In high school, one of my teammates won every 400-meter race she entered with Dorito dust always at her fingertips. A college teammate went to the races with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. At the New York City Marathon a few years ago, I watched a group of friends having shotgun beers at the start line.
It turns out that a lot of food or drink can fuel athletes during a race. But after running for a number of weeks or years, every runner comes to a point where they may want to reevaluate some of their pre- and post-run eating habits.
Maybe it’s because you want to go faster, or because you want to optimize your recovery time, or because you often get a stomach ache during a workout.
Finding and planning the right meals and snacks to fuel your run takes time and planning, said Amy Stephens, the Empire Elite Track Club’s team dietitian.
So this month, as part of our Expert Interview series, we asked Stephens to answer some of our readers’ questions about post-run digestion issues, refueling and nutrients. specific for runners.
Here are some of his tips.
This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
At the refueling
What’s the real benefit of refueling within 30 minutes of a run?
Consider refueling as part of your training plan. After a run, your muscles are ready to absorb all the nutrition from food. If you wait one to two hours, you will still absorb the nutrients, but to a lesser extent.
Eating 30 minutes after a run will help your body recover faster and get stronger for the next run.
I encourage my athletes to pack food or have it prepared before they go. Consider easy-to-prepare foods like oatmeal, a peanut butter sandwich, a nutrition bar, or fruit yogurt.
I generally recommend a food-based approach, but a smoothie or liquid supplement might be more convenient for some.
Eating halfway through
Does refueling mid-ride help recovery? And what foods do you recommend?
Mid-course refueling is helpful in delaying muscle fatigue and may prevent hitting the wall, but does not aid recovery. When running or running, I use salt gels and tablets.
After a race, the post-race meal can aid recovery by reducing inflammation. My favorite recommendations are tart cherry juice, beet juice, fresh strawberries, green tea, and turmeric. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids — think oily fish, chia or flax seeds — are also helpful in reducing inflammation and preparing you for your next run.
In terms of recovery, the best thing to do is to eat carbs and protein every few hours. To maximize recovery, aim for a four-to-one ratio of carbs to protein. Some of my favorite recovery foods are those that are easy to make ahead, like peanut butter and jelly, sliced bananas in yogurt, a yogurt smoothie, or a nutrition bar.
The biggest mistakes I’ve seen are eating high fat fried foods without adequate carbs. Fats take longer to be absorbed and do not provide enough carbohydrates to replace glycogen.
On specific nutrients
I’m usually very careful with protein and carbs after workouts. But are there any specific vitamins or supplements runners should focus on?
Some of the most overlooked supplements come from electrolytes, which are essential for energy production and muscle contraction. We lose electrolytes through sweat or in very hot or cold climates. I recommend testing different electrolyte products to determine which is best for you.
Magnesium can also help with physical performance. Deficiencies are rare, but if you’re concerned, talk to your doctor about having your magnesium levels tested. My favorite foods containing magnesium are spinach, almonds, cashews, black beans and avocado.
In addition, B vitamins (B6, B12, B3) are beneficial for sports performance. B vitamins help in the production of red blood cells, energy production and muscle repair. Common food sources are dairy products, meat, eggs, seeds, fish, chickpeas and bananas. If you don’t eat these foods, it may be worth taking a B supplement.
On stomach problems
Is there a reason why some runners vomit right after a run, and is there a way to prevent it?
Not only is vomiting normal, but it happens at all levels, from beginners to advanced athletes.
Many of my pro athletes report vomiting at the end of a race, regardless of refueling before the event. Vomiting during a run or at the end of a strenuous exercise is because the body is working hard to supply the muscles with blood and oxygen-rich nutrients. During intense exertion, our working organs prioritize the blood supply to the muscles and divert it away from the intestine. During this period of exertion, it is difficult for the body to digest anything.
If you’re still uncomfortable throwing up at the end of a run, here are some possible solutions that might help.
Be mindful of when you eat: Time nutrition for fuel to be digested before your final push. Experiment with pre-race fueling by eating at least 90 minutes before you run. This gives your body enough time to digest food. Everyone needs a different amount of carbs; Start with 45 grams of carbs an hour before your run and see how your body feels.
Talk to your doctor: If you’ve tried these nutritional strategies and still feel like throwing up, talk to your doctor about using antacids, Pepcid, or antiemetics.