My heart is pounding and the pavement is starting to blur — something that usually only happens after one too many drinks at the neighborhood bar. But it’s not Friday night, and my running shorts are hardly nightlife attire. No, it’s 9:45 a.m. on my Monday morning run, I’d forgotten to eat breakfast, and my body and mind had just hit a wall.
Running is as much about eating the right foods as it is about pulling on the right pair of shoes and choosing the right running route. Knowing what to eat and when to eat it can give you that run-enhancing boost you need to defeat a bad case of the Mondays — or Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays…
1. Watch the clock. Avoid eating large meals four hours or less before running. Also avoid eating high fiber, high fat, high protein or spicy foods. Such foods can create stress in your digestive system and make running — or any kind of intense physical activity, for that matter…swimming, sex, shuffleboard with grandma — difficult.
2. Carbo-load…correctly. Everyone knows that carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in your muscles, giving you the fuel you need when exercising. But many people do it wrong, and I know several people who actually eat chocolate candy bars before their run because they think it’s “healthy.” While a Snickers bar might work for Betty White, it won’t work for you. Start carbo-loading 72 hours before your run, and aim to eat four grams of carbohydrates for every pound that you weigh.
3. Fuel up in the middle of your workout. Typically, you’ll need to eat 60 grams of carbohydrates and hour before you run for runs that last up to two hours. For anything longer than that, you’ll need to refuel during your run so you can complete your workout as strong as you started it. Try an energy gel or energy chew. You can also make your own portable, natural energy drink by swirling 24 ounces of filtered water with a teaspoon of lime juice, two teaspoons of honey, eight teaspoons of cane sugar and 1/3 teaspoon of sea salt.
4. Chow on recovery foods. Many people focus on how they eat before they train and pay no attention to their recovery meal. This post-workout meal is critical because it can improve your fitness returns, battle fatigue and pain, and speed up total recovery time. The less time you need for recovery, the more time you can spend pounding the pavement. Try a protein- and carb-rich meal that’s alkaline-promoting, such as a hemp protein shake. Or, have some lean protein like a chicken breast. Whatever you choose, try to chow it down within 60 minutes of completing your run.