As we often remind our runners, running isn't just about hitting the pavement and getting in the miles. Strong, healthy running requires a holistic approach to health, including strength, flexibility, cross-training, sleep and good nutrition. We have been lucky to have Christine Turpin, RD, LDN, CSCS serve as a resource for our runners. Chrissy is a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition, and the founder of Nourish2Perform. We thank Chrissy for guest blogging for us and offering our runners these important words of advice when it comes to fueling your runs:
Think about why you run! Do you run to advance your fitness, increase self-esteem, improve your health, relieve stress or to lose weight? I am a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition, who has a passion for running like most of you who are reading this post.
I also work with triathletes, marathoners, ballet dancers, law enforcement agents, recreational exercisers, and middle/high school athletes. I am consistently amazed by the number of people who don’t fuel their bodies properly. So many people short change themselves, especially those who run to lose weight. Each athlete is different, and eating plans must be individualized, but one thing for sure is that running on an empty stomach is setting yourself up for failure. An athlete’s body is like a car and you need to fuel your body (food) as you fuel a car (gas) to perform at your best. When your primary source of gas (carbohydrates) is not available, your body may dip into protein stores and break down muscle for fuel as well.
A low carbohydrate intake causes fatigue and decreases performance. A simple way to fuel the muscles before you hit the pavement is to eat a carbohydrate mini-meal or snack 45-minutes before your workout! Try a piece of fruit + yogurt or a granola bar for immediate carbohydrates to provide your muscles with energy and a little protein to power through the run. If you run in the wee hours of the morning and your stomach cannot tolerate food, a snack before bedtime will help fuel that workout! This snack can include a bowl of whole grain cereal + low-fat milk + fruit!
On the other hand, running does not give you a free pass to eat anything and everything. So before you indulge in that second piece of cake or that extra piece of pizza, remember your goal is to “fuel the engine” by increasing those carbohydrate stores for the next workout – not “load the trunk” by stuffing it full! The basic rule is calories in should equal calories out. Anything above and beyond your energy needs is stored as fat. You can count on burning 100 kcal / mile of running. So for a three mile run, that is 300 kcal (about a tall white chocolate mocha with 2% milk). And that is without the whipped cream! Better yet fill your belly with a nutrient dense snack like an 8-ounce low-fat chocolate milk (143 kcal) + Kashi Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bar (140 kcal).
I would not consider running on an empty stomach and neither should you! Use food for fuel to energize your run! I challenge you to fuel your body before your next run and let me know how you feel.
Christine Turpin, RD, LDN, CSCS