So here we are at another running season and I’m still a fatty and my minute per mile run time is so slow, I might as well be walking. I’ve been running for over 10 years so what’s the problem you ask… I’m greedy! It’s really that simple. With the amount of knowledge and experience that I have collectively about nutrition and running in my brain, I should be an Olympic Gold medalist at this point in life. The unfortunate thing for me is that I eat way more than I run, and the things I eat are generally detrimental to my running… the struggle continues! *sigh*
This season I’ve decided to run with a run coach because the “let’s wing this sh*t and hope for a personal record” approach just isn’t working. Also, starting tomorrow (right after I get through this last box of Cheez-Its), I’m deciding I should probably up my nutrition game. To get a jumpstart on this, I recently had a chat with my runner friend Alli to not only share my thoughts on nutrition and running, but also to pick her brain regarding her approach to running and nutrition. Here’s an excerpt of that fab conversation:
Alli: If you run first thing in the morning, do you find that it’s better to run on an empty stomach or eat something before beginning your run?
Nekesha: For me, I find that it’s better to run in the late afternoons. However as the temps rise in the summer months, early mornings are more achievable. If I’m opting for early morning run or race, I typically don’t eat (if running 3-4 miles or less). If its a longer run, I suggest eating something small (i.e. banana, LäraBar, etc.) at least 30-45mins prior to the run to allow for proper digestion.
Nekesha: What about you, do you prefer/recommend morning workouts and if so what are your suggestions as it relates to early morning runs/workouts? How does the climate in the North affect your decision?
Alli: I prefer evening runs, after the workday is over. Running always seems to clear my head and gets rid of all the stress that occurred in the day. I find that I can relax and enjoy the rest of my evening after a good run. However, in the summer months, I do make an effort to go out for early morning runs, due to the temperature (just like you noted). I can’t stand the humidity, so I will make myself get up and go out for a 6am run a few times a week during the summer. BUT, this really only occurs in the summer, since it’s very difficult for me to drag myself out of bed that early! And just like you, I don’t typically eat anything before a shorter run. But if I’m going to do 5 miles or more, I’ll often eat a Nutri-Grain bar about an hour or so before I run.
Alli: Is there a particular food that you like to eat before running that provides you with sustained energy during your run?
Nekesha: I try to stay away from sugary foods and carbs because contrary to popular belief; those things can make you quite sluggish. I know its been said that carb loading before a long run or race is advised but the truth is, for carbs to replenish glycogen stores and give you energy, you would need to eat them at least a week before the run. Therefore eating them the night before or morning of probably does you more harm then good. Here’s two articles that talks more about that:
Nekesha: What about you, is there a particular food you like to eat before running?
Alli: Since I often run in the evening, I’ll usually eat a granola bar while still at work around 4:30 or 5pm. Since my commute is about an hour, I don’t usually get to run till around 7pm. This gives me plenty of time to digest the bar and it gives me some energy to get through the run. I agree about staying away from those sugary foods – they may make you feel great at first, but as you get into your run, you’ll start to feel sluggish and tired.
Alli: Do you notice a difference in your running based on your diet? For example, consuming a high-fat diet versus a diet lower in fat?
Nekesha: Absolutely YES! Currently my diet is in shambles. I eat whatever I want and my running has been adversely affected as a result. That old saying: You are what you eat is so true. If you eat nachos and doughnuts, you feel like a big fat doughnut while out running… and that’s if you even have the energy to go run after consuming all that bread and sugar. A balanced diet of all 3 macronutrients (good carbs, good fat, protein) is what I always recommend for optimal performance. Perhaps one of these days I’ll take some of my own advice!
Nekesha: Alli, what are your suggestions for new runners or runners looking to return to the sport as it pertains to diet and have you noticed that changes in diet have positively/negatively affected your run performance?
Alli: A well-balanced diet is a must for any runner – whether new to the sport or not! Have you ever tried working out while your hung-over? It’s terrible! Why? Because your body isn’t properly nourished. One tip that is easy to follow is to stay hydrated. I fill up a huge cup at work and drink water throughout the day. I also take a general women’s multi-vitamin, to help fuel my body with all the proper nutrients. And finally, yes, I try to eat a somewhat healthy diet, consisting of a lot of lean protein like chicken to provide me with sustained energy. I found a great book on Scribd: 100 questions about sports, nutrition and exercise [by William Carlos Butler]. It addresses a lot of topics, including the timing of meals and snacks as it relates to exercise and information on vitamins and minerals for an athlete’s diet.
Nekesha: Wow and its a FREE book too #Winning. Thanks Alli for the conversation and reference materials. Hopefully something we’ve said will help our readers (and myself) to get up, get out, and get running… and eating better!
For more info on Alli’s running antics, click HERE to visit her blog.