also fuel your muscles but fail to invest in optimal health.
I’m on the Paleo diet and am not eating grains. My muscles feel tired a lot. How many carbs do I need?
According to the International Olympic Committee’s Nutrition Recommendations, adequate carbs means:
Amount of exercise
Grams carb / kg
Moderate exercise (~1 hour/day)
2.5 to 3
Endurance exercise (1-3 h/day)
2.5 to 4.5
Extreme exercise (>4-5 h/day)
3.5 to 5.5
Example, a 150-lb triathlete doing extreme exercise should target ~500 to 800 g carb/day (2,000-3,200 carb-calories). That’s about 500 to 800 g carbs every 4 hours during the daytime.
For optimal performance, your recovery meals and snacks should include a foundation of carbohydrate-rich foods (such as breads, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables) plus a smaller amount of protein (about 10-20 grams per recovery snack or meal). This can be hard to do on a Paleo Diet, unless you eat a lot of “heavy” fruits and vegetables (such as bananas, mango, dried fruits, beets, winter squash, and sweet potato).
For your recovery meal, do not consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles. Your muscles want three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend insome banana and frozen berries.
Nancy, what are some suggestions for snacks mid-workout, such as after running for 45 to 60 minutes and before lifting? I think my lifting would be better if I could refuel a bit after the run.
Answer: Having a snack between your run and lift is a smart choice. A small energy boost (100 to 300 calories) can help you lifter harder—and you’ll better enjoy the workout.
What do YOU want to consume? Only you know what your body will be able to tolerate. Some athletes want only liquids mid-workout. Others are able to tolerate solid foods (plus water). Some may have little interest in anything (in which case, they should make the effort to eat a substantial breakfast the hour or two before the workout and at least sip on some water.)
Some "healthy options" include:
Chocolate milk (low fat or skim)
Orange juice or any kind of fruit juice
Canned peaches or fruit cocktail
Dried fruit (raisins, dates, dried pineapple)
What the body really wants is sugar, water, and yes, some caffeine (makes the effort seem easier). Sweetened iced tea might be popular, as would Coke or Pepsi. Not sure I'm recommending these choices, but they would do thejob!
Other (not necessarily recommended but popular options) are sugary foods: sports drinks, gels, bloks, gummy candy, sports beans, any kind of sugary candy, marshmallows, swig of maple syrup, or a spoonful of honey—plus water. Given that 10% of daily calories can appropriately come from sugar, a mid-workout sugar-snack can be balanced into an overall wholesome diet. Sugary snacks just don't don’t support the “health” message; so if you go that route, please choose primarily “quality calories” at other times throughout the day.
'Tis the season for nutrition resolutions. My advice is: be realistic!
I have a lot of clients who resolve to eat the perfect sports diet (no sugar, white flour, red meat, processed foods, etc.). These are the same athletes who then scold themselves for “cheating” when they eat a cookie or “being bad” if they sneak a French fry. Sometimes they let their bodies become ravenously hungry because “there was nothing healthy to eat” at an event. Somehow eating a white bagel would negate all other efforts to choose whole grain foods.
As you make your New Year’s Nutrition Resolutions, I suggest you think about enjoying a diet that averages out to be at least 90% “quality calories” and about 10% “whatever.” That is, you need not eat a perfect diet to have a good diet. And remember: there are times when eating any food is better than eating nothing. (Yes, getting “too hungry” is abusive. Don’t do that!) On the afternoon when you get stuck without any trail mix or "healthy" snacks, I’d rather see you munch on a candy bar than abuse your body with lack of fuel.
What are your New Year's Nutrition Resolutions? Are they sustainable?
With best wishes for a 2012 filled with enjoyable meals and balanced food choices,
Commercial sports candies are nothing but pure sugar. If you prefer an “all natural” alternative, think about dates. Yes, those bite-sized brown fruits that appear in holiday date-nut breads are actually great fuel for during endurance exercise! During hikes, winter snowshoe treks, bike rides, and even long runs, snacking on dates provides a highly nutritious source of carbs for fuel, while providing your body with wholesome goodness. Dates are a very rich source of anti-oxidants and bioactive compounds that help fight inflammation. They also offer potassium, calcium, magnesium, and many other vitmains and minerals.
If you choose Medjool dates (a specific variety of dates), they have a creamy texture that is not too dry. The moistness can translate into“sticky fingers”; to avoid that inconvenience, simply shake some raw oatmeal (or blenderized oats, made into oat flour) into the baggie in which you carry the dates. Solves the problem!
In general, when choosing fruits, you want to think about eating a variety of colors. (You know, red apples, blue berries, orange oranges, etc.) Each color offers different bioactive compounds. Dates fulfill the “brown” color. Give ‘em a try! Diced dates are yummy on cereal, in salads, as a part of trail mix, and combined with peanut butter for pop-in-your-mouth bliss.
Disclosure: I recently attended a yummy dinner sponsored by Medjool Date growers. (www.medjooldates.com).They didn’t have to work hard to convince me these are great sports foods. I’d just made some date-nut bread earlier that day!
As the holidays approach with their plethora of calories, I invite you plan your holiday eating so that you will enjoy some treats. A once-a-year Thanksgiving dinner will not ruin your waistline nor your health forever. Nor will a few Christmas cookies. After all, you need not have a perfect diet to have a good diet. If you end up overeating, your body will naturally compensate IF you listen to your hunger and satiety signals.
Rather than fretting about holiday foods, please pay more attention to your daily eating habits and food choices. Choose your calories by the company they keep. That is, on a daily basis,
• Choose foods that are nutrient-dense: vegetables and fruits, low fat yogurt and milk, lean meats, whole grain foods.
• Eat “closer to the earth” with less reliance on processed foods that come in plastic or paper wrappers. Instead grab that banana, apple, or orange that comes pre-wrapped in its own peel.
• Crunch on a handful of toasted nuts, a nutrient-rich alternative to crunchy chips, cookies, or crackers. • Target a daily diet that is 85% to 90% quality foods, but don’t miss out on the fun foods. Doing so can easily end up with sneak-eating and food binges. Not good.
How do you plan to manage your holiday eating? Please share your tips!