I always tell my runners that “food is fuel,” but a common question I often receive is “When, and how much should a runner eat?”
According to Nancy Clark, author MS RD CSSD, here are a few of the 2009 sports nutrition guidelines.
- Eating before hard exercise, as opposed to exercising in a fasted state, has been shown to improve performance. If you choose to not eat before a hard workout, at least consume a sports drink (or some source of energy) during exercise.
- When you exercise hard for more than one hour, target 30 to 60 grams (120 to 240 calories) of carbohydrate per hour to maintain normal blood glucose levels and enhance your stamina and enjoyment of exercise. Fueling during exercise is especially important if you have not eaten a pre-exercise snack. Popular choices include gummi candy, jelly beans, dried fruits, as well as gels and sports drinks. More research is needed to determine if choosing a sports drink with protein will enhance endurance performance.
For optimal recovery, an athlete who weighs about 150 pounds should target 300 to 400 calories of carbs within a half-hour after finishing a hard workout.
- Including a little protein in the recovery meals and snacks enhances muscle repair and growth. Popular carb+protein combinations include chocolate milk, yogurt, cereal+milk, pita+hummus, beans+rice, pasta+meat sauce.
Remember- you should be eating to run, not running to eat, because what and when you eat powerfully impacts the way that you perform.