By Dr. Ali Hill R. Nutrition. (Sport and Exercise), SENr Course Leader BSc (Hons) Applied Human Nutrition School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences at Solent University
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your runs. You store carbs in your muscle as glycogen, and before you run, you need to make sure your glycogen stores are topped up so you’re ready to go.
If your glycogen levels are optimal, you’ll get more out of your training; otherwise you might end up hitting the wall mid-session. Great pre-run foods include cereal bars, toast and peanut butter, or a banana.
You also want to make sure your fluid levels are in tip top shape before your run. The easiest way to do this is to drink little and often throughout the day. That also means that you avoid needing to drink a lot right before you run, which you might find makes you feel ill. You should be aiming to make sure your urine is a pale-straw colour. That means you’re well-hydrated.
Have you heard that caffeine in tea and coffee dehydrate you? Well it’s only an issue if you’re not used to it. If you regularly drink it, you won’t get dehydrated, but you still benefit from the fluid from your tea and coffee. But that also means that you won’t get the pre-run buzz that people who don’t usually have caffeine get from it.
If you suffer from runners’ gut, you will be no stranger to stomach cramping, nausea, heartburn, vomiting or even diarrhoea caused by running. We think this happens because of your guts get shaken up with every step you take when you run. But there’s good news! Changing your pre-run diet might actually help lessen your symptoms.
Why not try having foods with less fibre in like white bread instead of brown, or sugary foods instead of starchy ones. Some people find that fructose (the sugar in fruit or fruit-based foods and drinks) can make their gut feel worse. If you use sports drinks, you can try diluting them, although this will also reduce the amount of carbs in your drink.
With your pre-run diet optimised you’re ready the get the most from your training! And that means race day will be that much easier.