As my friends and I are training for the MORE/Fitness Half Marathon at the end of April, and I know of many others who read this blog regularly are training for a race, I thought it would be prudent to discuss something we all spend a lot of time thinking about - FUEL.
For purposes of this post, I'm just speaking about fueling the day of a long run or race, since a whole other discussion could revolve around eating the day before!
Pre-Run: If you're going out for a long run, you want to eat something about 30 minutes beforehand. Ideally, you want a good mix of carbs and protein to give you sustained energy. Good options include oatmeal, banana, toast, peanut butter, granola, yogurt, crackers, half a bagel, and some people like the convenience of energy bars like Cliff. If you're like me and run early in the morning, this may be difficult, so I tend to eat something a little smaller, which works for me - an Akmak cracker with a little bit of PB. Some people also like to get in a caffeine jolt with coffee or soda, but I stay away from those myself.
On the Road: If you're plan calls for a shorter run (60 minutes or less) then you probably only need water along your route to keep you going. Be sure to pick a route with drinking fountains, or plant water bottles along the way or take a fuel pack with you. If you're running 75 minutes or longer, you're going to need something more substantial with easily accessible carbs to supply a quick source of energy to your brain and muscles. There is a plethora of manufactured products available like Gu and other gels, shot blocks, Luna Moons, gummy bears and other candies, and energy bars. Some people prefer to eat more natural foods like nuts, pretzels, homemade granola bars (in bite size chunks), dried fruit, and fig newtons. I used to swear by Gu and then shot blocks, but then started to rethink what I was actually digesting, so I started adding almonds into my mix. But, during the marathon, what got me through a rough patch was the pretzels that some volunteers were handing out. I believe they were KEY to me getting across the finish line. On the liquid side of things, many people rely solely on water, but gatorade and Nuun can be very helpful, especially on hot days when you need some extra sodium in your system.
Post-Run: This is a very important part of the run and will determine how well your muscles recover. You generally have a 30-60 minute window when it's essential to get a good mix of carbs and protein back into your system to restore your glycogen levels. This can be anything from a turkey or tuna sandwich to pancakes and a banana, cottage cheese, to eggs. My post long run meal during training featured a PB&J sandwich on a bagel and a banana. I love bagels but eat them very rarely, so during my run, thinking about the great meal I was going to have, along with a glass of Ronnybrook Farms chocolate milk (proven to have the ideal mix of proteins & carbs) to get me through the last few tough miles! Coconut water and cherry juice are also great post-run beverages.
Since everyone is different, you definitely need to try a few things out to see what works best for you. Remember, you should also eat something before going to the gym to workout. It'll help you burn calories and keep you energized. Plus, you won't have to worry about any embarassing stomach growling noises!
What are your favorite foods/beverages to get you through a long run, race or tough workout?