What are the perfect foods to eat before and after a run?
Below are some general guidelines that may or may not be right for you. Some people do better with more or less carbohydrates in general; or with their pre-race meal earlier or later… do some experimenting with your workouts that don’t matter as much, so you can learn more about your body and be prepared to do what’s best for you come race day.
A good carbohydrate meal ideally 2 hours in advance of the event is important for providing the energy you need to get through your race feeling good. This means no sleeping in race morning! Most people do okay good having finished the food by an hour in advance however you will still be digesting it during your run. Personally I like to finish eating about a half hour before, and this doesn’t bother my stomach as it may most people. Some examples of good pre-race foods are bananas (my favorite!), oatmeal, and whole grain bread with honey. For fluids, 8 oz of water 1-2 hours before the race, and another 8 oz in the 60-30 minutes before, are suggested amounts assuming you can make time for a pre-race potty break. Most of your hydration should be done in the days before – so stay hydrated at all times!
Once again you need adequate carbohydrate consumption afterwards to replace the energy you used up in the run. Sure it was nice to burn those calories, but if you don’t replace your glycogen stores shortly after your event, your workouts will suffer in the following week. Get the calories in right away in the first half hour after. Protein is important as well. Before the event you didn’t want or need them – they’re just harder to digest and may interfere with your performance. Afterwards, you need moderate protein to help start repairing those hard-working muscle cells. Here’s my plug for Olympia Granola bars – and not just because they are our sponsor! They really are the perfectly balanced post-race recovery food, with plenty of carbs and 9-10 g of protein per bar. Tasty too. Some other options are bread with peanut butter, fruit and nuts, or a protein shake with half a serving of protein powder. For fluid replacement consider a natural sports drink or coconut water immediately following the run.
For a distance of 10k or longer, consider a carbo-loading regimen in the week before the race. This could be as simple as eating more complex carbohydrates in the 2 days before the event to store up energy, to a more advanced plan of depriving the muscles of carbs by eating extra protein at the beginning of the week such that your body more easily wants to soak up those carbs when they are available before the race. If you try the low-carb plan at the beginning of the week, be sure to increase your water intake as your body will lose water more easily. We will cover carbo-loading at depth more in the future - when we have more MOTR ready for their first marathon!
To sum up -
Carbs before, carbs and protein after (moderate fat consumption after is fine as well), and experiment with your workouts so that you know how your body will react for races.