Eating around training is a difficult skill to master, especially when you have a million other things to think about like work and the kids around your sessions, however our resident tipster has a bit of advice. You don’t want to be running on empty, especially when doing hard or long sessions, but you also don’t want your food jumping around in your stomach as you run.
As a general rule of thumb you want a light carbohydrate based meal roughly two hours before your session then a protein snack as soon as possible afterwards. The carbohydrate meal can be something as simple as a sandwich or pasta salad and it serves the purpose of fuelling your training session. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into sugars which are stored in the muscles for use as fuel. The more intense a run is then the more important it is that you’re fuelled properly, running a hard session without sufficient carbohydrate consumption will reduce the quality of the training.
Sometimes we need to take on carbohydrates while training and racing, especially on runs over 60 minutes in length. The form these carbohydrates should take is highly personal. Sports drinks, gels and bars are all good options along with bananas and cereal bars. Our main tip would be to try out as many types of mid run snacks as possible at different intensities and figure out what works for you. We find that the harder we are running the more liquid our snack should be – sports drinks for long half marathon or marathon based efforts and bars for easier runs.
The protein based snack afterwards is equally as important. We recommend a hard boiled egg, protein bar or protein shake although any product high in protein will be sufficient. Protein helps our muscles repair as well as helps prevent us from overeating later on. Here at The Running Algorithm we are great believers in eating whenever you’re hungry and a protein snack immediately after training helps us moderate our hunger.
Generally speaking, there’s a lot to say for simplicity within our diet. Kenyan runners are world famous for their high quality distance running and it’s widely known that their diets are often very simple. Most of my food comes from my local supermarket and it often feels difficult to eat as simply as possible but I generally aim to buy things as close to how they looked on the farm as often as possible. Another practical tip is to include as many colours in your fruit and vegetable as possible – this makes ‘healthy’ meals look very appealing and I think it makes them taste better.
In general though, fuel your runs (especially hard ones) with carbohydrates around two hours before training and have a protein based snack afterwards. The rest of the time just eat to hunger and consume lots of fruits and vegetables. These rules apply if you’re a vegan, vegetarian or meat eater. Try to eat food as it grows.