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How to fuel your running: what, when and how


Whether you’ve been sticking to a summer routine or are just getting back to running after some time off,  what and when to eat and drink before, during and after a run is important to consider.

To start simple, for most runs lasting 45 minutes or less, no extra energy — food or drink —  is required. However, if it’s particularly hot or humid, or you just sweat a lot, you probably should aim to re-hydrate, in which case water works just fine.

For runs lasting longer than 60 minutes, it may be time to consider taking some fluids during the run as well. Water is again the beverage of choice but an electrolyte drink can also be used to add some additional fuel. You should also consider having a small snack beforehand or something easy to digest and is primarily carbs and simple sugars. Raisins, dates or bananas are good choices. Eating an hour or so in advance of running may help avoid GI issues and discomfort but it’s important to figure out what timing works best for you. Just as with shorter runs, make sure you re-hydrate afterwards to replace lost fluids.

For workouts and harder efforts — intervals, tempo runs, hills — again be sure to eat something and be properly fuelled before the run. It’s also important to refuel after runs to speed up recovery and help your body adapt to the stress of the workout. Take advantage of the glycogen window that exists between 30 minutes and two hours after your run. This is an ideal time to eat carbohydrates and protein, which are used to repair and strengthen the body. Many suggest a four-to-one ratio.

For a long run it is again important to fuel before as well as after the run. It may be necessary to fuel during the run as well, especially if you find yourself fatigued or slowing down towards the end. To do this, keep to simple sugars such as gels, energy chews or soft candy every 30 minutes or so, aiming for 30-60 grams of carbs per hour. Be sure to drink some water or electrolytes at the same time which helps with digestion and absorption.

In all cases, be sure to practice what, when and how you plan to fuel your running. Long runs are a perfect opportunity to test out a fuelling plan for an upcoming race. If possible, use the type of gel or drink that will be supplied during the race and perhaps even practice taking it from paper cups.

If you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, it is also important to consider that, regardless of pace or speed, you will burn about 100 kcal of energy for every mile you run. Be careful not to eat too much after your short, easy runs.