There is much debate over the proper way to fuel before a run or exercise. I often get the same questions regarding this topic: To eat or not to eat? How soon should I eat before exercise? What should I eat before a run simple or complex carbs, protein or no protein? All are very good questions but as with most things there is no one cookie cutter answer; however, there are some key recommendations to keep in mind.
Most think of the pre run fuel as the calories consumed 1-3 hours prior to exercise or event. This is true by definition but as an athlete in training the actual pre run fuel starts at the post run meal from the previous exercise. Confused? Don’t be. Let me explain.
Post run meal has one objective to aid in proper recovery and restores vital muscle glycogen (fuel) that was depleted by exercising. If you have a proper recovery meal after each workout your muscles (fuel tank) will always be full and ready for the next exercise.
*Remember glycogen is the fuel or energy source that our bodies run off of and without it we zero energy. Car (body) has to have to gasoline or fuel (glycogen) to operate.
The body stores glycogen (fuel) in two different places. Muscles stores 80% of your total glycogen and the liver holds the rest. There is always a variable amount in our blood stream (blood sugar).
Still wondering how this affects your pre run fueling strategy?
Muscles best refill their glycogen (fuel) tanks immediately after being depleted. The process of active recovery or re-fueling happens between 30 minutes and 4 hours after exercise is completed. This means it is IMPOSSIBLE to refill your muscle glycogen tank 1 to 3 hours prior to exercise with a pre run meal.
So what is the purpose of pre run meal?
How can it help my run if it doesn’t benefit muscle glycogen stores?
The purpose of your pre run meal is to top off liver glycogen stores, which your body has expended during the night or through daily activity. Pre run meals also replenish electrolytes and stove off hunger. By ensuring you are adequately hydrated and fueled before exercise will decrease the amount of stress placed on the body, allow the body to work harder and perform better, and require less recovery time.
Always consume a pre run meal 1-3 hours prior to exercise lasting 60 minutes or longer.
What to eat:
1. Consume 150-200 calories for women and 200-400 calories for men 1-3 hours before exercise.
2. Take in mostly carbohydrate
- The body’s first choice for fuel during exercise is simple carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates also digest quicker which limits GI distress during the workout.
- Heart healthy fat satisfies hunger and offers secondary fuel source
- Some protein eaten prior to exercise has shown to help stimulate protein synthesis (muscle building) post exercise
- Both slow and steady the release of glycogen (fuel) into the bloodstream. This allows the body to become fuel efficient and delay the onset of fatigue.
- These particular foods have been known to cause GI distress during a run.
- Practice! Figuring out what works best for you will boost confidence in eating before exercise.
Examples of Pre Run Fuel:
1-2 tsp. peanut butter + 1-2 slice wheat toast
1 scrambled egg + 1-2 wheat waffles (frozen)
1 boiled egg + 1 cup cooked oatmeal
½ ounce nuts + medium fruit
¼ cup hummus + wheat pita
¼ avocado + half a bagel
½ cup trail mix
1 hammer bar
1 larara bar