What Does The Coach Do?
Eating Before Running
I have been coaching runners for over 10 years now- in my Lazy Runner Clubs, Online and all over Australia and the world with my Running Bootcamps and Running Workshops.
I get asked so many questions about running. One of the reasons I wrote the Lazy Runner book was an attempt to answer all of the questions runners have asked me over the years about running. And often they do not only ask me questions and advice on their running , they like to know about my running as well.
This week I am going to answer a question here that I have been asked regularly in my bootcamps over the past few months-
What do you eat and drink before you go for a run?
Years ago, I would just jump out of bed, throw on the gear and run. Nothing to eat and sometimes not even a drink of water! I find I cannot do that any longer. I need something before I head out for a run, and even water is not enough these days. If I run without anything to eat or drink about half way through, or when I get to a big hill- I find something just goes inside- I think its my blood sugar level dropping. I feel weak, legs go a bit jellylike and I'm not a happy camper/runner.
So now I always have something- and its either one of two things- and its based on which is in the house at the time..
1. Half a glass of juice- doesn't matter what type (usually its orange) but I get the same benefits from apple or blackcurrant.
2. Half a Banana washed down with a glass of water
And when I say half, that is it. A full banana is way too much and a full glass or juice is overdoing it as well. Its a fine line from having a little something to too much. If I go overboard I pay for it the other way- it goes down but about one km in it wants to come up again! I am re tasting what I ate and I don't like that feeling either.
To me both are perfect for my running needs. They are easy to digest, have just the right amount of sugar, that kicks in when I need it- and they taste good as well.
I never drink fruit juice outside of this pre run one. I'm not a great believer in drinking my calories as I love eating them- but I make an exception for pre run nutrition.
Now this is what suits me. I have tried other things over the years and have paid the price with bad indigestion, painful stitches or just having a yucky, sloshy feeling in my tummy.
You may jump up tommorrow and gobble your half banana and take off and find you are burping it up the whole way. Or you have the juice and find you have a huge stitch on your run- this means these two thing don't suit you- you need to try something else.
I know runners who cannot eat or drink at all prior to a run- and that is fine- but then they tell me they run out of energy or get zapped at 5km on a 10km run and I say- you need to find something that you can tolerate and have it- prior to your run- its all trial and error and eventually they find what suits them.
I think fruit is a runners dream food- all of it. If I don't have a banana in the fruit bowl, I grab some grapes (3 or 4 is enough), strawberries ( 1 or 2), and watermelon- don't get me started on this natures marvel- the best pre and post run fruit ever! No fresh fruit- I've grabbed a handful or sultanas, dried cranberries are great, dried ginger, apricots, dates...one or two- perfect running food. I know people who swear by a spoonful of honey, washed down with water. They tell me its easy to digest and releases the sugar into their bloodstream beautifully.
If you cant stand the thought of something sweet in the early am- half a slice of toast and Vegemite, or just dry crackers, rice cakes with peanut butter - or add the honey if it suits- all good stuff.
Another way to approach it is- if you cannot tolerate anything before you go- but know you are going to have the old energy slump at 3-5km- then take something in your back pocket and have it on the way- the best non mess things are some of the ones I mentioned above- wrapped in gladwrap- dates, dried apricots, dried ginger or just good old fashioned lollies- jelly beans or gummy lollies. Then if you do have the slump you have something to get you through it- and I suggest you have your treat at a drink tap- eat it and then drink and swish the water around your mouth and make sure the treat has gone down. I find if I don't have water after I eat the sugar- I get very thirsty and I hate that sweet, sticky after taste when I am running.
The half banana or half glass of juice is what I have before my normal training runs- but some runs are special- like race days. These are the days I save for that very special of special pre race tucker- COFFEE. I have a coffee before every event I run in- its a bit of a lucky charm thing now so I have to have one or I would turn into a prima donna and throw a bit of a tanty if I didn't get that cup of java. I go the whole hog- a nice big flat white- I usually have to get it on my way to the event- and yes its often one from Macafe as they seem to be the only guys opened at the particular hour of the morning- but its all good. As I say I only do it on special occasions and it really works for me!
The jury is out on the caffeine before running fix- but I like the little bit of energy and zip it gives me- so its a pre race treat for me. I wrote a tip on Caffeine for runners a few years ago, that you may like to read.
But the over-riding message is do what suits you- one way to know if you need to eat before your run is your energy levels on that run- if you can run all the way on water and not have to walk or feel funny, weak, giddy or flat- that is fine- don't worry about eating pre run. However, do drink. Water is fine, but if that is not enough or you are planning to run for more than an hour or are running in warm conditions- try adding some electrolyte mix to your pre-run water- they will give some energy and re hydrate as well.
Then someone asked me, what do I eat after a run?- I replied- 'whatever is not nailed down'!