Good afternoon My little runner beans!
I hope you are all LOVING this amazing weather and getting out there to enjoy the sunshine. In the last running ramble I confessed my running mojo was not where it should be, and pledged to get back to running three times a week….. I’ve tried and most weeks I’m sticking to it (we have just moved house so bear with me) and getting back into the swing of it slowly. Look – here is proof:
Today I wanted to share with you one of the things I struggled with a lot over my first few races, which is how to correctly fuel for runs. *THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST.* I have been using Science in Sports nutrition for the last 4 years and it is hands down the best fuel I have used, and I tried a lot of different brands before settling on them. It’s all a personal choice, so if you are new to running I would suggest doing what I did and go to your local running store and ask them for their advice. Pick a few different brands to try so you can get used to running with gels and powders in your drinks. But for the purpose of this post, I will refer back to the SIS range for my top picks.
So my personal preference when I am doing a long run (for me that’s anything around 7 miles plus) is to use a water backpack such as a camel pack, so that I don’t have to have anything in my hands like bottles or gels etc, and it makes life a whole lot easier to run hands free. For shorter runs I run with a sports bottle like this one from SIS which is slimmer than some others I’ve used and fits in the hand nicely. You can also get belts that carry your bottles, I used to use one of these but found it quite uncomfortable on longer runs. Again, it’s all down to finding what kit works for you. In the hotter months I tend to freeze my gels and put them in my sports bra…. its all a personal choice.
So these are my essentials to ensure I have a good run:
SIS Go Electrolyte Powders –
SiS GO Electrolyte contains a blend of an easily digestible and quick supply of carbohydrate as well as electrolytes (such as sodium) that promote optimal hydration.
A combination of energy sources and electrolytes enhance your body’s ability to absorb water during exercise, maintain your endurance performance and protect against cramp.
SIS Isotonic Electrolyte Gel –
The SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel was the world’s first isotonic gel effectively delivering an easily digestible and quick supply of carbohydrate for energy during exercise.
They are designed to be consumed without water, minimizing the risk of being bloated that can sometimes occur with over-drinking. Provides you with 22 grams of carbohydrate per gel.
SIS Rego Rapid Recovery protein –
SiS REGO Rapid Recovery is a complete recovery product to be consumed immediately after exercise. It contains a blend of carbohydrate (22g), protein (20g) and electrolytes with vitamins and minerals.
Rapid replenishment of your glycogen stores and the provision of protein helps you to get the most from your training and prepare you for your next session.
These are the three core products I cannot be without. I also sometimes use the SIS Go Energy Bars for a pre race snack, and the SIS Overnight protein if its been a particularly strenuous race. In winter I use the SIS Immune tablets.
How to fuel for a great race.
So. Lets have a look at how/when to use them. The most important advice I can give you here is no matter what distance you are doing, 5k, 10k, half, full, ultra, is that you train for YOUR race. What works for one person might not work for you.
Second most important thing is to remember to TRAIN AS YOU RACE. What I mean by this is don’t wait until the week before a race to start looking at nutrition. You’ve worked hard for this, don’t ruin it all now by getting a case of runner poops because your gel didn’t agree with you.
So. Lets go through what important steps you need to consider.
- Morning fuel: Your breakfast will be one of the most important meals you consume and will ensure you are fully fueled when you cross the start line, so make sure you are comfortable with it and it works for you. I stick with good old porridge, coffee, and some water. Really super plain Jane stuff. I was taught a trick to ensure you “go” before the race and I’ve added it to my pre race routine – Drink x2 strong cups of black coffee, followed by ice-cold water. Trust me. It works!
- On the go: Fuelling while running is key, so get confident at consuming food and fluid whilst at a good pace. This is where practicing with either bottles or backpacks comes in handy, because not only do you need to know what to consume but how.
- Carbohydrate intake: Since your body can only store enough carbohydrate for up to 90-120 minutes you will need to intake up to 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour during prolonged exercise (over 90 minutes) to maintain carbohydrate supply to your muscles. If you’re not used to consuming this much carbohydrate during exercise it is a good idea to test it out to ensure the body is capable.
- Sweat rate: How much you sweat will dictate how much fluid you need to take-in. Aim to not lose any more than 2-3 % of your body mass during runs to maintain hydration and be ready to train the next day.
The main things to address is pre-run, in-run, and recovery.
In each of those, you break it down to Hydration, Energy and Recovery.
Pre-Run/Race – Breakfast
So I will tell you a little confession – pre-run when I’m training I usually don’t eat breakfast. I’ve been working on running on empty for 3 years and find it really works for me. I drink water and coffee about an hour before I go out, and ensure I have water (around 1L) with SIS Go Electrolyte powder in and 2-3 Go Energy Gels. The theory behind running your long runs on low glycogen stores (Your body has about 2 hours worth usually) is that by not having readily available muscle glycogen to burn, you body is forced burn fat. Consequently, your body will become more efficient at using fat as a fuel source. Considering my training runs are currently around an hour, I don’t feel the need to eat pre-run. My body has the glycogen stored up so I let it do its thing.
