Running on Empty . . . or Full . . . or Maybe . . . ?
It’s one of the most confusing and most difficult things to figure out for runners – what and when to eat and what and when to drink before, during, and following training runs and races.
I have a running partner who eats just before she runs and then not until after she finishes. I have to eat two hours before a run (no later) or else I implode. I have other friends who drink until they slosh at water stations while others who tend to sip and then dump their cup a quarter mile after the aid station. Some swear by jelly beans, some use gels (how many gels are there?!?), some by certain energy drinks, and the list goes on.
My point? No one can tell you what’s best for you – it’s something you have to determine for yourself. And guess what, what works for you for a 5K may not work at all for a 10K and highly likely NOT for a marathon.
So, as part of your training, for whatever race you do, experiment and take notes. For example, try eating before a run (some kind of energy bar, for example). Try different sports drinks vs. just water during longer runs. Keep in mind, if you’re running in the heat, try a diluted sports drink (electrolytes). If you have a really great run with a certain mix of eating and drinking, try it again to see if it was the combination or if you just happened to hit a good run.
I wish there was a secret formula, but everything from being allergic to certain ingredients to having a sensitive stomach to being a light or a heavy sweater to how your body reacts to certain foods, all play into it (and much more).
The problem is, this takes time to figure out, so you want to start experimenting as soon as you can. What you don’t want to do is show up at a marathon and then just eat without purpose the night before and that morning and drink whatever they’re offering on the course. You can find out what they’re serving on the course – it may mean you need to carry your drink with you – I know I ended up carrying individual powdered servings of my drink and adding it to my water at stops during one marathon.
So the secret to having the right mixture of food and beverage is preparation. Just like you prepare by doing the miles in training, it’s also important to know what kind of food and beverage your body responds best to AND what foods you need to avoid like the plague. Just telling you right now gang, I don’t eat ice cream the night before a marathon . . . or I’ll be in the port-a-potty by mile 2 and probably again by mile 10. I’ve learned that ice cream and long runs don’t work well for me! : )
Well gang, that’s it for now. Take note of good run days and what you’ve consumed before and during the run and start with those as clues to your right mixture of running fuel. Feel free to experiment to see if there’s even a better mixture, but be sure to settle on your mixture by at least 3 weeks out.
Okay, currently we’re having a lot of rainy days in Southwest Missouri meaning flooded roads and lots of debris on trails, sidewalks, and edges of the road – so watch your step AND . . .
Have an awesome run today!
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