When I first began running I didn’t realize that I didn’t need to just eat, but I needed to eat the right foods to fuel my body. I had never used protein powder, I had thought protein bars were for weight loss, and had no idea what Gu was… sounded like something stuck to the bottom of my shoe. When first entering into the world of any type of extended activity you must not only eat right during the day, but specifically the things you eat before, after, and during the workout will decide your performance.
I wish I could just say, “Eat this and your body will perform at it’s peak!” But it’s not that simple. I’ve been training for races for almost 3 years now and I am still struggling on what works the best for my body. Why? Because what your body needs also changes with your training! But let me back up and start with the basics.
To eat or not to eat before training?
I do not eat before my training because I usually workout very early in the morning before my husband and children have started their day. When I first started running I wanted to lose weight and the best way to do that is to use reserve calories and not the ones you just ate. It just stuck.
If you do eat before a hard workout I recommend eating at least 2 hours before you begin. If I don’t follow this rule I am always nauseous during my training. This means getting up earlier on race days for me so I can make sure it won’t interfere with my performance. Many of my friends do feel they need to eat something before an early morning run and usually it’s just a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, or a half a banana with some peanut butter. As you can tell, the protein part is important. Make it light and try a few things until you find what works.
You need to eat during a workout?
Yes! This was news to me when I began running longer distances! What and when should I be eating?
There are tons of products out there just for this purpose! And one of them is called Gu. I think that is the worst name, not at all appealing but it is one of the most popular for race fueling. Most races hand them out like water and you most likely will get one in your race packet. But there are so many more choices. My favorite are Honey Stinger chews. They are like oversized gummies that are easy to chew and delicious, plus they’re organic. I also like to eat protein bars and find they sit better in my stomach sometimes. My favorites are Clif Bars and PROBAR CORE. You can get these and many others at most running stores or even sporting goods stores like Academy and Dick’s, and of course on Amazon.
I find I need something to eat about an hour into any run or training. If I eat within the first hour and then eat something every 30-45 minutes there after I don’t “crash” or “hit a wall”. But this is all trial and error and part of training is finding out what kind of nutrition will work best for you and when you find your body needs it.
What should I eat after a workout?
This is a perfect time for that protein shake and even another protein bar! You worked those muscles hard and they need fuel to repair and make you stronger! There are tons of protein powder options. I use Juice Plus+ Complete. It’s GMO free, gluten free, non-dairy, low glycemic and vegan.
If you are like me and eat breakfast as soon as finish a workout I do have an absolute favorite post workout breakfast. Thanks to my fitness instructor Joan Dandeneau, I eat Protein Pancakes almost every morning, which I learned from her when I first started running!
3/4 cup liquid egg whites (or 4 egg whites)
1/4 cup whole rolled oats
1/4 cup mashed banana or natural applesauce
Blend up the batter first, but you don’t have to. Use about a teaspoon coconut oil to a small sauté and pour half the batter in, cook until it’s bubbling slightly on top and is easy to flip all in one motion. Repeat with second half of batter. Makes two large pancakes. Yummy topped with a little plain greek yogurt and sprinkled with walnut pieces.
There are so many products out there to help you fuel your body for race training. Check out these and the many others to find what works best for you!