Food for thought on fuel for running

So the training is going well. You are steadily building up the mileage, keeping those annoying niggles at bay and have mastered the art of anti-chaff cream. But you are starting to find you are severely flagging at certain points of the day and that energetic joy towards a Sunday run is not what it used to be. With the increased training load you will start to require not just a higher calorie intake but a more mineral rich selection. So where do you start? What are the myths and facts about certain foods? How do you know what’s right for you?

Like anything it takes time to get used to a new regime. You cannot switch a food routine and expect it to stick instantly. To improve the chances of holding a habit it is important to enjoy what you eat. So how do you find your balance? Simple, note down a table with one side listing the good foods you eat and the other with the foods that aren’t as healthy. From there you want to aim towards a 90/10 scenario where the 90% of food is your mineral dense and good for your body and the other 10% are rewards or treats. 

So nutritionally, let’s keep it simple. Carbohydrates are going to be your main fuel for the race and can easily be incorporated into every meal. You can have bananas and porridge for breakfast, brown rice, pasta or seeded breads for lunch and potato, legumes and a vegetable selection for dinner. This variation allows for a mineral balance within the body, while keeping energy levels sustained during heavy training periods.

What about protein? This bracket of nutrition is heavily over-advertised and as much as it is necessary it isn’t as vital as the media makes out. Stick to around 1.2g per kg of your bodyweight and you will be fine. But it shouldn’t all be about meat. A handful of nuts, lots of vegetables and beans will easily help top up your protein hit. Fish is also great as long as you choose a reliable source. Supplements should be a last resort as they are not as natural as the real thing.

Don’t demonise fats! Your body can’t survive without a little fat. But like all choices stick to the natural ones and you have nothing to worry about. Peanut butter, seeds and a splash of olive oil will keep the body on top form. Remember French fries and doughnuts are not natural fats!

Let’s put this all together. Eat a big meal 3-4 hours before race at the latest with a smaller meal not later than 2-3 hours before. This is all down to how well you cope with your nerves so you will need to practise this. Snacks and gels should be taken in the final hour before the start as well as plenty of water.

Remember to hydrate. There is nothing worse than the dry mouth feeling and the dizziness of dehydration. Ideally you will want to have around a litre bottle with you that you should sip on between four hours and the last 30 minutes before the start. 

Gels, oh the sweet taste! Your fuel for the race duration should consist of about 1 gel every half-hour after the first hour. You need to find the ones that work for you. You can use natural branded options or the freebies handed out on the race track. Include a sip/cup of water to wash it down to get a double whammy of energy and hydration. 

It’s all down to you now. So there you have it, as always everybody is different and what works for one person will play out differently with someone else. Experiment early on in your training programme and you will find what sits well with you. Don’t get bogged down by it, understand what is good for you and add them into your lifestyle slowly. Here at Sporting Feet we have seen it all, from beginners to elites we are happy to offer advice and experience to help keep those nerves at bay. Pop in and we will be happy to help you in achieving your training goals.