Nutrition for any exercise can be tricky. On the one hand, most of us exercise to control our waistlines, but exercise can also lead to more hunger. So, what exactly is the right amount of food to eat before, during and after a run?
For runs that are less than an hour, you need very little to fuel, especially if you are running later in the day and at a conversational pace. Your body stores glycogen, which is the substance stored in your tissues as a source of carbohydrates. The longer you run the more your body burns through the glycogen to keep you going.
So for a short run of about 30 minutes, you only need to consume a small snack like a banana or a handful of nuts. As you increase the length of time your run or the intensity of it, the more fuel you will need. A body can typically store 2000 calories of glycogen, this is why marathon runners need to fuel during the run as you can burn up to 2000 or more while running that 26.2 mile event.
As a general rule of thumb, most runners need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates for every hour that they are running over 75 minutes. However, if you are planning to run for that long, you need to start fueling before those 75 minutes are over or you’ll be faced with the dreaded bonk, also known as “hitting the wall.”
The reason is that as you’re running, your body is burning through the stores of glycogen and it takes time to rebuild those stores. Once they are depleted, it takes time to get them topped back off. It’s similar to dehydration; once you are dehydrated, it takes some time to get your body back to the safe levels of hydration. Speaking of dehydration, it’s important to always drink fluids while you’re fueling during a run to help absorb the nutrition and keep you hydrated as well.
If you really want to track the calories you are burning, running with a GSP device that has a heart rate monitor can help. But keep in mind, if you are trying to lose weight, don’t over eat because you worked out.
As far as what to eat after the run, you should always consume a mix of carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes to supply the nutrients your body needs. Your muscles require protein to rebuild and carbohydrates help you stay energized.
Beth is a running and triathlon coach from Florida who began her journey through health and fitness as a high school swimmer. After leading an unhealthy lifestyle while in college she made changes to get back in shape. Since then, she's completed numerous marathons and triathlons and finished her first full Ironman in 2014. She's also a freelance fitness writer and blogger. Her passion is fitness in all forms, though she enjoys running and swimming the most, and she believes in doing what makes you happy and healthy.
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