General guidelines can be applied to help everyone find an answer to this question, but the real response is that each person's fueling preferences (and responses to foods) are different. Pairing the right fueling strategy with the appropriate effort is a trial-and-error process that must be practiced.
Need more help managing your nutrient intake? Make sure to download Athleats, a mobile app that tracks everything you need to know about your nutrition. The following snack ideas will inspire you to start experimenting:
Before Speedwork1 of 11
Your main source of fuel for high-intensity efforts is glycogen. Easy-to-digest simple carbs consumed 30 to 60 minutes before your intervals will top off your muscle glycogen stores, and give you the energy boost you need to complete the workout. Try:
• 1/2 cup to 1 cup of white grape or apple juice plus a slice of white toast with jelly
• Low-fiber, high-water fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe or grapes
Before an Easy Run2 of 11
It depends on how long you plan to run (60 minutes and under is typical for an easy run), but as long as you're not hungry before starting your easy run, it's not always necessary to eat or drink anything but water prior. If you're feeling peckish, try these ideas 30 to 60 minutes before you head out:
• 1 rice cake topped with 2 tablespoons low-fat ricotta cheese, 6 golden raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon
• 1/4 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt with a handful of dried fruit
• 6 to 8 wheat crackers topped with low-fat chive or veggie cream cheese
Before a Long Run, DrinkPowerhouse Smoothie 3 of 11
Athletes who have tried the powerhouse smoothie say they feel "light" and fueled, even for long-distance or long-duration training. Their stomachs are not bogged down since liquids readily leave the stomach and are digested and absorbed quickly by the intestines. Best of all, with the smoothies' efficient digestion, there's no need for early morning wake-up calls in order to eat a solid pre-training breakfast before a race or big training day. All you need is 60 to 90 minutes before the event.
Drink this smoothie 2 hours before running. Mix the following in a blender or food processor: • 1 small banana (4 inches)
• 1 cup frozen or fresh berries
• 2 tablespoons chia seeds
• 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
• 1 scoop whey or other protein powder
• 2 tablespoons organic honey
• 1/2 tablespoon organic coconut oil
• Water or ice as needed for consistency
Before a Long Run, DrinkBeet Juice 4 of 11
In recent years, beet juice has gained the attention of researchers as an endurance-boosting elixir for athletes. One study found that the nitrates in beets help raise the body's concentration of nitric oxide—a molecule that helps relax and widen blood vessels, boost blood flow, reduce blood pressure, and lower the level of oxygen needed by muscles during exercise. Collectively, these findings suggest that beet juice may promote longer, easier workouts and a healthier heart and arteries.
Minty-Fresh Beet Juice Recipe
• 1 medium-sized beet
• 5 carrots
• 1/4 cup of fresh spearmint or peppermint (about 4 to 5 sprigs)
• 1 medium-sized apple
• Wash beet and cut into quarters
• Wash carrots and cut in half
• Wash apple and quarter
• Wash fresh peppermint or spearmint and set aside
Feed the apple quarters into your juicer first, followed by the carrots and beets (including tops). Add spearmint or peppermint and enjoy.
Before a Long Run When It's Hot, DrinkSalty Lemonade 5 of 11
You need to balance fluid intake with salt to head out the door well hydrated. When you pre-load with sodium, you do two things proactively: reduce your risk of being depleted of sodium, especially during the first 60 to 90 minutes of training, and increase blood volume.
Salty Lemonade Recipe
• 12 ounces cold water
• 3 ounces lemon juice
• 1 to 2 tablespoons raw honey or agave
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Mix all ingredients together. Drink with or without ice, 1 to 2 hours before training in the heat.
Before a Long Run, Eat6 of 11
The amount you eat will depend on your weight, how far you plan to run, and how early you need to rise in order to give time for your food to settle pre-run. Think snack, not meal, to avoid feeling weighed down and rising long before dawn to digest your fuel. Some ideal options to eat 60 to 90 minutes before your run:
• 1 bagel with 1 tablespoon nut butter and 1 tablespoon of jam plus half of a large banana
• 2 whole-grain waffles topped with low-fat cream cheese or ricotta cheese and sliced strawberries
• 1 medium-sized flour tortilla spread with 1 tablespoon hummus and wrapped around 1 cup of shredded carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers
• 1 cup of plain yogurt topped with 1 teaspoon honey, 2 handfuls of low-fat granola and fresh blueberries
After Speedwork7 of 11
The U.S. Olympic Committee's (USOC) team of professional sports nutritionists recommends dividing post-workout recovery nutrition into two stages.
The first stage should occur within 30 to 60 minutes after your training session, and should include a carb- and protein-rich snack with 30 to 100 grams of carbs and 10 to 20 grams of protein (exact amounts are dependent on body weight). It's all about the protein and carbs at this point; according to the USOC, fat consumption should be pretty low in this snack—3 grams or less per 100 calories. Drink plenty of fluid: Chug 20 to 24 ounces of water for every pound that you lost during training.
30-Second Post-Workout Snack
• 1/2 cup unsalted almonds
• 1/2 cup walnut pieces
• 1/2 cup dried pineapple, chopped
• 1/2 cup dried blueberries
• 1 cup dried cranberries
• 1 cup all-natural salted pretzels
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and portion into 1-ounce servings (roughly a handful) into resealable bags.
After an Easy Run8 of 11
As long as your easy run was run at a true easy (recovery) pace and it was 60 minutes or less, you don't really need to worry about post-run fueling. Maintain healthy, sensible habits: Eat mostly whole foods, eat smaller amounts more frequently (versus three big meals a day), and eat when you're genuinely hungry.
Healthy snacks with less than 150 calories:
• 1/2 cup of roasted chickpeas
• 1 slice of Swiss cheese and 7 olives
• 2 cups of kale chips
• 1 medium apple and 1 tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter
After a Long Run, DrinkCherry Juice 9 of 11
A study done in 2008 by British researchers found that runners who drank 16 ounces of tart cherry juice in the days before, the day of, and two days after a marathon decreased inflammation, oxidative stress, and muscle damage.
Cherries are higher in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than many other types of fruit. Try drinking a cup of tart cherry juice after exercise-particularly during heavy training. But don't guzzle it like it's tap water: One cup has about 30 grams of natural sugar and 130 calories.
After a Long Run, EatNut Butter, Cranberry and Flax Cookies 10 of 11
These make-ahead cookies provide the proper nourishment to help you recover faster. They also contain inflammation-lowering ingredients, such as pineapple, berries, omega-3 fatty acids and extra virgin olive oil, to help initiate the muscle repair and adaptation process.
The sweet-salty taste will tantalize your taste buds, making you want to eat a couple of these even if your stomach feels a bit queasy right after your run.