- By Ellie Gauthier
Sports nutrition 101 for running
Do you run regularly and wonder what to eat before, during and after your runs? Are you training for longer rides and would like some basic advice? Do not look any further. Here I will go over some general principles of sports nutrition with you.
But before diving into the heart of the matter, let's take a closer look at why it is so important to talk about diet for an athlete. In fact, food is the fuel that sustains us during our workouts. Eating properly allows us to maintain a good level of energy on a daily basis (goodbye fatigue!), to recover well, to reduce the risk of injury and to stimulate our immune health. In addition, if your ambition is to progress towards longer and more intense outings, eating well becomes all the more important. Know that even if I will often allude to running, the principles that will be presented are for the most part also transposable to other sports. With that, let's go!
1. Who is this section for?
This sports nutrition section is intended to be rather general so that it can reach as many runners as possible. However, it is mainly aimed at more “serious” runners, who accumulate a certain amount of running per week and who have higher energy needs. Note that the “average” runner who covers shorter distances can also benefit from pre-, intra- and post-race advice in order to optimize his energy level and his digestive comfort during his outings. That being said, for advice more suited to your reality and your performance goals, do not hesitate to consult a nutritionist specializing in sports.
2. A healthy and balanced diet above all
Sports nutrition is like a pyramid where daily healthy eating forms the foundation. Before trying any supplement or sports nutrition strategy (timing meals, for example), it is to the runner's advantage to bet on the quality and variety of the food on his plate. A diet that is sufficient in energy, rich in fruits and vegetables and in which there are good sources of protein, good sources of fat and starchy foods (including whole grains!) at each meal is the winning formula. Added to this are sleep and healthy lifestyle habits, which closely contribute to the runner's life balance. So, although they may seem miraculous, the supplements increase performance by only 2% on average. You will excuse the pun, but the proverb " There's no point in running, you have to start on time makes perfect sense here!
3. What to eat before, during and after your run?
Do you think you have enough, healthy and balanced food? So let's move on to the next step. To maintain a good level of energy during your runs, without compromising your digestive comfort, several strategies can help you.
Avant : The important thing to remember is that the content of your pre-race snack or meal depends on how long you have left before exercise, and of course, your hunger and satiety signals. The less time you have left, the more carbohydrate-rich foods you will have to rely on. Foods richer in fat, fiber and protein take longer to digest and it is therefore best not to consume them directly before an outing. Another piece of advice: for your digestive comfort, try not to exceed your satiety limit, that is to say, do not eat until you feel full/overfull. You will feel better and less bloated when you go out. The diagram and examples of foods below can guide you in your pre-race choices:
Source: Vegan recipes for active people by Nicolas Leduc-Savard and Xavier Desharnais
Pendant : Carbohydrates are our body's favorite fuel during exercise. Why? Because they produce energy more efficiently than fat or protein. The types of carbohydrates that are assimilated the fastest are simple carbohydrates, which can be found in fruit bars, candies, gels, etc. The longer the ride, the more you need to vary your sources of carbohydrates and the more your need for this macronutrient increases. Below are the recommendations in terms of carbs/h. To give you an idea, 30g of carbohydrates is usually equivalent to a gel, a sports fruit paste, 2 large dates and a banana. Be aware that tolerance to carbohydrate-rich foods during a run varies from person to person. What works for one may not work for another.
What about protein during exercise?
Since protein takes a little longer to digest than carbs, and you probably don't want to be doubled over in pain while running a half marathon or marathon, consuming protein during such events is not not necessary. For longer outings, such as long trail runs, protein intake becomes necessary after 4 to 5 hours of running.
After : We sometimes hear about the window of 30 minutes after exercise, during which it is essential to eat carbohydrates and proteins. Is it a myth? It really all depends on your training plans for the next 6-12 hours and the length/intensity of the run you just did. If your plans involve another workout or you just ran a long run at a high intensity, it is recommended that you eat a snack that combines a source of protein and a source of carbohydrates to boost your muscle protein synthesis and replenish your glycogen stores. These stores are used to store carbohydrates in your body and provide you with energy when you are not eating. If you don't have any other workouts scheduled or your outing was rather short, your body can wait until the next meal. Obviously, if you are hungry, do not prevent yourself from eating. We must not forget to stay connected to our signals of hunger and satiety!
4. Running hydrated tastes better
Eating is good, but eating AND hydrating is better. Adequate hydration helps regulate our body temperature during exercise, reduces the feeling of fatigue and facilitates the transport of nutrients to the muscles. The risk of consuming fast carbohydrates without drinking enough water during a race is as follows: the excessive concentration of carbohydrates in our digestive tract creates a demand for water, thus generating what is called "runner's diarrhea". . So remember to hydrate yourself well before, during and after your runs. On warmer days or very long outings, consuming a sports drink containing electrolytes (sodium, potassium) is recommended.
5. The athlete is also an intuitive eater
There is no point in calculating everything to the nearest gram: the important thing is to eat your fill and have fun while eating, while remembering that your body needs to be well nourished to recover and support you during your outings. . The portions of food indicated in this article are flexible according to your signals of hunger and satiety and it is completely healthy to listen to your food cravings. Do you want to eat pizza tonight? Do you love to eat dessert? It's normal. These foods, when eaten occasionally, are part of a healthy, balanced diet. For more details on this subject, I invite you to take a look at my latest article that demystifies intuitive eating!
In summary, this sports nutrition 101 for running guide you to a diet that will make you feel good every day and that will support you during your rides. Remember that sports nutrition is also about trial and error. What works for you may not work for your neighbor.
Are you still hungry? I share here some reliable sources to satisfy your curiosity!
- The website Nutrisportgo (very well synthesized tool designed at Laval University's School of Nutrition, which describes what to eat before, during and after a workout)
- The book Vegan recipes for active people (written by sports nutritionist Nicolas Leduc-Savard and athlete Xavier Desharnais, which contains several interesting sections on sports nutrition and vegan recipes that are, well, absolutely delicious!)
- Upika's podcast with Nicolas Leduc-Savard, sports nutritionist
- The podcasts of Not out of the woods with Isabelle Morin, sports nutritionist
- The podcasts of talk to me about health with Alexia de Macar, sports nutritionist
- The blog of Vanessa Daigle, nutritionist
See you in the next nutrition section!