Nutrition and hydration for easy runs
The advice below assumes that your pace during the run is aerobic i.e. it is easy enough to talk if you want to.
Before the run:
During the run:
- As an active adult try to drink at least 3 litres (just over 5 pints) of water a day. This will enable you to avoid starting exercise in a dehydrated state.
- Use a water bottle when access to a water supply is tricky, such as at work or in the car - this will enable you to keep up your fluid intake.
- Avoid finishing work and dashing to the door for a run without a drink.
- Experiment with drinking up to 1/2 a litre (a pint) of water for an hour before the run. Various factors will have a bearing on the amount you need to drink such as extreme heat, air conditioning, having to talk a lot, so bear these types of circumstances in mind to ensure you are sufficiently hydrated.
- Do not drink copious amounts of coffee or tea before you go out as these can have a diuretic effect on your body (i.e. increase the need to urinate) and leave you short of fluid.
- Aim to spread the fluid intake out throughout the day to avoid overloading your stomach and having a 'sloshy' feeling while running.
After the run:
- If the run is less than 40 minutes outdoors, and the weather isn't extreme then you should not need a drink for the pace you will be running.
- Once you build up to 1 hour plus then you will benefit from taking some water on the go.
- Using either a water bottle or hand held bottle, carry enough for your run - you should not need more than a small water bottle.
- To have a drink, stop to walk for a moment and drink a small amount.
- Spread the intake out throughout the run to avoid stomach cramps.
- If the run is indoors on a treadmill then water should be drunk every 10 minutes as it is easier to overheat indoors where there is no wind chill effect and de-hydrate.
Ensure that you continue your pre run routine by drinking regularly.
Before the run:
If your run is first thing in the morning, try to eat something before you go. After fasting all night your body is ready for an energy intake so it is worth waking half an hour earlier to eat something light such as a banana or a piece of toast. If you really can't face anything solid, a properly diluted carbohydrate drink will give you energy.
Have a snack 1 hour before your run if you feel hungry
Lunchtime runs need to be planned to avoid running when hungry. Have a snack mid morning with plenty of carbohydrates such as a sandwich, tea-cake, fruit, rice cakes, or dried fruit. If this proves too difficult then again have a carbohydrate drink.
If you are a night time runner, ensure you have a meal during the day about 4 hours before the run. Have a snack 1 hour before your run if you feel hungry. Remember you are trying to see yourself through until after the run. This could well be another hour, so eat small amounts regularly. Do not go for heavy, fatty or fried foods or high protein foods before the run as these will take longer to breakdown and digest. Instead opt for the types of carbohydrate snack mentioned above.
During the run:
At this intensity there should be no need for food while running unless the run lasts longer than 1.5 hours. The pace is aerobic so you will be using your fat stores as the major fuel which should get you through the run, providing you have eaten enough carbohydrate foods in the days beforehand. If you are running for more than 1.5 hours then eat some light food such as dried fruit, a banana or have an energy gel (consisting of high carbohydrate molecules called glucose polymers) sachet after 1 hour and then at 30 to 40 minute intervals.
Various companies now make energy gels and the benefit of them is that they keep well, are easily transportable, are a measured amount of carbohydrate and digest quickly. There is usually a need to take water with them so that the correct dilution occurs, the amount of this will depend on the conditions. In warm/hot weather you will need to take more water and in cool conditions less water will be needed. Make sure you read and follow the instructions on the packaging about the recommended amounts of liquid to consume.
After the run:
Immediately after finishing running/training there is a period of up to 1 hour where your body will absorb carbohydrates best. This is often the time we are chatting and getting home etc... so it's worth doing a little forward planning and having a snack ready for when you finish such as a sandwich, fruit, energy bar, carbohydrate sports drink etc.
Recent studies have shown that the carbohydrate is absorbed better when eaten with a small amount of protein so for instance a tuna sandwich, cereal and milk, baked potato and beans are ideal replacement foods.