What Should I Eat Before my Run
Dear Kate, I normally run in the evenings but have decided to run when I get up. Is it OK to run (10k) before breakfast or should I eat first? If so what is best?
Running before breakfast is a tricky one. In theory, it is always best to fuel up before exercise, especially if you are doing as much as 10k on a regular basis. The reason for this is that your blood sugar and insulin levels will be at their lowest point as you will not have eaten since the previous evening - probably 10-12 hours ago. It stands to reason that without some sustenance your body and brain will not function at their best and you will not get the most out of your run.
If you can, get up about an hour before you run, drink a big glass of water immediately and eat some breakfast. Leave getting into your kit, doing your hair etc. - you can do that afterwards, while your food is digesting. Eat something high in carbohydrate like a small bowl of porridge, a couple of Weetabix or some muesli and maybe a piece of fruit. Birchermuesli (see recipe below) is a great option, as you can prepare it the night before and it will just be sitting in the fridge, ready to be eaten.
I do understand that this is not always practical, especially if you just can't bring yourself to get out of that nice cosy bed until the very last minute. Most people find that anything they eat within 45 minutes or so of running plays havoc with the stomach and impairs running ability, but you might be able to train yourself to cope with just half a banana or half a slice of wholemeal toast with a drink of fruit juice if you can't face getting out of bed in time for a proper breakfast. If you can't manage to eat anything at all, then try drinking a sports drink, or a big glass of fruit juice, so that your body has at least something to raise the blood sugar levels.
You can also make sure that you fuel up well the night before with a high carbohydrate, low-to-medium Gycaemic Index meal (see Go Faster Food for more on this). Something like a bowl of spaghetti with pesto, or a risotto. You will find that this will help your endurance and performance.
When you return from your run, try your best to take a few extra minutes to eat something before you rush off to carry on with the rest of your day - this will stave off the 11 o'clock hunger pangs and the onset of fatigue later in the day and it will replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles so that they will be able to cope better with your subsequent runs. Whack some fruit into the blender for a smoothie, or pop on a couple of slices of toast.
Birchermuesli was created by Dr Bircher-Benner in the 1890s for his patients in his Zurich hospital. It is an ideal healthy breakfast if you have a big day or a long training session ahead of you, but in fact the Swiss will eat Birchermuesli at other times, even as a light evening dish. Because you prepare it the night before all you have to do is remove the bowl from the fridge and eat it – it is even quicker than pouring out a bowl of cereal. What's more, the oats have been pre-soaked, so you can eat and digest this breakfast quickly. Birchermuesli will provide you with a good balance of nutrients – oats are of course the ideal slow-burning carbohydrate and, along with the fruit, they will give you fibre and help lower cholesterol; nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the milk and yoghurt provide some protein and on top of all this goodness you get vitamins from the fruit.
Nutrition per serving: Energy (kcal) 477 Protein (g) 15 Carbohydrate (g) 71 Fat (g) 13 Of which sugars (g) 45 Of which saturates (g) 2 Salt (g) 0.3 Fibre (g) 8
Serves 1 Prep time – 5 minutes
120g natural unsweetened muesli with fruit and nuts skimmed milk to cover the muesli splash of apple juice good grating of nutmeg, or ¼ tsp ground cinnamon or cardamom 1 crisp, fresh apple, chopped or grated natural yoghurt runny honey to drizzle on top small handful of almonds, lightly toasted
1. Pour over enough skimmed milk to cover the muesli generously and add a splash of apple juice. Mix in the nutmeg. You can use more apple juice and less milk if you prefer, it depends on your taste. 2. Leave for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge. 3. Grate or chop an apple into the bowl before eating. Check the muesli is the consistency you like. You may need some more liquid to loosen it up. Add more fresh fruit, some toasted almonds or seeds for a bit of crunch, a dollop of yoghurt and some honey.
Kate Go Faster Food Food and nutrition for athletes www.gofasterfood.com