You have your training plan, but do you have a fueling plan?
What you eat, and when you eat it, can greatly affect your training and racing — just ask anyone who spent their race in the port-a-potty.
These fueling tips can help you perform better, last longer and recover faster.
But remember — this is the main rule of race nutrition — you are an experiment of one. Just because your training buddy can wolf down a cheeseburger and race well doesn’t mean you will be able to. Stick with what you know before a tough workout or race, and save the food experiments for when your performance isn’t as crucial.
Related: Get our complete PT365 Run Plan program here.
Other key tips:
* Every person is different and must learn through trial and error what foods/fluids work best for them during training and competition.
* Always eat familiar foods before competition. Experiment with any new foods during training of similar duration and intensity.
* If you are not used to eating before exercise, you can train your gut to tolerate food. Start with very small amounts and gradually add more.
* Specific timing of recovery fuel becomes more important when you are doing multiple workouts in one day or high-intensity daily workouts.
Follow these fueling tips to find which ones work best for you.
2-4 hours out
You can eat more of a meal if you’re several hours away from your run, but think carefully about what will sit well. All the amounts listed below are individualized; be sure to keep track of pre-exercise meals and how you tolerate them to determine your optimal intake.
NUTRIENTS: Before you lace up, you’ll want to make sure to eat foods high in carbohydrates, low in fat and fiber and with moderate protein. This will give you energy for your workout without the stomachache. Try to drink 2 to 4 cups of fluids leading up to your workout.
* Oatmeal with milk, fruit and nuts
* Turkey sandwich with fruit
* Cottage cheese with fruit and crackers
* Toast or bagel with peanut butter and jelly
PT365 FAVORITE: Dairy-free breakfast smoothie. If dairy products make your stomach a little iffy during long runs, then consider blending up this nut-butter-and-almond-milk smoothie. It packs roughly 22 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbohydrates per 16-ounce serving.
* 1 ripe banana
* 2 tablespoons almond or peanut butter
* Splash unsweetened almond milk
* 1 scoop VegaOne natural-flavored vegan protein powder
* Ice cubes
30-60 minutes prior
An hour before your workout is not the time to hit the chow hall. You’ll want to eat a smaller snack, just enough to get you going but not so much that you’re full and uncomfortable. Again, these suggestions are just starting points. Find what works best for you — and your stomach.
NUTRIENTS: According to your tolerance, eat approximately 30 to 60 grams — or 120 to 240 calories — of carbohydrates) plus 1 to 2 cups of fluids. Think of this as topping off your energy stores.
* Sports bars
* Half of a sandwich
* Oatmeal with milk
* Half a bagel with jelly
PT365 FAVORITE: Pocket Fuel. These 1.8-ounce nut butter blend packs can ride around in your ruck all day, making them a low-hassle pre-run snack. They’re so good we want to eat them when we’re not working out. Down a whole Chocolate Haze and get 340 calories and 28 grams of carbs. You will get a mini workout trying to knead the pack before opening. (10 pack/$29.90)
Hour or more
If your workout lasts longer than an hour, you’ll need to consider taking some mid-run fuel. Think about what is easy to carry and — if you’re going to be out long enough — what will be OK unrefrigerated. Going short? For less than an hour, plain water is fine.
NUTRIENTS: Carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluids. General rule of thumb: Consume 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour and about 4 to 6 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 minutes. (See hydration note*) Heavy sweaters may need more fluids.
* Sports drinks
* Sports bars or beans
* Fruit (bananas, oranges, dried or pureed)
* Gummy candy
* Fig Newtons
PT365 FAVORITE: Honey Stingers. Whether you want a gel, a chew or a waffle, Honey Stinger has you covered. These products use honey, which can be easier on sensitive stomachs than artificial sweeteners. Gels will get you about 100 calories and 24 grams of carbs; chews net about 160 calories and 39 grams of carbs; and the waffles have about 160 calories and 21 grams of carbs. ($22 to $33 for multipacks)
30 minutes after
You’ll want to eat a carb/protein snack within the first 30 minutes. The optimal carb-to-protein ratio is 3-4:1 — 3 to 4 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein.
NUTRIENTS: Carbohydrates, protein, fluids and electrolytes. These nutrients will help restock your liver’s glycogen stores and provide your body with protein for muscle repair. Also aim to drink two cups of fluids for every pound of body weight lost.
* Chocolate milk
* Smoothie made with Greek yogurt and fruit
* Pita bread and hummus
* Beef jerky
PT365 FAVORITE: Epic Bars. These organic meat bars (yes, meat bars) are gluten-free and don’t have added sugar. These are a great choice if you finish your workout and can’t get to your kitchen or the chow hall within 30 minutes. We’re particularly partial to the lamb and currant bar, which has 10 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs. ($34/box of 12)
2 hours after
Make sure to have a full meal within two hours. But be conscious of how much you’re eating post-workout: Running 9 miles does not mean you can eat an entire pizza. We sure wish it did, but it doesn’t.
NUTRIENTS: Carbohydrates, protein.
* Pasta with tomato or meat sauce
* Brown rice or quinoa with chicken and vegetables
* Beans and rice
* Scrambled eggs with tomatoes and spinach
* Salmon with asparagus
PT365 FAVORITE: All the foods. When we’re really hungry we’ll eat anything, but aim for a colorful plate balanced with good protein and vegetables. Though we’re still convinced if we run far enough we’ll deserve a whole pizza.
* So how much should you be drinking? That amount depends on several factors, such as the temperature outside and whether you’re a heavy sweater. But one important factor is how fast you’re running: The slower your race pace, the slower your drinking rate should be. This is because slower runners are at higher risk of overdrinking and developing hyponatremia, a potentially life-threatienng condition caused by low sodium levels. The Association of International Marathons and Distance Races recommends that runners with finish times of more than five hours drink a maximum of 4 to 6 ounces every 20 minutes. Best advice? Drink to thirst, and if you’re gaining weight during your workout, then you’re probably overdrinking.