If there’s a long run top on the weekend to-do list, plan it right.
Committing to a weekend long run means more than just blocking off a Sunday morning and heading out for 90 minutes or two hours. If your approach to pre-run nutrition is typically haphazard, it’s time to form new habits. Eating properly the evening before and the morning of is going to make all the difference both in how you feel during the run and how much effort you’re going to be able to give. Paying better attention to nutrition means workouts will be of a higher quality and that means you’ll get the most out of yourself in the long run.
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Jennifer Sygo is a Toronto-based sports nutritionist and runner who works with both the Canadian Track and Field team and the Toronto Maple Leafs. She’s also the author of Unmasking Foods (2014). We asked her to give us some tips and meal suggestions to consider for the night before the long run.
Generally speaking, shes says, “you want it to be largely carb-based, moderate in fat and fiber content and a big one is no new food.” Carb-loading is no myth. If you’ve got a run slotted in for 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, you want to be consuming the carbohydrates the night before and then top up that storage morning of.
Why do I even need to carb-load?
Your body stores carbs as glycogen and when you’re running, that’s the body’s go-to fuel source. If you’re heading out for a long run, the body needs something to burn and glycogen is its first choice. In a sense, loading up on carbs is kind of like putting gas in the car before setting out on a road trip. You wouldn’t set out on the road with a nearly empty tank would you? Apply that same logic to the long run. “If you don’t eat anything, you wake up with empty glycogen stores,” says Sygo.
The other thing you need to know about glycogen is that the body stores it in two places: the muscles and the liver. “Liver glycogen is often overlooked in terms of performance,” says Sygo.
Typically, a person can store 400- 500 grams of glycogen. While most of that is stored in the muscles, 100 grams or so is stored in the liver. It’s this liver glycogen that is often overlooked. That provides sugar for the body once blood sugar starts running low. If you don’t top up your body’s supply before the run, you’re limiting your backup stores right off the bat. “You’re missing one whole option that your body needs to keep going,” says Sygo.
How do you make sure you’ve got gas in the tank? Carb load at night, and top it up in the morning.
What sort of protein source should you be eating on Saturday night? Sygo advises to go with a lean, low-fat source. “Chicken is a classic that works in this case,” she says. Not a chicken fan? Meat eaters could also get their protein from white fish, a lean red meat cut or salmon. “Salmon would be fine. It’s higher in fat but it shouldn’t be a problem,” says Sygo.
“Sometimes I tell people to do breakfast for dinner,” she adds. Eggs, yogurt and oatmeal with nutritious toppings are smart options for runners. When it comes to timing, don’t eat too late. 6:30 p.m. is an ideal dinner time if the runner is planning on turning in at 10:00 p.m.
SUGGESTED PRE LONG RUN DINNERS:
- Grilled chicken with green beans.
- Turkey wrap with lettuce and tomato.
- Grilled salmon with rice.
- Wheat pasta with lean ground beef or lentils.
- French toast, fruit and Greek yogurt.
Sygo suggests having a snack the night before the long run as well. Contrary to common belief, eating before bed is not a bad thing when you’ve got to get up an do a long run in the morning. When planning the bed-time snack, the rules that apply to dinner stay the same. Just shrink the portion. Time it so that you’ve finished eating about an hour and a half before you turn out the lights. So if you’re going to bed at 10:00 p.m., grab a bite at 8:30 p.m.
- Banana and peanut butter on toast.
Try one of our gourmet toast recipe picks here.