One of the most common mistakes when fuelling to run is consuming too few carbohydrates.
Runners often don’t consume enough carbs pre-run or during a run, and they wind up hitting a wall. This fatigue-like feeling can also strike mid-race when you’re pushing yourself to the limit.
Fuelling during training and racing isn’t as simple as waiting for a hunger cue, it’s a calculation based on the individual’s needs. Consumption of calories needs to be done proactively to allow for digestion time and to maintain steady energy levels.
Not only will fuelling help you physically complete a half or full marathon, but it will also fuel your brain. Maintaining a positive state of mind when your body aches and wants to quit has many times been the reason that I, personally, was able to cross a finish line.
Without getting too scientific, a general rule of thumb to remember is to consume 100 calories every 45-60 minutes of physical activity.
To find what works for you, I recommend testing different liquids, products and food items out during your training runs.
One big reason for having adequate fuel before and during a run, as well as on a daily basis, is to prevent the use of protein as a fuel source. Not only will a steady supply of carbohydrates keep you going mentally and physically on a long run, it’s also necessary for the break down of fat into an energy source.
When nutrition isn’t balanced and the body has to rely on protein for fuel, muscle protein stores will begin to decrease along with lean body mass (muscle), which can be detrimental to performance.
If you balance carbohydrates, proteins and fats correctly, protein will be spared from being used as an energy source. Instead, it can be used for tissue maintenance, growth and repair, three key functions that are crucial for a runner’s training, performance and recovery.
After a run or race, your recovery process will be the next most important element of your running success. Recovery includes many things, some of the most notable are:
- Stretching/foam rolling techniques
- Sleep cycle
Recovery starts from the minute you hit stop on your watch or cross a finish line, and nutrition is just as important in the recovery zone as it is pre-run and during training.
There’s no magic formula to post-run nutrition, it can be as simple as a protein shake and a banana. Some other common choices are peanut butter and crackers, eggs and toast, Greek yoghurt and granola, a sandwich, or pretty much anything that has a vital balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Need a few ideas to get started? Here are some of my favourite products that I like to use in my training and racing:
Vega Recovery Accelerator (liquid)
- 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein that shakes up into a hand held water bottle and digests easy
- Not always possible to carry but very satisfying and can even be hydrating on warmer days (i.e. watermelon, citrus!)
- Look for low fiber fruits as they will digest easily.
- Tip: dried fruit is another option and slightly easier to carry with you.
Honey Stinger waffles or gels
- All natural, honey sweetened fuel offers most runners adequate carbohydrates per one hour of exercise.
Bio Steel natural energy bars
- Naturally sweetened with fruit.
- Great for long runs (2+hrs) where you get to the point of hunger but solid foods seems like too much. Also great for hikes (Summer is coming!)
- These bars offer 12g of protein.
Bio Steel Natural High Performance Sports Drink
- Replenishes electrolytes, providing you with vitamins and minerals that are vital for the body’s daily function.
- Added Amino Acid Blend, which are building blocks of protein and absorb quickly in the body, kick starts recovery.
- Also includes a Vitamin B blend. B vitamins play a role in metabolizing fats/carbs/protein (key components of energy!)