Nutrition & Hydration

Here's the 3rd installment in So, you want to be a runner, huh? Let's talk about nutrition & hydration... two very important things to runners!

There are all kinds of websites, books, etc about "nutrition for runners." I will not try to be an expert and tell you what to eat, because I really have no idea. I am not the best person to ask because I'm not obsessed with food & calorie counting, etc. I don't count calories. I have no idea how many carbs you're supposed to have a day. I don't drink protein shakes. The only thing I do that runners typically do is carbo-load the night before a big race and that's mostly because I love pasta & garlic bread!

One nice thing about running though, is that I can eat almost whatever I want. I don't starve myself and deprive myself of my favorite sweets in order to have a "perfect" body. Personally, I don't think it's worth the stress of trying to be perfect, I just do it in moderation. I know some people that do count every calorie that goes into their body & never eat sweets, totally cut out sugar, meat, etc... and more power to them! I just can't/don't feel the need to do all of that.. mostly because I'm lazy AND I love my ice cream! I do, however, try to make healthy choices. I don't eat fried foods and I don't drink soda. Instead I usually opt for grilled stuff and water.

So yes, I will eat a cookie or have some ice cream every once in awhile. I'm a firm believer that anything in moderation is okay. But don't ask me for a meal plan because I have no idea.

However, as far as energy & hydration during a run here are some of my favorites!

Obviously water is a must. During all races there will {or should be} be water stops. I typically don't carry water with me during races because there's always some around, however during long runs on my own I usually carry something like this:

It's a Nathan water bottle. It straps around your hand so it's easy to hold, it's a good size, and even has a pocket that you can put your Gu, sports beans, keys, or cell phone {if you have a small one like Josh, unfortunately mine doesn't fit!} in.

I just drink water during runs, but Josh likes to drink this stuff:

HEED drink mix. It's delicious! I would drink it more but it's kind of expensive... and water is free! You can also drink stuff like Gatorade or Powerade as well.

There's also stuff you can eat while running for extra energy! Typically, you don't need anything extra {sports beans or Gu} during a run unless it's over an hour long. The rule of thumb is: eat something about 15-30 mins before a run and then every 45 minutes. So during my half marathon I ate a few Sports Beans before the race, then used 3 packs of Gu; one 45 minutes in, 90 minutes in and then one a little after 2 hours or so to get me through the last couple miles. I've seen people use these at 5K's.... and you really shouldn't need to! Before a 5K might be okay, but don't stop to take one a mile in. You'll just look silly!

Sports Beans:

The first time I tried them I almost felt guilty because they taste just like jelly beans. You can also eat them during a run for extra energy. The nice thing about these is you can throw them in your pocket and just eat a few at a time for little boosts of energy here and there rather than having to eat a whole pack of Gu. Gu is a little harder to eat and kind of messy, although I still prefer it.

My favorite GU!:

It comes in several flavors... right now my favorite is chocolate! Gu is designed to be digested while exercising so it doesn't cause stomach cramps. However, don't try it for the first time during a race because you should still give yourself a chance to get used to it! Try it during a long run.

Another important thing to drink is a recovery drink:

Again, I think these are only pretty necessary after runs that are an hour or more. I typically don't drink one after a 5K or a short/easy run.

Chocolate milk is also a good recovery drink ;-)

And that's pretty much all I use.

Other good things to eat/drink:
The morning of a big race {10 miler, half marathon, etc} I'd suggest getting up a couple hours before it starts and start drinking a sports drink like Powerade or Gatorade for hydration and calories. Apparently you're supposed to drink the whole thing... I didn't know this before my half marathon, oops! At least I'll know for next time! And be sure to eat lots of fruits & veggies on a regular basis! :)