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Running Nutrition Guide

Nutrition plays a key role in supporting all areas of running, including weekly mileage, races, recovery and training adaptations. Matching the correct nutritional intake to the individual requirements of these situations can result in optimal performance. The main goals of performance nutrition are:

  • • To fuel for the work required in training
  • • To promote recovery and drive training adaptions following sessions
  • • To fuel for and recover on race day
  •  

    TRAINING

    Key Consideration: Fuel for Training

    When race-day comes around there is no doubt that carbohydrate will be the preferred fuel for running. To prepare for this you should practice your race-day nutrition strategies in training. However, as a runner we must consider the role of fat in fuelling performance. The percentage contribution of carbohydrate and fat to overall energy production is largely determined by exercise intensity and duration. As a result, nutrition for training should be based on the specific session you have and the desired training effect, with a well-designed training week including the following sessions:

    • • Low-intensity or recovery runs with restricted carbohydrate availability
    • • High-intensity intervals fuelled by carbohydrates
    • • A key race-day session where the full fuelling plan for your race-day is practiced

    Your high-intensity intervals and hill sessions will be carbohydrate dependent, meaning that you need carbohydrate in the working muscle to use as energy. Depending on the timing of this session, including a carbohydrate source with your meals during the day and topping up with a snack (banana or GO Energy Bar) 60 minutes before the session is advised. Whereas easy miles and recovery runs can be fuelled using our own body fat stores, before breakfast is a good time to do these runs. Having a coffee or a GO Caffeine Shot before you get out in the runners can lower the perception of effort and make the session feel easier.

    Key Consideration: Train as you Race

    It is important to have a nutrition plan going into your chosen race and testing this out in training with one ‘train as you race’ session per week is essential for the following reasons:

    Pre-run meal: Breakfast acts as a key meal on the day of your event, to top up energy stores and ensure you are fully fuelled for the start line. Your breakfast should reflect this and include normal breakfast food: cereals, toast, bagels, jam, fruit juice. Breakfast should be 1-3 hours before the start to allow for full digestion and prevent any chances of gastrointestinal distress while riding. Test your race-day breakfast in training to ensure it works for you.

    During the run: Your body can only store enough carbohydrate for 60-90 minutes of hard running, therefore, eating as you go is key. Aim to take in 60 g of carbohydrate per hour from a range of sources(1). Fuelling should start in the first hour – if you wait until you are tired to start eating this is often too late.

    Hydration: Your fluid requirements will be dependent on sweat rate, aim not to lose greater than 2-3% body mass as a result of sweat loss(2).

    Recovery: Hard racing depletes muscle glycogen stores, causes muscle damage and results in fluid loss. Your recovery nutrition should therefore focus on both carbohydrate and protein intake to replenish muscle glycogen and repair muscle damage. Fluid and electrolytes should be provided to aid rehydration.

    Below is an example nutrition guide for your ‘Train as you Race’ session:

    Pre Training During your runs Post Training
    Hydration Start the run in a hydrated state. Drink 5-10 ml.kg in the hours pre-run. For example, a 70 kg runner would have ~350-700 ml of fluid to pre-hydrate(4). Work out how much you are sweating (per hour) and try not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass through sweat loss(2). Include electrolytes to promote hydration. For rehydration, aim to replace 150% of the fluid volume lost during the run(3). Always make sure to weigh yourself before and after your training runs.
    Energy Your pre-run meal should be 1-3 g.kg of carbohydrate. For a 70 kg runner this would be 70-210 g of carbohydrate 1-3 hours pre-run(1, 4). Include high carbohydrate foods such as cereal, toast, bagels, jam, rice, pasta and fruit. Aim for 60 g of carbohydrate per hour from a range of sources. An hour of fuel could be 3x Isotonic Energy Gels. Carbohydrate is one of the most important nutrients in recovery as we will have used energy during the run. Include a carbohydrate source in your post-run recovery shake and have a carbohydrate-based meal 2-3 hours post-run.
    Recovery Ensure that you rest well between sessions as this is where adaptations take place. Overtraining is common in endurance athletes. Aim to get the same amount of sleep throughout your training period. N/A Post-run recovery starts straight after you’ve finished. Kick-start the recovery process with a carbohydrate protein blend such as REGO Rapid Recovery Plus. Follow this with a carbohydrate-based meal 2-3 hours later, including protein and plenty of vegetables.

