Healthy eating for successful training
Building a healthy running habit is not just about learning good technique and buying a pair of well-fitting sneakers. What you eat and drink will have a big impact on the efficiency of your training sessions, your recovery and your ability to perform to your potential in any races or fun runs you enter.
Find out what to eat before and after a run, and how to prep for and recover from race day.
The building blocks
The best place to start when thinking about nutrition is your everyday eating and drinking habits. Grabbing a healthy snack pre-run won’t make a huge difference if the rest of your diet is made up of junk, or you’re skipping food altogether.
Try to get into a pattern with your eating which includes three meals a day and may be supplemented by some healthy snacks. The 5 building blocks of food will give you an idea of the different food groups and how much of everything you should be eating each day, and the Healthier. Happier. recipe collections are a great place to look for healthy meal and snack ideas.
Carbohydrates are a really important part of a runner’s diet. Think about carbohydrates like the petrol needed to fuel a car. Without fuel, a car won’t run, and without carbs, you won’t run well, either.
Carbohydrates provide the fuel your body requires to support your day-to-day activities. If you don’t eat enough carbs, you might feel fatigued and unable to train effectively.
Good quality carbohydrates can be found in foods like:
- Wholegrain, light rye or sourdough bread
- Untoasted muesli
- Wholegrain pasta
- Basmati rice
Eating carbohydrates before you run will help fuel your exercise. Then, eating more after you run will help your body refuel, replacing the energy you’ve used while exercising.
Before you train
Everyone feels differently about eating before a run: some don’t mind it, while others don’t like to have much in their belly before hitting the track. Even if you don’t like to eat before you run, having something small will give you energy to move to the best of your ability.
A pre-run snack could be:
- One or two slices of wholegrain toast or raisin toast
- A couple of fresh or dried dates
- A small bowl of cereal with chopped fruit and yoghurt
- Or a piece of fresh fruit.
If you’re exercising later in the day, try having something larger to eat an hour or two before your run. Try 150 grams of plain yoghurt and untoasted muesli or a wholegrain muesli bar with nuts or fruit.
After a workout, there are three important things your body needs:
Protein will assist with muscle repair and growth. Aim to have 20-30 grams of protein in the hour post exercise, which you could get from 100-150 grams of lean meat or fish, 3 eggs, 150-180 grams of plain yoghurt, or a fruit based smoothie.
Carbohydrates help with both refuelling your body and supporting the muscle repair process. A fruit smoothie, muesli and yoghurt, oats with milk, lean meat and rice or pasta and veggies are all great options to help replenish your energy reserves.
If you feel tired, lethargic or hungry within an hour after you’ve finished training, it’s a sign that you haven’t eaten enough carbs – so eat a little more!
It’s not all about food – rehydrating before and after you run is a really important part of keeping you healthy and helping you perform your best when you run. Not rehydrating properly can actually decrease your performance by up to 60%, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water both before and after you run.
For a particularly long training session over a couple of hours, or on race day, you can check how much you need to drink by weighing yourself before and after the event. Whatever weight you’ve lost during the run, you need to drink that much fluid plus 50% more to effectively rehydrate. For example, if you are 1 kilogram lighter after your run, you need to drink 1.5 litres of water.
On race day
Your diet shouldn’t change too much between training and racing. With practice, you’ll learn what feels best in your body before and after you run, and can mimic this on the day of the race.
The night before a race, eat a dinner that’s a little higher in carbohydrates to make sure your energy stores are full. Potato, rice or pasta are great options for a pre-race dinner, or have a lighter meal of yoghurt and fruit with oats.
Remember that good quality carbs will keep your energy levels stable, rather than the low quality carbs such as highly processed, sugary foods like lollies, chocolate or ice cream.
On the day of the race, eat as you have been during training. If you’re not a big pre-run eater, or your race is very early in the morning, plan to have something small that will give you an energy boost. Don’t forget to have plenty of fluids before you run!
Even though it might be tempting to fill up on junk food as a reward after your run, sticking to non-food rewards (like getting a massage, or going to the movies) is a much better way to celebrate your achievement.
Try to eat a meal with plenty of protein and carbohydrates, like you have during training, within an hour of crossing the finish line. Make sure you consume plenty of fluids as well, to ensure you are properly rehydrated.
If you have to wait longer than an hour between finishing the race and getting a meal, have a simple snack like a wholegrain muesli bar or piece of fruit to tide you over until you can eat something more substantial.
Once the races are over, why not reward yourself by spending a beautiful day in South Bank? Relax in the Finish Village with family and friends, or give your body the fuel it needs with a meal from one of your favourite South Bank cafes and restaurants. Many South Bank retailers have exclusive deals for Bridge to Brisbane participants – all you have to do is show your race bib.
This blog was contributed by our friends at Healthier. Happier.
Got any other suggestions on what to eat while training? Let us know in the comments below.
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