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Nutrition Tips For A Summer Of Road Races And Runs

About the Author: Jenilee Matz is an avid runner and a medical writer for Walgreens. She enjoys writing about fueling your body with proper nutrition to get the most out of your runs. Prepare for your next race with a proper diet complemented by vitamins and supplements that you can find at Walgreens.com.

Runners know that following a sound training plan is a must for race day success. But training should involve more than just logging miles. Make sure you also include good nutrition. Learn why eating well is important and how to fuel your body. 

Timing Your Nutrition

Nutrition is an essential part of training. Here’s how to schedule optimal nutrition around your runs:

  • Before. Eating well before a run fills up your tank so you can perform your best. Carbohydrates are the main energy source that fuels the body. You also need a little bit of protein to prep your muscles. About an hour before your run, eat a power-packed snack. Try nut butter on a banana.
  • During. When you run for 60 to 75 minutes or more, take fuel on the road with you. The body stores some carbohydrates in the liver and muscles as glycogen (energy), but during a long run, glycogen stores become depleted. Electrolytes, including potassium and sodium, are also lost through sweat during exercise. Consume easy-to-digest foods or beverages that are high in carbohydrates and electrolytes during your run so you can finish strong. Avoid foods high in protein, fat or fiber because they slow down digestion and can cause stomach upset. Try sports drinks or gels.
  • After. Eating after a run is essential, too. Refueling properly and promptly—15 to 30 minutes after a run—is optimal for recovery. You’ll need mostly carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores for your next training run, and some protein to repair and rebuild damaged muscle. Strive for a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Try turkey and tomato on a whole wheat wrap.

Staying Hydrated

It’s vital to drink an adequate amount of water before, during and after a run. Dehydration can negatively affect your performance. While it’s less common, drinking too much water can also be harmful. Excess water can dilute the sodium levels in the body and cause a dangerous condition called hyponatremia.

It can be helpful to weigh yourself before you run to gauge fluid needs. Aim to drink two to three cups of water in the few hours before you run. During your race, drink when you feel thirsty. Be sure to drink water after your session. If you lost weight during your run, drink two to three cups of fluids for every pound lost. To ensure that you’re well hydrated, check out the color of your urine. If it’s pale yellow or clear, you’re likely taking in enough fluids.

Fueling by Distance

In general, the longer you run, the more calories and fluids you need. Follow these strategies for fueling during your event. Note that these are rough targets that should be fine-tuned based on your energy and training needs and performance:

  • 5k: There’s no need for extra calories. Just focus on drinking water.
  • 10k: If you’ll finish under an hour, all you need is water. For times greater than an hour, consume 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour.
  • Half marathon: If you’ll run for less than 2.5 hours, have 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour. If you’ll go longer than that, consume up to 90 grams of carbs per hour.
  • Marathon: Take in up to 90 grams of carbs per hour of running. Be careful not to drink too much water. Grab a sports drink at some water stations.

The Rundown

Individual fueling and hydration needs vary, and they can be influenced by other factors. You’ll likely need extra fluids on hot days, for instance. It’s a good idea to practice fueling throughout training, so you know how your body responds. It’s better to learn you can’t stomach a particular food or drink halfway through a training run than halfway through a race. Working nutrition into your training can help you succeed on race day.

Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. 

By: Jenilee Matz, MPH

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