Fueling Pre, During, and Post Run as a Plant-based Runner
Fueling for long runs and races is important to help you get through your run or race and feel good without bonking or crashing. Have you ever been on a run and felt like you weren’t going to make it the last 3 miles and didn’t bring any food or water/electrolytes with you? I have definitely been there. Even as a dietitian, I don’t eat perfect and definitely don’t always have my fueling nutrition on point either, but it is one of my goals to work on especially since I have BIG goals for my next full marathon (if I am able to get back into training after a minor setback).
What nutrients should you eat before a run? Well definitely carbohydrates! Carbohydrates give your body energy in the form of glycogen. So especially on long runs or races (marathon distance), you need to make sure you eat carbohydrates. You want to eat 1-4 hours before your run or race (1-2 hours seems to work for me) and about 0.5-2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. So for a 120 lb. female, she would shoot for 60-240 grams of carbohydrates. One bagel is about 48 grams of carbohydrates (so don’t be afraid to eat the whole bagel, you need the carbs). Also, a little bit of fats or proteins. And don’t forget electrolytes! My running coach recommends that I drink 1 bottle of electrolytes 1-2 hours before a half marathon. Hydration is just as important as food.
Carbohydrates can be complex or simple carbohydrates. You may want to have more time before a run when you eat complex carbs especially if they are whole grains and have a high fiber content since you don’t want to have any GI issues. But you know your body best. It’s best to experiment on training runs not races. If you need something to eat right before heading out the door then maybe more simple carb sources would be better like white bread.
Here is one of my favorite pre-race meals recently:
o Whole grain bagel (48 grams of carbohydrates) with avocado (12 grams of carbohydrates, 21 grams of fat) or almond butter (3 grams protein, 8 grams of fat)
What should you fuel with during a run? For runs over an hour, you may consider taking electrolytes, water, or gels/chews with you. Hydration is important with the loss of sweat (and electrolytes, not just water) and carbs are also important to replace since during the run you will be depleting your glycogen stores. Recently I bought Huma gels which are all natural and vegan friendly. I’ve never had them before, so excited to try them! And for electrolytes, I will be using the nuun tablets.
What nutrients are important for after a run? Carbohydrates and protein are important to have after a run to replace glycogen stores and help rebuild your muscles. Protein will help recovery and soreness. It’s ideal to eat something right after you run. It doesn’t have to be a meal. It could be a snack of simpler carbs like fruit or white bread and protein with 30-60 minutes after your run. And best to eat a meal within 2 hours. The recommendation is 0.5-0.7 grams of carbohydrates per lb. of body weight and 15-25 grams of protein.
Chocolate milk has been a popular post-workout drink. Why? Because of the 4:1 ratio. For every 4 grams of carbohydrates, there’s 1 gram of protein. So here a few plant-based post-workout snacks:
o Smoothie/protein shake
o Protein bar and fruit
o Non-dairy yogurt and granola
o Banana (27 g of carbohydrates) and ½ bagel (24 grams of carbohydrates) + peanut butter (8 grams of protein)
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