Talking to a friend who has been sick for several days, she mentioned that her doctors told her the sickness probably hit her harder than it should have because she had been dehydrated from her running and exercise regiment. This conversation reminded me of a woman I met in a yoga class who bragged that she never fueled before or during her half marathons because she “wouldn’t eat before noon.” While I understand that strong desire to be thin, common sense and proper nutrition are more important to me. I knew what she was saying was crazy, but I realize that many people don’t know that nutrition, especially for endurance sports, is incredibly important.
When I first started training for my first long race, a coworker and endurance athlete told me the simple rule: after an hour, you need nutrients – whether that be sports drinks, power gels, bars (heck, I know marathoners that eat sandwiches during the 26.2) – you need something to replace the calories you’re burning.
But, what about before the race? I found this fantastic article from Active.com – The Pre-Race Meal. It states:
The main purpose of the pre-race meal is to fill your liver with glycogen, especially if it precedes a morning race. Liver glycogen fuels your nervous system while you sleep, and as a result, your liver is roughly 50 percent glycogen-depleted when you wake up in the morning. Your muscles, inactive during the night, remain fully glycogen loaded from the previous day.
It follows up with tips for breakfast before race time as well as meal suggestions. Sorry carb avoiders – not the best bet to fuel your run!
Another article, this one from Runners World.com, shares Hydration Tips for Runners. There are dozens of different philosophies on this – what to drink/when to drink/how much.. but they all basically say the same thing. You need water. You need sugars/carbs. You need them before, during, and after. It’s important to figure out what types are best for you – some like Gu (chocolate gu tastes like frosting.. makes frosting hard to eat, but it’s fairly easy to swallow during the run). Some prefer sports drinks and water only. Either way, a combination is very important.
Recovering after your run is important, too. Running Times has a Post-Run Recovery article that backs up the claim that chocolate milk is a great recovery tool. Sugars + protein + deliciousness= good recovery tool for me! Your body needs more hydration than you probably think after a run and protein helps repair muscle damage that occurs during the activity. **Beware of popping pills after a run – with your body dehydrated and muscles inflamed, taking anti-inflammatory drugs can be dangerous. My husband ended up in the ER a couple of years ago after a half marathon thanks to sickness caused from post-run motrin. Wait 48 hours to be fully hydrated and back to normal before you take those pills!**