Nutrition Tips for Beginner Runners

These FAQs should help you, but if you need more help, go to www.sportmedbc.com and join the SportMed Community and submit your sport nutrition question to me through the "Ask the Expert" feature.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT FOR DINNER THE NIGHT BEFORE A MORNING RUN WORKOUT?

Runners should eat a well-balanced meal that provides plenty of carbohydrate – grains or pasta, vegetables, milk - and a moderate amount of lean protein - for example:

  • Vegetable-laden tomato sauce with 50-100 g chicken or lean meat over pasta
  • Beef and vegetable stir fry over noodles or rice
  • Bean and vegetable soup with whole grain bread and skim milk
  • Fish, vegetables and brown rice

WHAT SHOULD I EAT BEFORE A RUN WORKOUT?

Be aware that food choices and tolerance levels vary according to the individual. Remind them that a fellow runner’s advice may not work best for them. Advise runners to try various food combinations during training so they know what foods are most easily digested for them. Use these guidelines to help them get started:

If eating 2 or more hours before running:

  • Low fat yogurt with low fat granola with raisins
  • Bagel with peanut butter and honey
  • Ready to eat cold cereal with low fat flavored soymilk
  • Oatmeal with 1% milk and a piece of fruit

Eat a small high carbohydrate meal that is low in fat and has a small amount of protein for lasting energy. For example:

If eating 1 hour before running:

  • Drink a liquid meal such as a yogurt and fruit smoothie or meal replacement drink. Sports bars are another alternative, but be sure to choose one that provides at least 30g of carbohydrate and no more than ~8 grams of protein.

If running first thing in the morning:

  • Drink a glass of sports drink, diluted fruit juice, or water and an energy gel. These options will provide approximately 75-100 calories and should prevent light-headedness or low blood sugars during a 30-45 minute run (provided a good meal is eaten the night before).

SHOULD I EAT A GEL OR ENERGY BAR DURING RUN TRAINING?

If moderate to intense exercise lasts longer than 90 minutes, it is recommended to take in carbohydrates to keep muscles adequately fuelled. In this program, workouts will be no longer than 90 minutes. If a carbohydrate-rich meal has been eaten the night before, or if a small amount of carbohydrate has been ingested the morning of a workout (see question above), the runner should be adequately fuelled.

SHOULD I DRINK WATER OR A SPORTS DRINK DURING RUN TRAINING?

Yes, maintaining hydration is important for optimal running performance. Water should be appropriate for most runners, but in some cases, a sports drink may be better – for example:

  • If a runner does not like water,
  • If a runner has not eaten any carbohydrates for 2 or more hours prior to running

DO I NEED TO EAT OR DRINK FOR RECOVERY AFTER A RUN WORKOUT?

The body is primed to replenish glucose stores in the 30 minutes following a workout, but, if a second workout is not planned for the day, then this window of opportunity is not crucial. As long as a healthy meal or snack is eaten within 2 hours of exercise, followed by a regular pattern of meals and snacks for the remainder of the day, the body should be refueled adequately.

Re-hydration with water will promote better recovery after run sessions. Drink water during stretching and on the way home.

FEELING TIRED DURING WORKOUTS? YOU MAY BE DEHYDRATED.

There is no benefit to over-hydrating for these sessions, but there is a definite cost to being dehydrated. Share these fluid balance guidelines with your participants. Remind them to adjust the amounts to suit their needs depending on sweat rate, tolerance and body size.

Timing

Amount of fluid

2 hours before running

2 cups

10-15 min before running

1 to 2 cups

Every 15-20 min during run

1/3 – ½ cup

Immediately after training

1 - 3 cups**