Running and Triathlons: the Right Foods Before and During a Run

Do you feel tired during your long runs? Did you know that this could be due to not eating the right foods before or during your exercise? With the right nutrition and hydration strategy, you can boost performance where every second counts! Well-chosen and well-timed foods and drinks can be the key to better performance as proper nutrition:

·   tops up energy before an event;
·   delays fatigue during the event;
·   prevents decline in mental concentration.

After a few days of carb loading, here are some tips that may help reduce exercise fatigue for activities lasting longer than 1 hour:

Nutrition during exercise

You should think of your body as a car, where the fuel tank is now glucose reserves in your body. The more glucose (fuel) you have, the further you can go. Therefore, we must fill up the tank throughout our activity.

This same can be said about hydration. A car that overheats will stall, so keeping temperatures down will avoid this from happening. This can be done by ingesting 30-60 grams of carbohydrate every 15-20 minutes and at least 500 ml of fluids (but often more) for every hour of sustained activity.

Each of the following foods provide 30 grams of carbohydrate:

·          1-2 pieces of fruit
·          1 cup of chocolate milk
·          4-6 crackers
·          1 high-carbohydrate sports bar
·          500 ml of sports drink
·          1 sports gel

This is where sports drinks, gels and bars come in. Unless you’re great at multitasking, eating while running or swimming can be a pain. That’s why carbohydrate-rich sports drinks, gels, and bars can be a good alternative.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) provide carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluid we lose from physical activity. Taking sips throughout your activity will ensure you don’t lose energy at the end of your activity. Sports drinks can be consumed before activities to start off fully energised, during activities to maintain energy and hydration, as well as after exercise to rehydrate and re-fuel (see below for a recipe of a homemade sports drink).

Sports gels

If you prefer sports gels, remember to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Make sure not to drink sports drinks while eating a gel because you will be taking in too much sugar, which can hinder your performance and may give you a stomach ache! Most sports gels contain 25-30 grams of carbohydrates, but usually lack enough electrolytes to match sweat losses.

Sports bars

Throughout endurance events, you can eat sports bars with high carbohydrate and low protein content. The carbohydrates are needed for energy and the lower protein content makes these bars easy to digest.

Juice, soft drinks, and coconut water

Although they all provide carbohydrates, they are not ideal fuels for endurance activities. Reasons for this are:

1.     They are too high in carbohydrates, which can cause stomach cramps.
2.     They lack essential electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.
3.     Nutrients in coconut water are highly variable across different brands.

Recipe for a homemade sports drink

Ingredients

·       ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice or ½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
·       ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
·       1 ½ to 2 cups of fresh water, depending on how strong you want the flavor
·       1/8 teaspoon of salt
·       2 tablespoons of sugar or honey

Directions

Toss everything into a blender and blend until the honey is dissolved, or just use some elbow grease and blend it by hand.

These are only some of the numerous race day strategies. Eating well during training sessions and during the days prior to the event are just as important. Make sure you get the most out of your eating and drinking habits by consulting a registered dietitian!


Zeina Khawam, Dt.P
dietitian-nutritionist