WASHINGTON — Training for a race isn’t just about running — it can be about eating, too.
As the Marine Corps Marathon’s October start nears, training runs are getting longer. The importance of fueling properly during those longer workouts can’t be understated — including runs where mileage reaches double digits, said Andrea Goergen, a clinical dietitian at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
While different tastes and dietary restrictions may dictate what some people eat, there are guidelines that can help runners and all athletes alike make it through longer training periods.
When to eat
After an hour of exercise, runners should consider getting some sort of fuel, Goergen said. The best options are simple carbohydrates.
“[You want] something that is going to turn into energy very quickly and hopefully replace what you’re running out of when you’re burning through your glycogen stores — that’s the form of energy your body uses when you’re exercising,” Goergen said, adding that glycogen stores typically run low from 60 to 90 minutes into exercise.
“So before you run out of that, you want to start replacing it in your body and allowing your body to have a carbohydrate source to start burning.”
Every hour after first hour of running, the body needs 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. But how runners get that depends on the person, preferences, weight and how much energy is exerted, Goergen added.
What to drink
Sports drinks are a good place to start when adding fuel during a run, Goergen said. Most sports drinks have muscle-friendly ingredients: carbohydrates, sodium and electrolytes.
“What they often do is work toward hydrating your body, fueling your body with carbohydrates and giving your muscles the electrolytes they need to function properly.”
Look for drinks that have a carbohydrate content between 4 and 8 percent, she recommended.
However, steer clear of energy drinks that have high caffeine content and low sodium content, Goergen said.
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Goos, gels and beans
There are many goos, gels and beans on the market, most of which contain have sodium and carbohydrates and lack fat and protein. They can be an energy boost, but runners should always test what suits their body before race day, Goergen said.
“What you’re looking for is something you tolerate; something that goes down OK and stays down OK. It’s just a matter of when you’re training for a long run, really try things as you’re going,” she said.
Also, Goergen recommends having several options during a long run, so you have a backup plan in case something doesn’t sit well.
(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Garrett Aitken)
Getty Images/iStockphoto/Garrett Aitken
Don’t forget water
“To make sure your muscles are functioning appropriately and all of your body functions are working, you need a decent balance of electrolytes and fluid,” Goergen said.
And to get that proper balance, runners need 16-20 ounces of water per hour of running — maybe more if it’s really hot or you’re sweating, she added.
Want to know how much fluid you lost during a run? Goergen said to take your weight before and after the run. The difference in weight should be the fluid lost, so you can use that to figure out how much fluid you need and can plan for your next long run.
It may be tempting to reach for that large pepperoni pizza after a long run, but muscles recover best with meals that include protein, carbohydrates and lots of fluid.
Some people drink chocolate milk after a run because it has protein, carbohydrates and fats “so it’s kind of a good balance,” Goergen said.
Post long run, it’s a good idea to sit down for healthy meal that includes lean proteins such as fish and chicken, vegetables and whole grains, she added.
Still, Goergen acknowledges diets are different for everyone.
“You’re going to know what your body needs,” she said.
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