Most runners know that proper nutrition is key to athletic success. However, diet can also be the trickiest component of training.
Runners can have a tough time figuring out when, what and how to eat when stomach distress sets in. With education, a plan and practice, you can solve this common nutritional problem.
When Do I Need To Fuel?
It's not always necessary to fuel during or after every training run or race. The two factors of running that dictate whether or not additional fuel is required are the duration and intensity of the run.
Easy to moderate runs lasting less than 60 minutes may require a pre-exercise snack and some water—at most. High-intensity runs lasting longer than 60 to 90 minutes require a fueling plan. During these runs, your goal should be to drink enough fluids to match your sweat rate and to eat enough carbohydrate to provide extra energy and maintain a normal blood-sugar level.
Your muscle glycogen stores start to become depleted after about 90 minutes of intense exercise. Having some carbohydrate (about 30 to 60 grams per hour) after the first 45 to 60 minutes will supply you with an additional source of fuel so you don't hit a wall.
Recovery nutrition is also important after long, tough runs. However, these difficult efforts often leave us with an upset stomach or without an appetite. If you're one of those runners who finds it challenging to eat after exercise, consider the timing of your next hard run.
If you have two to three days to recover, then you don't need to be as concerned with immediate nutritional recovery. With a proper diet, your body will be able to fully replace what was lost throughout the next 48 hours.
However, try to restore carbohydrate levels as soon as possible if you need to be ready for another hard workout in the next 12 to 48 hours.
Another thing to consider is how your choices affect how you eat the rest of the day. If you wait a few hours after your run to eat, do you choose junk foods or larger portion sizes? If this is the case, having a post-exercise snack may keep you from making poor nutrition decisions later.
What Should I Fuel With?
Just as you practice running at several speeds and on various terrains, you must experiment with different forms, flavors and textures of food/drink to determine what your stomach can tolerate.
More: 10 Race Preparation Tips