Eating properly and drinking enough are daily challenges for runners. Now that the summer weather is back – and with it, our desire to get outside and move – this is the perfect time to adjust what you are putting on your plate to make your training more effective, easier and, above all, more enjoyable. Review of most-asked questions.
Should I eat breakfast even if I’m not hungry?
There is no need to mistreat your stomach by forcing down a big breakfast before you run. The goal is to feel good and full of energy.
Ideally, you should have a source of carbohydrates (sugar) in the morning before you train. If you are intending to run for less than an hour and you’re not hungry, a smoothie is a great choice because liquid foods are easier to digest. If you’re training for longer, your performance will definitely be better if you eat a little first. In this case, choose a light snack, such as a granola bar, dried fruit or a bowl of cereal.
How to avoid bloating
Do you hesitate to eat before running because you’re afraid of feeling nauseated or uncomfortably bloated? The solution is to eat something that will not be heavy to digest.
The best idea is to eat a combination of simple carbohydrates such as vegetables, fresh or dried fruit (which deliver energy to the body quickly) and complex carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta or couscous (which release energy over a longer period). You can choose a smoothie, chia pudding or fruit. Lean proteins are another good idea (eggs, low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt), to keep your hunger at bay if you are running for a longer time. In any case, you should avoid overloading on fats (fried foods, fatty meats, high-fat cheeses) because they take longer to digest and will hinder your performance.
How long beforehand should I eat?
For most athletes, the best option is to eat a balanced meal about 2 hours before starting the physical activity. Some variables will also influence the time required to digest the meal: foods that are too high in fats and certain types of proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates. Just remember one simple rule: you need to feel physically comfortable before starting your activity.
What should I eat before a competition?
A few hours before a sports event is definitely not the time to try new foods or a new recipe! Choose foods you are used to and that you know you digest easily. There is also some evidence to suggest that taking a probiotic supplement for a few days before a major competition will ensure you avoid underperformance due to gastric discomfort.
Recovery: To eat or not to eat?
For optimal recovery, you have to provide your body with the nutrients it needs after training. If the next time you plan to run is more than 24 hours away, a meal eaten within 2 hours after training is enough for adequate recovery.
If you plan to run again the next day, it’s best to eat a snack within 30 minutes of your running session, so you can rebuild your energy reserves and repair muscle damage. The ideal snack should contain at least 1 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight, and about 10 g of protein.
Am I sufficiently hydrated?
Poor hydration affects your performance and your concentration. You need to drink before, during and after! Water should be your #1 choice, and you should drink a few mouthfuls every 15 or 20 minutes. If it’s hot out or if you sweat a lot or run for an hour or more, you may need a sports drink with a high electrolyte content. For optimal hydration, you need about 1.25 litres of liquid per kilo of body weight lost.
Don’t forget! Drink, drink, drink for the rest of the day to be in great shape for your next running session!