Fuel up to reap the benefits of running

January 29, 2015

Food is fuel, and eating before a run is crucial to its success. How and what you should eat depends on how you're training; a short, easy run will require different fuel than a marathon. The time of day you work out is also a factor. Here's how to get the most bang for your buck — or kilometre.

Fuel up to reap the benefits of running

When to eat

Eating well before a run will store food as muscle glycogen; however, a healthy snack eaten 60 minutes before a light to moderate run can offer quick fuel, provided the intensity of the run is low enough to allow for digestion.

Morning runs

If you prefer to run in the morning, bear in mind that glycogen levels can become depleted while you sleep. Consistent eating the day before helps to keep energy levels up, but a pre-run snack before you run can ensure proper glycogen levels.

For lighter runs under an hour, opt for a pre-run snack that's mostly carbohydrates with a bit of protein. Some examples are cereal with skim milk, granola and a bite of cottage cheese, or half of an energy bar.

For longer runs, wait as long as possible after eating before you take off, and eat slower-digesting foods like oatmeal, a banana and Greek yogurt. Be sure to hydrate with water and/or a sports drink before every run as well. Eat a healthy protein-, carb-, and fruit-filled breakfast when you return from your run.

Day or evening runs

Just because you're running later in the day, don't neglect to fuel up with a healthy breakfast. Combine lean protein, carbohydrates and a bit of fruit for optimal morning fuel. Protein in the form of eggs, lean meat, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or peanut butter are an excellent way to start the day. Pair them with whole wheat toast, oatmeal or another healthy, complex carb and some fruit.

If you're running in the late afternoon, have a healthy lunch as well; continue with the theme of lean proteins and carbs but add in plenty of fresh vegetables. Some sample lunches to try:

• Lean salmon, brown rice and steamed broccoli
• Baked chicken breast and a spinach, field greens and tomato salad with half of a whole wheat roll
• Hummus with whole wheat pita and chopped cucumber, lettuce and tomato
• Sliced turkey breast in a wheat wrap with veggies and low-fat cheese

Plan your dinner menus using a similar formula: lean protein, healthy carbohydrates and plenty of fresh vegetables. Green, leafy salads and steamed veggies like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and asparagus are excellent choices. Allow at least two hours after lunch or dinner before an afternoon or evening run.

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