Monday, May 11, 2009

Nutrition & Hydration 101

Nutrition & Hydration 101


I haven't talked about nutrition much yet because the length of your runs are generally not long enough to warrant spending a TREMENDOUS amount of time worrying about it.

But, once we get into a space where we're logging runs in excess of 45-60 minutes (which will happen soon!), then we need to start thinking about fueling before, during, and after runs for optimal performance and recovery!

Below are some general guidelines around nutrition/hydration that you should keep in mind. Please take EVERYTHING below with a grain of salt as EVERYONE is a bit different and what works for me (or you) may not necessarily work for someone else. If you don’t follow the guidelines below, nothing terrible will happen. What’s outlined below is what is recommended for OPTIMAL performance. It’s not even necessarily the case that ELITE level runners follow this perfectly.

Part of what you will need to do during the course of your training is a little experimentation. Maybe having a bagel and some gatorade a couple hours before your long run will work just fine or maybe your GI system won't respond well to this. There's no silver bullet, so you will likely need to try a few different approaches before you find what works best for you.

BUT, it's important to do SOME kind of pre-run fueling before long runs. Not fueling properly for your long runs (or challenging workouts) can negatively impact your performance.


(Primarily > or equal to 90 minutes of exercise)As most of you are likely eating breakfast (for Saturday long runs) within 1 hour of exercise. You need to aim for 1 gram of carbohydrate/kg of their body weight or in other terms 0.5 grams/lb of body weight plus 8-10 grams of protein.

So, for example someone who weighs 140# needs ~60 grams of carbohydrate which looks like: 1 English muffin, 1 Tbsp jelly, 1 cup non fat milk or 1 cup oatmeal, 1 Tbsp honey, 6 ounces plain-non-fat yogurt.

The reason for pre-exercise carbohydrates is to maximize endurance potential by "topping off" muscle and liver glycogen stores.

Tips for pre-exercise meals:

- Find something that works for you- everyone is different
- Practice with different meal ideas BEFORE race day
- Avoid high fiber, high fat before a long run
- Find the carbohydrate sources that work best for you.

Experiment during training with eating some carbohydrate-based snacks within a few minutes to four hours before a long run.

Carbohydrates are found in fruits, starchy veggies, grains and starches such as pasta, rice, lentils and oatmeal, sugars such as honey, and milk and yogurt.

Please bear in mind that what is outlined above are 'general guidelines' and everyone is a little bit different in what their stomach can handle in the hour(s) leading up to a run! This is why experimentation is 'key' and should be done in the next few weeks so you can identify a formula that works best for you.

Nutrition while exercising/running

In addition to 'pre-run' fueling, it's important to remember to ingest something DURING your run every 45-60 minutes. Experiment with Clif Shots, Gus, PowerGels, etc. There are TONS of products out there designed for consumption during your workouts and NOW is the time to experiment and find out which product works best for you.

Post Exercise Nutrition

I should also mention that consuming something AFTER you run is VERY important to speed recovery. Ideally, you should consume something with a 4:1 carbohydrate/protein ratio. Chocolate milk is a beverage that has the magical 4:1 formula.

You could also have a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with vegetables, condiments, etc. This 'roughly' has the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.


On the hydration front, ideally your urine should be clear/copious prior to your run. You can insure this by drinking water throughout the day prior to your run. If the color of your urine is a darker yellow, chances are you need to drink more fluids.

To stay hydrated during a run, there are a few different approaches you can employ. You can knock back water or a sports drink (Gatorade, Accelerade, etc.) every 15-20 min. OR use thirst to dictate when you have something to drink.

Some of you may have heard that once you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated and your performance will suffer. The latest research tends to indicate that this may not have a huge impact on performance. Elite level marathoners (who can average 5:00/mile or faster for 26.2 miles), typically do not drink nearly enough fluids to replenish what they lose during a marathon. It would pretty much be impossible for them to do so. Yet, they are still able to perform at a VERY high level. Many medical directors at races are now encouraging runners to use ‘thirst’ to dictate fluid consumption.

With this in mind, I would say knocking back water or sports drink every 15-20 min. is a good practice or using thirst is fine as well. Experiment with both approaches if you like and see what works best for you. As you will find, there are rarely any ‘easy answers or ‘hard/fast’ rules when it comes to nutrition/hydration.

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