Nutrition and hydration for training runs
Looking at the nutritional needs of training at an anaerobic pace (ie. so you are out of breath). Examples of this type of training could be hill runs and power/speed sets - or a run where you have gone out with a purpose in mind eg. to run within a challenging time goal.
If you want advice on aerobic sessions - when you do not get out of breath, for example on active recovery days - have a look at the article on easy runs.
As an active adult try to drink at least 3 litres (just over 5 pints) of water a day. If the session will last an hour or more, consider having a carbohydrate drink at a concentration of 6 to 8%, an hour before training - follow the manufacturers guidelines if you are uncertain about this.
Have a water source with you or available during the session - this could be a water bottle, hand held bottle or tap en route. After a hard exertion, drink little and often during the recovery phase. If the session is very hard, such as hill repeats, consider taking a carbo-replacement drink diluted to a concentration of 6 to 8%. This will enable you to replenish your energy supply as this type of training burns glycogen very quickly.
Drink a carbohydrate drink within 30 minutes of finishing if possible. This will enable you to start replenishing your glycogen stores ready for tomorrow's session. Maintain normal fluid intake, if your weight has dropped by a few pounds then ensure you drink extra fluid to compensate - 1 to 1.5 litres of fluid should be consumed per kilogram of weight (or litre of sweat) lost. Do not rely on alcohol or caffeine drinks to refuel as these can dehydrate you and compound the problem.
As the session you are about to do is hard, avoid eating a large heavy meal for a few hours before going out training. Avoid fried and high fat foods and foods that can cause indigestion. Aim for a few snacks during the day if you are evening training. A jacket potato with a little butter and small amount of cheese or beans, a sandwich with a plain chicken filling or other food that you know digests easily, could be eaten up to 2 and a half hours before training.
If you are training first thing in the morning or need a pick me up, eat some fruit such as a banana, dried fruit, or a piece of toast
If you are training first thing in the morning or need a pick me up, eat some fruit such as a banana, dried fruit, or a piece of toast. Alternatively have a carbohydrate drink at a concentration of 6 to 8%. Aim to have this at least half an hour before training commences.
As the session will involve hard running, it is unlikely to last longer than 1.5 hours so eating solid food is probably unnecessary. The fact that you are working hard means that digestion of solid food will take longer so it would be better to use a carbohydrate replacement drink, mixed to a strength of 6 to 8%. If the session is longer and solid food required, choose a food that doesn't take a long time to digest such as bananas or dried fruit and avoid high fat snacks. If you do want to eat solid food, eat little and often.
Immediately after the session use a carbohydrate replacement drink at a concentration of 6 to 8%. Try to consume a high carbohydrate snack/meal within half an hour of finishing.
Aim to consume 0.7 gram per kilogram of body weight. Therefore a 70 kg (11 st) person would need 70 x 0.7 g of carbohydrate, i.e. 49 grams of carbohydrate. This amount ensures that the recovery process is not only started immediately, but also increases the chances of starting the next bout of activity with full muscle glycogen stores. The next stage is to continue consuming carbohydrate at a rate of 0.7g per kg body weight every 2 hours, on average for the next 24 hours.
Be aware that if you weigh yourself on scales after a session that the weight shown does not reflect your true body weight
Be aware that if you weigh yourself on scales after a session that the weight shown does not reflect your true body weight. Many times athletes have told me their body weight has been up to 2 kilos lighter by the end of a session and they have no wish to see the needle go back up by refuelling correctly. The weight lost through training is water and glycogen depletion and for optimum training (and therefore racing) you must ensure you replace the weight correctly.
If you do want to lose some weight, do it by restricting your calorie intake a little and exercising a little more or harder - the results will come. In general, athletes should not seek to lose weight solely by restricting their calorie intake - this will cause the metabolic rate to slow down and may increase susceptibility to illness. It is better to look at gradually losing up to a kilo a week by a combination of slightly restricting calorie intake and increasing activity levels.
Practicing fuelling for racing
The best time to practice your race fuelling is during a hard session. This is because your body will react differently to the same foods during easy and hard training/racing. Practice running with a cup similar to the disposable ones that are handed out in races. Squeeze the cup to form a funnel, and sip then hold the drink in your mouth until you are ready to swallow. Do not gulp the drink straight down as this can lead to swallowing a lot of air, which can cause stitch or cramps. This small exercise can save you from ruining a race with a stitch so it is worth doing.
Energy drinks and gels:
If you are thinking of using energy drinks or gels in your race, now is the time to experiment. Do NOT leave this until the race, as it can have disastrous (and very uncomfortable) results. There are many products on the market and they won't all suit you, so try out the product before you race with it.
If you are experimenting with energy gel, have one half an hour before the session and another every 30 to 40 minutes. The time gap will depend on the intensity of exercise - the more intensely you exercise, the more glycogen you burn, and so the more you will need additional energy. If you experience stomach cramps, the concentration was probably too strong and you need to take more water on board.
If you are taking a gel/squeezie (a small sachet of glucose polymer) in a race, aim to take it before a water station so that you can drink water immediately to dilute the concentration. Ideally with each gel you should consume 6 to 8 oz of water. If in doubt follow the manufacturers guidelines.
If you are going to be racing for longer than 1.5 hours and plan to have solid food, practice eating it beforehand.
Nerves on race day morning lead to a very fast transit of food from the stomach and frequent visits to the loo
- Slow down or walk so that there is little risk of choking.
- Chew the food thoroughly before swallowing to speed up digestion.
- Practice eating it at the same time during a training run as you would require it in a race to simulate true conditions.
Remember you want only light carbohydrates, although some athletes do seem to be able to eat even chocolate bars without problem. Experimenting is crucial to see what works for you under race conditions - remember everyone is different and what works for one could be a disaster for another.
Nerves on race day morning lead to a very fast transit of food from the stomach and frequent visits to the loo. Bear this in mind when practicing eating and try and get your frame of mind right for 'race practice'. When practising and on the day, avoid foods with a high fibre content or which is very spicy as these could compound the problem.