Food. Isn't food always the question, with everything. What do I eat, am I eating too much, too little, protien, carbs, calories, blah blah blah.
With running, in my mind, food becomes fuel.
And therefore, I view it differently than I normally would. Instead of asking "will this make me gain weight, or will this make me regret it later," I end up asking myself, "how much energy can this give me?" "how can this help my muscles rebound faster?" and "will this kill my stomach during a run?"
I have done a lot of research with food and running, and the opinions out there vary greatly. And each year, there is a new way to eat for optimal running performance. It is always changing, and probably always will be.
I continue to research often, and I am open to trying new things as they come out. I keep what works, I don't do what doesn't.
So, I am just going to share with you what I do. I have had years to figure out what works for me, and a lot of trial and error. This may not be what works for you though. Take it or leave it my friends.
When I am running, just to run (no training, no races, no big runs) I try to focus on foods that give me the most energy and I stay away from foods that upset my stomach or make my runs hard. Here is what I have found.
grape nuts with mixed berries, milk and artificial sweetner (lots of energy!)
yogurt(if you mix grape nuts in the yogurt it tastes just like pie)
burritos full of vegies and chicken
apples with cheese
whole wheat pasta
tuna fish on ritz crackers
Foods that don't help much:
Food For Long runs.
This is where I have done a lot of research. If you don't fuel up right for a long run, you are seriously asking for it. Don't put yourself through that kind of misery. It is hard enough as it is.
The day before a long run, I drink A LOT. Being hydrated is key. It is just as important, and maybe more important than the food you will be eating.
I eat more carbs than normal on this day as well. (if it is before a marathon, I carb load two days before the race, and do not run) From what I have read, about 70% of the food you eat on this day should be full of carbs. I don't go crazy and eat pasta for every meal and pig out on pop tarts and cinnamon rolls. I do, however, make an effort to get the carbs in. Oatmeal and a banana for breakfast, a whole wheat bagel sandwich for lunch, whole wheat crackers for snacks, and pasta for dinner. Dinner is where I really bring in the carbs.
This may sound crazy, but for me, Olive Garden is where it's at. I have eaten there three times on the evening before a 19-20 mile run, and all of those runs were awesome! Alfredo sits well in my stomach. Maranara sauce does not. Don't know why, but I learned that the hard way. I know we can't all go to Olive Garden every time there is a long run though. Pasta at home works too.
Without being well hydrated and without carb loading, plan on a very hard and horrible long run. I have been there, it is not worth it.
During the long run.
This has been the hardest thing for me to figure out, but this past month, I think I finally did it! I can't stand Gu, power bars are too hard to chew during a run, and those gummy/jelly things literally make me gag. I know, I am a wimp. I just can't stand those things. I am not saying they don't help, because they do, I just don't like them at all!
That being said though, it is so important to have something to nibble on and something to drink during a long run, unless you enjoy hitting the wall early on.
Here is what I do, and it has been working wonderfully!
The night before the long run, I buy a gatorade (lemon/lime) and hide it in a bush, somewhere along mile 6, mile 12 and mile 16.
There is no reason I use these miles, they are just where the good hiding spots are, and where I tend to get thirsty. I buy another one to drink when I get home. I drink the entire thing within 1/2 hour of finishing the run. This is very important.
Notice, I did not say water. Water is good, but if you want to prevent cramping and hitting the wall fast, gatorade, powerade, and sports drinks are the way to go. They are highly recommended for runs, or exercise, longer than 45 minutes.
I plant the drink, because I don't like to carry it on me. Lots of people carry the drink on them though and do just fine. Whatever floats your boat. Luckily at the marathon, the aid stations always have gatorade and water. I make sure to utilize this as much as possible.
During the long run, I have these in my pocket.
I just discovered these at Walmart a month ago, and I LOVE THEM!!! They taste great, they are small and easy to chew while running. And they give me awesome energy for the next few miles after I eat one or two. I ate these during my 19 mile run a few weeks ago and the difference was amazing. I will be carrying these on me during the marathon for sure! They are so awesome. (I ate one or two every three miles or so..it is important to be getting nutrients through the entire run, even if you don't feel depleted yet)
During the actual marathon, I do eat one of the banana chunks they give you at the aid stations. They really make a difference and they don't upset my stomach. One marathon gave us gummy bears at mile 20 and I was pleasantly suprised with the short energy burst they gave me.
The key to being able to continue on in the long runs is to stay hydrated and to keep some sort of nutrition in you. It is easy to become depleted in everything when you run this far, and when this happens, you are running on empty and it is nothing short of pure torture. The finish line, or the end of the run, is not the place to finally eat or drink something. Eating and drinking through the entire run is very important, even if you don't feel like it.
I have done both. I ran a marathon without eating anything and drinking very little. I was sore for two solid weeks after the race and I was in so much pain for the last 6 miles of the race. It was really bad. I also ran a marathon where I ate and drank frequently and it was so much better. I was only sore for a few days, and the actual race was much better. I am a believer.
After a long run or a marathon.
Hydrate like crazy. Drink everything you want to drink. Just drink. Drink all day. Try to eat a good size meal within an hour, to help with muscle repair and to help restore some lost nutrients.
So those are my tips. That is what I do. It won't work for everyone though. You have to find out what works for you. The best time for trial runs (no pun intended) is during training. Get it all figured out before the race. Trying new things during a race is not good.
What do you do for fuel when exercising, running, doing a race, ect? What works for you? What tips and tricks do you have? Share with us, I am sure we are all in the same boat.
Roadrunner Files: Cross Training