“Running on Empty” – nutrition tips for success…

Continuing on our theme of Fun Runs, one aspect which is vital for success is that of nutrition – so who better than my guest blogger, resident IsoWhey Chef Janine Royce to explain why how and what! Over to you Janine…!

Whether you are training for an upcoming fun run, or have recently taken up running as your new fitness program, then you will need a good nutrition plan to provide adequate nutrients and energy for training harder, faster and longer. There wont be a magic eating plan that will work for everyone, but the body needs fuel to sustain a moderate running pace.

A nutrient-rich diet that incorporates a variety of fruits and vegetables together with sufficient protein (including fish, lean meats, free range chicken and legumes) and healthy fats is a good foundation for healthy muscles, joints and bones. Keeping your muscles and bones healthy may help to reduce injury risk and lessen post-training soreness.

Carbohydrates play a vital role in the runner’s diet as they provide the most easily accessible form of energy and supply an almost immediate source of fuel for our exercising muscle.  When eaten, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which circulates in the blood stream supplying energy throughout the body. Some of the glucose remains in circulation to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, whilst the remainder is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. The storage facilities of the liver are limited and extra carbohydrates are converted to fat for long term storage. 

The best forms of carbohydrates to include in your diet are those with a low Glycemic Index (GI) and exist naturally within nutrient dense foods such as carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, whole-grains, legumes and low fat dairy. These are directly opposed to “empty” sugars, such as refined sugar, cordial, lollies, soda, which provide little nutritional value. Low GI foods will also provide a more sustained release of energy and will leave you feeling satisfied for longer. For weight maintenance and optimal energy availability, daily carbohydrate needs should match what is utilised. Therefore a higher consumption is recommended on training days (and especially event days), while lower intakes are best on rest days. 

Running events lasting greater than one hour may deplete muscle glycogen to low levels and can lead to early fatigue (and thus being passed by someone’s grandmother!). This is why you need adequate carbs before you embark on a run or you will find yourself “running on empty” as one of my colleagues experienced first hand when we did a run last week. Having not eaten breakfast nor drank any water except for a coffee, he soon found he had hit the wall rather quickly and was finding the run difficult.

We’ve all heard of carb loading before a race. Think of it as “topping up the gas tank.”  Since our bodies can’t store a lot of carbohydrates, the term “loading” means maxing out the amount that your body can store in your muscles and liver which may help with performance and propel you to the finish line! So, the day before your run, make sure you are having some carbs with each meal such as an Isowhey® shake for breakfast with greek yoghurt and berry fruits, a wholegrain wrap for lunch and dinner could be my healthy chicken and spinach lasagne for dinner with a green salad.

On the day of the run, have a small breakfast such as an Isowhey® with yoghurt and a handful of berries or sourdough toast with nut butter and banana. Make sure you allow between 1 to 2 hours for digestion so you are absorbing the nutrients to go the distance. Stick with low-fibre carbohydrates to avoid digestive issues such as gas, bloating and the urge to go to the bathroom. During the run, depending on its length and also the weather (hot and sunny day), you will need water for rehydrating. Unless fluid losses are replaced by drinks, sweating could lead to dehydration and heat stress. Being thirsty can be a useful signal of fluid loss, however you may not have access to drinks only when you are thirsty and you may need to develop a fluid plan. You can get a feel for sweat rates during your training. In events lasting longer than 1 hour, consuming an electrolyte sports drink or carbohydrate snack such as a protein bar, raisins or sports energy gel can provide additional fuel to the muscle or brain and may just get you over the edge if you are struggling.

Once you have crossed the line you will need to refuel. Research has shown having a mixture of protein and carbohydrate that is low in fat within 30-60 minutes of your run is effective at replenishing glycogen stores. Whey protein is particularly popular as a recovery supplement, or supplement ingredient because it provides a rapidly absorbed high-quality protein source and can help with muscle recovery.

An Isowhey® smoothie would be ideal here as it also contains electrolytes and other nutrients for gut health and well being.The consumption of water is also vital immediately after your run and for the following 24 hours. It would also be ideal to supplement with a magnesium drink as magnesium is lost during exercise and it can help with sore muscles and any spasms and cramping. Strenuous exercise training and particularly aerobic exercise can put stresses on the body which can affect the immune system, lead to inflammation, poor digestive function and increased risks of certain deficiencies (e.g. magnesium).

Supplements that can be of use during exercise programs include:-

Fish oils – which have anti-inflammatory effects and can be useful for pain and injury.

Pro-biotics – great for gut function and immune support.

Acetyl-l-carnatine and Co-enzyme Q10 – both great energy boosters and also containing antioxidants which can support post exercise recovery.

Have a chat with your healthcare practitioner who can best advise your requirements specific to you.

Happy running!

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