Eating for Fuel and Recovery – Part #1

As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, I’m training for a half marathon. One thing that often gets overlooked when it comes to training is what to eat and drink. Consuming food and beverages are the only way to fuel your body for hard work. Think about that for a minute; Food is fuel. In the same way that it is impossible to drive a car very far when the tank is approaching empty, it is impossible to run very far when you haven’t fueled up beforehand! Additionally, it’s important to think about what you consume during exercise (when working hard for more than 60 minutes) and after exercise for recovery. Since this is such a huge topic, I’ll break it up into two posts.

First for the fluids. It’s important to start out hydrated and keep it that way. Water is essential for almost every chemical reaction that occurs in the body. Ensure that you keep hydrated on a daily basis by sipping water throughout your day. To figure out just how much fluid you will need during exercise, weigh yourself before and after; every pound of bodyweight lost is equal to about 16 oz of fluid (don’t forget to take into account how much you drank during that workout!). This is something that will be variable between individuals and from season to season.

Now onto the pre-workout fuel. What you need will depend upon what time of day you are exercising and how recently you’ve eaten. If you have had a meal within the past few hours you are probably good to go (I’m assuming you had a well balanced meal with vegetables and fruit included!).  If it’s been more than 3 or 4 hours, a small snack that has a combination of carbohydrates and protein (such as fruit with cheese or peanut butter) will probably be enough to top off your tank. If you exercise first thing in the morning (like me), I encourage you to get up early enough to eat before you start your activity. If this is something that upsets your stomach there are a few things you can try: wake up a little earlier so that your breakfast can settle, or try different types of foods (depending upon your symptoms fat, fiber or something else may be to blame). For persistent issues, working with a Dietitian can be very helpful.

Every person is individual so what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. I like to have a bowl of cereal, coffee and a large glass of water.  The cereal is a big bowl of two different types mixed together which I eat dry (since I’m making lunches, getting kids fed, dressed, and off to school – it would get too soggy otherwise!). The coffee is a latte made with a cup of skim milk and no sugar (believe me it doesn’t need it!) and the water just helps me to rehydrate (sometimes I have a little more than one glass). I usually start my exercise about 2 hours later (plenty of time for that breakfast to settle) and I will often have a piece of fruit to top me off before I begin. This is a good mix of fluids, carbohydrates, protein and fiber (about 22.25g of protein and 95g of carbohydrates) and has proven to work well for me. Would the same exact thing work for someone else? Maybe not. What we eat is very individual – just make sure that you do eat!

Cereal, coffee with milk, fruit & water – breakfast of… well… me

My next blogpost will cover what to eat during activity (for those of you who are exercising for more than 60 minutes at a time) and what to eat for recovery. Stay tuned!

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