     

     

    RACE DAY

    Key Consideration: Carbohydrate Loading

    Our body has limited carbohydrate stores to use as energy on race-day. To maximise storage, carbohydrate intake can be increased in the 24-48 hours before race-day. To do this, increase the carbohydrate portion size with each meal, use carbohydrate snacks between meals and drink carbohydrate drinks during the day. Aim for 8-10 g of carbohydrate per kilo body mass per day of your carb-load(1, 4). The below plan provides an example of how a runner could load with ~550g of carbohydrate:

    Meal Food Source Carbohydrate
    Breakfast 2 cups of cereal, two slices of white toast, thick spread of jam and a glass of fruit juice. 150 g

    Mid-Morning

    GO Energy Bar mini (40 g) 26 g
    Lunch 2 toasted bagels, choice of filling 90 g
    Afternoon 500 ml GO Electrolyte, 1 medium banana 56 g
    Dinner 2 cups of cooked white pasta, chicken breast, tomato-based sauce, 2 slices of garlic bread 130 g
    Snack 1 tin of rice pudding + 250ml fruit juice 95 g

     

    Key Consideration: Pre Race

    Breakfast: Have your normal race-day breakfast 1-3 hours before your start time. You should practice this in training through your ‘train as you race’ session, including cereals, toast, jam, fruit juice. Travel, race-day stress and logistics can cause other distractions on the day of your event, so knowing what you’re going to eat and being comfortable with this is going to get you to the start line in the best shape!

    Hydration: The morning of your event have 5-10 ml of fluid per kilo body mass (~350-700ml for a 70kg runner) in the hours before starting(4). This can be split between coffee and fruit juice with breakfast and GO Hydro as you travel to the event.

    Snacking: A pre-race snack can be used as a final carbohydrate source, having a banana or GO Energy Bar 30-60 minutes before starting.

    Key Consideration: During the Race

    Your focus should be on hydration and energy during the race. Having a nutrition plan going into the event, that you have practiced in training, will give you the best chance to enjoy the day. The tables below provide an example nutrition plan for a marathon or half marathon:

    The tables below provide an example nutrition plan during the race. Most importantly, don’t try this nutrition plan on race day for first time.

    Hydration Aim not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass via sweat loss(2). This usually means consuming 500 ml of fluid per hour depending on sweat rate, temperature and humidity – drinking additional fluids as needed.
    Energy Aim for 60 g of carbohydrate per hour from a range of sources, fuelling from the first hour. Alongside fluid intake, an hour of fuel could be 3x Isotonic Energy Gels. Use caffeine gels towards the last hour of the race.

     

    Key Consideration: Recovery

    Racing depletes muscle glycogen stores, causes muscle damage and results in fluid loss. Your recovery nutrition should therefore focus on both carbohydrates and protein. REGO Rapid Recovery Plus can be used within 30 minutes of finishing a race to provide carbohydrates and protein to kick-start the recovery process. Follow the below points for your post-race recovery:

    • • REGO Rapid Recovery Plus shake immediately post-run
    • • Carbohydrate based meal with protein and vegetables within 2-3 hours of finishing
    • • Replace 150% of fluid lost in the 2-4 hours post-run(3)

    References

    1. Burke, L. M., Hawley, J. A., Wong, S. H., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2011). Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S17-S27.
    2. Casa, D. J., DeMartini, J. K., Bergeron, M. F., Csillan, D., Eichner, E. R., Lopez, R. M. & Yeargin, S. W. (2015). National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(9), 986-1000.
    3. Baker, L. B., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). Optimal composition of fluid‐replacement beverages. Comprehensive Physiology, 4, 575-630
    4. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics, dietitians of Canada, and the american college of sports medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528.
    Ben Samuels
    Written By

    Ben Samuels

    Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport