RUNNING & RACING FUEL TIPS & RECIPES
So we asked Kate Percy, founder of Go Faster Food, marathon runner, and author of the Go Faster Food series (available on Amazon), how to easily add sports nutrition into everyday training with practical tips and delicious recipes.
How does fuelling your body help optimise performance?
Taking care of what and when you eat should be seen as part and parcel of your running, whether you’re training for an event or not.
Eating the right types of foods - a balance of unprocessed, unrefined carbohydrate-rich foods, quality protein and healthy fats - at the right times strengthens the immune system, keeps muscles healthy, helps you recover and maintains energy levels.
Timing your food intake around your running is very important. Eating a couple of hours in advance to your runs gives your body time to digest the nutrients needed to fuel your muscles.
Eating immediately after your runs optimises recovery so that you can continue training regularly and help prevent injury.
What about reducing the risk of running injuries?
A good combination of carbohydrates and proteins (3:1 is a good ratio) about 30 minutes after training is the ‘magic window’ when your muscles are at their most receptive; risk of a running injury is increased when muscles are fatigued, so pay attention to fuelling strategies during long or intense training and racing.
If you are unfortunate anough to get injured, don't see this as a time to ditch your good running diet; good nutrition is key to recovery.
Foods with high quality protein and antioxidants, including Vitamin C, aid cell repair, while foods likr spices, garlic, ginger, oily fish, nuts, seeds and blueberries can act as anti-inflammatories.
What recipes and food types promote weight loss while ensuring that you’re getting the energy you need on a run?
Carbohydrate-rich foods are the optimum fuel for most runners. When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, they are digested, converted into blood glucose and used for energy (or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles).
Glycogen stored in the liver is used to maintain steady blood glucose levels for the body and brain, while glycogen stored in the muscles provides fuel.
Carbohydrate-rich foods cause a rise in blood glucose. Some high GI (Glycaemic Index) foods are digested faster than others; pure glucose refined foods, like white bread, sugary drinks, sweets, sticky white rice, fried potatoes and highly processed cereals, are digested incredibly quickly, causing a spike in energy followed by a dramatic drop. Eating these consistently may cause weight gain and make it hard to maintain consistent energy levels for your runs.
Other foods (low to medium GI foods) release their sugars into the bloodstream more gradually, giving you steadier blood sugar levels. These slow-release foods can help reduce hunger pangs, keeping you fuller for longer to help you maintain a healthy weight. These foods also help stamina, endurance and focus.
These unrefined foods include whole grains, porridge oats, wholemeal bread, long-grain brown rice, whole wheat pasta, lentils, pulses and starchy fruit and vegetables, like bananas and butternut squash.
To sustain energy levels and to keep you feeling fuller for longer, combine unrefined carbohydrates with protein and healthy fats, such as eggs, sardines or mashed avocado on wholemeal toast; porridge with milk; toasted walnuts with chopped banana; or whole wheat pasta with chicken and pesto.
What are your favourite quick-and-easy run recipes?
Night before a race: Rigatoni pasta with butternut squash, pancetta and thyme (pictured top).
Training snack: Chia seed energy balls (pictured).
Post-run lunch: Ethiopian-style sweet potato and peanut soup with chilli and lime.
What is the best natural food for fuelling a race?
If you’re running for +90 minutes, you will need quick-release carbohydrates to top up glycogen levels, some protein to aid muscles, and hydration with water and electrolytes, otherwise you’ll likely ‘hit the wall’.
I have a problem with most running gel products when I’m racing; they seem to go straight through me and I end up racing from one portaloo to the next!
Good alternatives are homemade sports drinks like diluted full sugar squash or 50/50 apple juice-water with a pinch of salt; gel sweets like Clif shot Bloks; homemade energy bars or balls - try these date, oat and coconut balls, I use them all the time on runs - and fruit, cut up oranges and bananas.