How To Fuel During Running

by | Mar 16, 2022 | Running

I want to start with a few disclaimers 1. Your body is not a machine. When I refer to fuel, it’s to support your training. 2. I’m not a registered dietitian or nutritionist. If you want a personal plan, please hire someone with expertise. I’m a certified health coach and will guide you where to start. 3. This isn’t black and white. Please experiment and see what works for you. 

When I started running for myself, I didn’t think about supporting my runs. I would put on my shoes, walk out the door, and start running. I knew I should have been warming up, but I was young, and I didn’t have a coach there to make me. But I had no idea about nutrition and sports. 

In my first year of college, I was required to take a nutrition course. The professor explained how she would never let her kids eat cereal because it was filled with sugar. At that moment, I vowed that I wouldn’t care about nutrition because how dare she tells us that grain was terrible. I loved cereal, and it was delicious. 

When I was a senior, I regretted not getting my minor in nutrition. It would have supported my career in fitness. However, it is never too late to learn something new. Fasted cardio means you perform cardio while you are fasting. So first thing in the morning, you get dressed and head out on your run. Fasted Cardio. The belief is that you will burn more belly fat. It is false. Now I would run at 5 am on an empty stomach because when I tried to eat beforehand, my body would need a bathroom break during the beginning portion of my runs. 

If I did not eat before my 6 am or 7 am runs, I would be exhausted. Later on, I learned that eating before a workout could be more beneficial. So I experimented. I could eat during my later runs, 6 am, or 7 am, and I had more energy throughout the movement. I would typically eat a banana with a handful of almonds. It is suggested to have a carb and a protein. 

You might like:

  • Banana with nut butter
  • Energy bar
  • Rice Cake with nut butter and a drizzle of honey 
  • Applesauce 
  • Dates
  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Coffe
  • Oatmeal 
  • English Muffin with jam/jelly
  • Whole-grain bagel with or without nut butter
  • Fruit smoothie with protein (add an avocado. It will make the smoothie smooth)

Experiment to see what will help you perform at your best.  Because applesauce would run right through me, I also found a huge benefit to eating before weight lifting. But we will talk more about that in the next series. 

Now, as I started running past 3 miles, my body felt like it was on fumes. I didn’t understand I was eating before my runs. Why was I running out of gas around mile 6 or 7? It was because I wasn’t fueling during my runs. 

Yes, you are supposed to eat while you run. Your body uses glycogen storage to give you energy. Your body breaks down the sugars in the carbohydrates you eat and stores them in your muscles and liver. Hence why you want to eat a carb before you start. The protein allows you to feel fuller longer. However, you are out there killing it on the pavement. You feel great, and to keep that momentum, you want to start replenishing that glucogen storage around 30 to 45 minutes into your run.

You can fuel on :

  • Gels
  • Chews
  • Waffles 
  • Raisins 
  • Energy bar 
  • Grapes
  • Orange 
  • Bananas 
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Pretzels
  • Jelly Beans
  • Fig Newtons

Avoid eating food rich in fiber, such as berries or spicy foods. This can give you GI issues. It’s best to experiment during training runs to find what works best. 

After running, you should depend on your goals. But start with fluids, carbs, and protein. 

  • a protein shake is an easy go to
  • greek yogurt top with fruit
  • A bagel topped with nut butter.
  • Or chocolate milk is the BEST!!!

A research article published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition said chocolate milk is a better recovery option than any sports drink. 

And make sure to hydrate before, during, and after your run. Yes, water is best. Make sure to hydrate 4 hours before you run. Slowly drink water over that period.  How much water depends on you. For example, the amount of water we should consume each day is our body weight divided by 2. When you are exercising you should drink more. 

Suppose you are unsure of how much water to drink during your run. I suggest starting by sipping water before you are thirsty. A good check to see if you are adequately hydrated is to check your urine. Your pee should look like lightly colored lemonade. If it is a darker amber color, it could mean you are dehydrated. 

My favorite fuel on runs is Honey Stinger Chews, the pomegranate passionfruit flavor. My favorite way to hydrate is water in my handheld Nathan water bottle. It has a pocket where I can store my phone and chews. 

I’ve tried some other hydration items, and I didn’t like them. I’ve tried a waist water pack, but it shifted too much after drinking out of the water bottles. 

Now you have done all your training, and it’s your race weekend. What do you eat? The night before, be sure to eat something familiar. If you are running a longer race, be sure to carb load leading up to your race day and eat protein. While training, pay attention to what you are eating before your long runs and how you feel during the run. Avoid foods that will give you GI issues. 

Again, on race day, eat something familiar and make sure you eat early enough to allow food to digest. Suppose you are like me and get up only an hour before your race to eat something light that you can digest quickly. Eat some carbs to allow your body to store them for energy. 

If you have GI issues during your training cycle or lack energy during runs, please seek advice from a dietitian or sports nutritionist. We all have different nutrition needs. Just because something work for someone else does not mean that it will work for you. 

Now that you understand fueling join me next time as we talk about cross-training. 

Written by Aaliyah

Aaliyah Earvin is a certified personal trainer, life & health coach, and 200 hour RYT yoga instructor, whose passion is helping others become more confident in their wellness journey! Aaliyah has her masters in Sports Management from American Public University and her bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from Youngstown State University where she ran collegiate track & field. When Aaliyah is not working with her clients, she loves running, swimming, cycling, lifting weights, and being active outside in nature with her kids.

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