This however, doesn’t work for everyone, I know. So this is what I try to stick to on race days:
Breakfast: I Have breakfast 2-3 hours before the race. This is usually high in carbohydrate as glycogen stores decrease over night. I have porridge (2 cups with soya milk) and two cups of strong black coffee.
Don’t leave breakfast too late as this could cause stomach cramps early on in the race. This should involve normal breakfast foods that you’re accustomed to, and don’t try anything you havent done in training.
Hydration: Pre race hydration is key. I Aim to drink 500ml-1000ml of fluid in the build up to the race, ideally 500ml 2-3 hours at breakfast and 500ml in the build up to the event.
In Run/Race – Gels, Waters and avoiding the poops.
So as a guide, I generally don’t fuel up much for anything under 10k. Your body should be naturally capable to run three miles providing you have put in the training to not need gels. If you want some electrolyte water though, that is fine.
- For shorter runs less than 90 minutes like a 10k, your focus should be on hydration and electrolyte intake. For me, I use gels in 10ks and that’s it. One gel half way is enough for me providing I have had enough water beforehand, unless it is really hot that day, then I will take a bottle with me.
- For longer runs over 90 minutes like a marathon, I focus on hydration and carbohydrate intake. Our bodies can absorb around 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour so know how long you’ll be running and pack enough nutrition to see you through to the end. My usual kit is 1.5l of water with 70g of Go Electrolyte solution, and 4-5 Go energy gels for a marathon, 2-3 for a half marathon.
Avoiding Runners poops.
We’ve all been there. You’re running along, feeling OK, and all of a sudden you start getting cramps and you find yourself DESPERATE for the loo and there isn’t one for another 2 miles. If you are lucky, you’ll be on a track that has some bushes and you can relieve yourself. Worst case scenario, you poop your pants (or have to run for 2 miles with stomach cramps).
Runner poops are caused 99% of the time by three things – not drinking enough, or drinking too much and eating the wrong things either the night before or the morning of your race. Shit happens to everyone, so just try to practice with different gels and waters to find what works for you, and ensure you take on the right amount of fuel for your body.
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! These are just examples, so take time in your training runs to get used to how much and what you need and what your body prefers.
(Source – Science in Sport Website)
SHORTER RACES (<90 MIN)
|Event Day (<90min)||During Race|
LONGER RACES (>90 MIN)
|Event Day (>90min)||During Race|
Post Run/Race and Recovery nutrition
This is probably the most important part of your fueling plan, because what you take in now will determine if you can get up and not ache the next day. post run recovery is so important because after long periods of exertion your bodies immune system is lowered, you are more likely to become fatigued, and if not done correctly you are more prone to injury. The three key elements to consider are Recover, Refuel, Rest. By ensuring you Refuel and Rest up properly, your Recovery time should be a breeze and you’ll be out on the tracks in no time.
- Refuel: The capacity of your muscles to absorb and store nutrients is increased 30-60 minutes post-exercise, so it is important to replace carbohydrates and provide protein and electrolytes within this time. I usually take on a Rego Recovery shake after a run because it is light enough on the stomach but packs all the minerals, carbs and proteins you need after a long run. It also ensures I don’t just empty my fridge into my face. If you want to have real food, you need to consider the carbohydrate and protein levels you need post race.
- Rest: Sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. I tend to find sleep rather difficult after a long race, my mind just wont turn off. I take a Zinc and Magnesium (ZMA) supplement before bed to help and muscle recovery. ZMA is a natural mineral supplement made up of zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. Zinc supports your immune system and muscles. Magnesium plays a role in metabolism and muscle health and helps manage sleep. B6 may boost energy.
My top tips for fueling your best race!
- Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your race
- Don’t try anything new on race day – now is not the time to experiment!
- Dont assume that because its raining you wont need as much fuel – you will.
- Dont accept every jelly baby you are offered unless you want multicolored vomit down your t-shirt.
- Take a packet of tissues in case shit happens.
- Keep your bottles, backpacks etc clean and hygienic, wash them after every race and use bottle sterilizer to kill any bacteria.
- Remember post race recovery – weather it’s a banana or a protein shake make sure you stick with it.
- Try taking ZMA to help with post race insomnia and ensure sound zzzzzzs.
If you are still a bit confused on what to use, pop into your local running shop and ask for some advice – these guys are the experts!
I hope you find this useful when it comes to fuel, and please share your top tips for fueling your races!
Until next time, run on runner beans!