You don't expect to drive a car if there's not enough fuel or you've put the wrong one into the tank. It works the same with your body when it comes to physical activities. Food choices determine your comfort and progress while doing sports.
A runner's nutrition depends on a bunch of factors, including taste and health condition. Some people prefer running on an empty stomach. Others feel energized only after a big meal.
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Sometimes you don't have enough time to eat or cook properly before working out. It's not a problem because healthy snacks can give you just enough energy.
While food choices are different for each runner, there are some common tips that will suit everyone. We prepared a selection of snacks you can easily adapt to your tastes and needs. In this article, we will share some quick meal ideas and answer typical questions regarding food and running.
Let's define what food works best for runners. This kind of sport implies eating lots of complex carbohydrates as a basis for your nutrition. Carbs are the main source of energy for workouts and daily life. Of course, you will need some qualitative proteins and fats as well. They help to recover after training and reduce hunger between meals1Joanne Slavin, Justin Carlson (2014, November). Carbohydrates Advances in Nutrition, Volume 5, Issue 6. DOI:10.3945/an.114.006163.
That is why most snacks for runners contain more carbs than other nutrients so they can guarantee energy boost and smooth workouts.
You can find many options in grocery stores or even make them at home. Pay attention to the composition of a bar. Better choose the ones that contain less sugar and more natural ingredients. If you need more calories for a proper workout, pick protein or nut bars.
Mix granola with yogurt or any kind of milk. Add nuts, coconut chips, fruits, chocolate drops, or nut butter to spice it up.
It is quite easy to make such a snack at home too. You will need to preheat your oven to 300 F and prepare a granola mix at the time. Mix oats, nuts, and coconut chips and put some maple syrup, honey, and oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes and enjoy your snack once it's cooled!
Boil oatmeal with milk or water. If you like it cold, put a bowl of oatmeal mixed with yogurt or milk in the fridge. Remember that you will need about 5 hours for it to be ready. Better leave oatmeal overnight and eat it whenever you want the next day. You can add extra flavor with berries, nuts, nut butter, or honey.
Such fruits as bananas, apples, avocadoes, and coconuts have high nutritional value and instantly give you lots of energy. Dried fruits are much higher in calories, so a handful will be enough. Dates, prunes, raisins, dried apricots, and figs are perfect for a quick snack.
Smoothies are full of vitamins and minerals when you mix the right ingredients. Vegetables contain more nutritional elements and fewer calories than fruits. However, fruit smoothies are a better option for runners as vegetable fiber can cause digestion problems when you run. A handful of mint or spinach leaves is more than enough. One scoop of protein would do great if you didn't have a proper meal before your running session. Add some ice if you want to make a more refreshing drink.
A protein shake is another snack you can eat on the go. It will take you less than a minute to prepare and give you the same nutritional value as a regular lunch serving. Use juice, milk, or water and one scoop of protein powder. Mix the ingredients in a shaker or using a blender. Put chocolate milk instead of regular if you need a more high-calorie meal.
Mix greek or any other yogurt with some fruits, nuts, or jam. Choose lactose-free or low-fat products if you plan to work out less than 60 minutes after eating. You can also find high-protein options for athletes in grocery and sports nutrition stores.
There are thousands of toast variations you can make before a run. Choose lighter toppings such as fruits and easily digestible proteins such as eggs.
Avoid using too many fatty products (e.g., nut butter, avocado, or cream cheese). You will need to wait longer for it to digest. Otherwise, fatty food can cause nausea and stitching when you run.
Here are a few healthy and tasty options:
Same as with toasts, you can make thousands variations of tortilla wraps that will become the perfect running fuel. Additionally, they are easier to carry with you or eat on the go. You can go for meat or tuna wraps if you need a bigger portion that can become your lunch.
Vegetarian wraps with falafel and vegetables are lighter and easier to cook. If you like to experiment, you can try making sweet wraps. A classic combination of bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate drops will tame your hunger and give you lots of energy.
There is a wide choice of such snacks in any supermarket. To make it healthy, look for the ones that don't contain preservatives, artificial food coloring, palm oil, and sugar. Dip them in nut butter, jam, hummus, or cream cheese to add extra taste.
The best part about all of these snacks is the variability of ingredients you can choose from. Combine a couple of these options to have a proper meal or prepare several servings in advance to save your time.
Here are some combinations you can use:
We recommend eating at least 60 minutes before working out. The fatter the meal, the more time you need to wait. Also, a big break is not a good idea unless you enjoy running on an empty stomach. 3-4 hours before running should be a maximum gap between your meal and workout2Vasavid P, Chaiwatanarat T, Pusuwan P, Sritara C, Roysri K, Namwongprom S, Kuanrakcharoen P, Premprabha T, Chunlertrith K, Thongsawat S, Sirinthornpunya S, Ovartlarnporn B, Kachintorn U, Leelakusolvong S, Kositchaiwat C, Chakkaphak S, Gonlachanvit S. (2014, July) Normal Solid Gastric Emptying Values Measured by Scintigraphy Using Asian-style Meal:A Multicenter Study in Healthy Volunteers J Neurogastroenterol Motil. PMID:24948129.
Stitches can be provoked by certain foods, lack of hydration, or high training intensity. Avoid eating heavy dishes high in fat, spicy and high-fiber foods, and running right after a meal. Don't forget to drink water before your workout, or take it with you. If you feel pain, try to slow down and breathe faster3Mole JL, Bird ML, Fell JW. (2014, May) The effect of transversus abdominis activation on exercise-related transient abdominal pain. J Sci Med Sport. PMID:23849908.
Nutrition is a factor that can influence your running progress, comfort, and motivation. A good healthy snack before a run is perfect for those who have no time or opportunity to cook. The best running snacks usually contain more complex carbohydrates and proteins and less fat and sugar. Cooking a snack doesn't take long (especially when you cook several servings at a time), but it can be as nutritious as your usual meal.
Unimeal does not diagnose or suggest treatments. Any description of the diet, training plan or supplement should be discussed with your current physician or nutritionist. This article does not address specific conditions and is simply meant to provide general information on healthcare topics. Following any advice is at your own initiative and does not impose any responsibility on the blog authors for your health and safety.
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