Performance Foods

28 Jul
The Pack Rules: Eating and Drinking

The more I run, the more I realize how important it is to fuel properly. I don’t notice as much when I have short distance runs, and even when I take a spin class, they don’t affect me like my long runs do.
Over on Runner’s World last week, they were discussing fuel and linked to a post back in 2008 that took on the topic and suggested some good eats.
Tips from RW


If you’re heading out for an hour or more, you need some fuel at least 30 minutes before you run. “I generally go with the three-to-one carbs-to-protein ratio,” says Anna Wood of New York City, who likes whole-grain cereal with milk. Carbs provide energy, and protein and just a little fat help it last. “Peanut butter settles well in my stomach, and since it is high in protein and fat, it provides lasting energy throughout long workouts,” says Jenny Jensen of Redmond, Washington. Other favorite boosts are honey on toast, oatmeal, bananas and peanut butter, fruit and nuts, granola, and energy bars.

When I run, I plan out the snack I’m going to eat after I’m done.” -Liz Lawrence Atasacadero, California


If you’re rolling out of bed, not starving, and only going for a few miles, you probably don’t need anything more than a few sips of whatever gets you going. “As an early morning runner, I rarely eat, but I always have several cups of coffee,” says Erik Petersen of Eugene, Oregon. Good choice, since numerous studies have shown that caffeine boosts performance during exercise. Dennis Ang of Hong Kong likes a prerun Red Bull, while Jordan Paxhia of Brookline, Massachusetts, drinks Emergen-C. “If I run in the morning, a Diet Coke is a must!” says Lisa Allison of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.


You’ll need to refuel on the run if you’re going out for longer than 75 minutes. “I carry jelly beans and water for runs over 13 miles,” says Lisa Allison of Minnesota. Jane Cullis of Toronto prefers gummy bears, while Sarah Dreier of Appleton, Wisconsin, is a Swedish Fish fanatic. Like candy, GUs, Sport Beans, Shot Bloks, gels, and energy bars all provide easily accessible carbs. “Dried fruits and raw nuts add salt and sugar and they’re calorically dense, so I don’t have to carry many!” says Kristin Field of Corona, California.


For runs less than 45 minutes, water is enough. Hour-long runs require replenishing with carbs as well as electrolytes, and sports drinks do the trick. “I drink half water and half Gatorade,” says Wendy Cohen of El Cajon, California. “I sip small amounts every 15 minutes.” Eric Bubna of Andover, Minnesota, finds out what drink will be served at his upcoming races and practices with that. “It’s important for your body to get used to it,” he says. To go hands-free, use a fuel belt, stash bottles along your route before your run, or map a course that goes by water fountains or convenience stores.


Postexercise, aim to refuel within the “glycogen recovery window” of 30 to 60 minutes, says Len James of Savannah, Georgia. It’s when your body most needs the nutrients in order to repair muscle tissue and replace glycogen stores. “I try to eat immediately after I run, usually a good mix of protein and carbs,” says Christian Taylor of New Holland, Pennsylvania. Jack Genovese of Amherst, New York, likes pancakes and a Slim Fast. “I go with what I am craving, which is mostly carbs with a little fat and protein, like a smoothie with banana, berry, honey, and soymilk, and half of a tuna sandwich,” says New York’s Anna Wood. “Eating properly makes me functional for the remainder of the day,” says Ricardo J. Salvador of Battle Creek, Michigan.


“After a half-marathon or longer, I can’t eat right away,” says Bill Kirby. “My wife hands me a cold bottle of chocolate milk that I immediately down.” A 2006 Indiana University study found that low-fat chocolate milk, with its optimal carbs to protein ratio, was just as effective as Gatorade at speeding recovery after exercise. And it doesn’t have to be cold. Brooklyn, New York, chocolatier Jacques Torres drank his own hot chocolate at mile 20 of the New York City Marathon in 2002. “When people smelled it, they all wanted some,” he says. Smoothies and protein shakes are good options, too. “I go for Carnation Instant Breakfast, which has quick carbs, protein, and vitamins,” says Chris Mateer of Webster, New York.


Any complex carbohydrates you enjoy are a good choice the night (or day) before a race, long run, or hard workout. “My favorite meal the night before a marathon is pizza because it’s loaded with carbs and protein. I did this before my first marathon, and it’s been a tradition since,” says marathoner Bryan Krasovskis of Niagara Falls, Ontario. “I notice a difference when I get quality carbs-complex carbs and nutrient-dense carbs like veggies,” says Dreier.


Meat, dairy, high-fat foods, and fiber too close to your effort may make you just run to the porta-potty. “When I eat meat before I run, it tries to make its way back up,” says Carlo de la Rama of Jersey City, New Jersey. “For afternoon runs, I’ll avoid dairy, meat, and fiber, like apples, at lunchtime,” says Rosemary Walzer of Milwaukee. “Fiber found in whole wheat makes you have to go to the bathroom,” says Michael Borodynko of Sewell, New Jersey. “Too much fatty food of any sort gives me gastric problems for the next few days, so I get most of my fat from almonds, avocados, and the occasional chunk of cheese,” says Lena Warden of Albuquerque. “Steer clear of burritos,” says Megan Lacey of Walla Walla, Washington, who learned the hard way.

“I train hard, so why not enjoy a piece of cake here and there?” -Avery Adams Georgetown, Kentucky


“I stick with what I know, and I do not try new food items before a workout or race,” says Henry Tong of Union City, New Jersey. “It’s all about avoiding cramps while maintaining fuel and minerals,” says R.O. Bonacquisti III. If you do try something new, just make sure it’s healthy. Olympic marathoner Deena Kastor ate low-fat, high-carb Chinese food the night before winning the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston. “My husband got take-out from P.F. Chang’s,” she says. “I’d never eaten Chinese food the night before a race. And he said, ‘Well, you are trying to make the team for Beijing.'”


“After a torturous long run, the best reward for me is a cheeseburger and an ice-cold beer,” says Daniel Guajardo of Austin, Texas. Finishing a marathon means 12 ounces of premium Japanese Wagyu beef for Dennis Ang of Tai Koo Shing, Hong Kong. “I reward myself with a few adult drinks after races. When you train for months, you deserve them,” says Josh Boots of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Julia Weisenborn of Bowling Green, Ohio, goes for ice cream. “Any kind,” she says. “Large amounts.”

I’m still learning what works for my body as it does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all science. One of my biggest struggles is hitting a wall during my runs around mile 6. I know that is the ideal time to fuel, but usually that is too late (like, once you feel thirsty then you are dehydrated). I want to start experimenting with taking in some fuel around the five-mile mark and see if that helps sustain my energy. Chocolate milk is also the perfect post run refuel for me.

And the one trick that always works for me; chug water before you go. I do a lot of am runs, and I have to drink some water before I head out. If not, it will be a struggle, no matter the distance.

What are some of your fueling tips, tricks or suggestions? I’m open to trying anything!




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