Training Tip: Find the Right Fuel

Be picky about what you eat during training — it makes all the difference when you’re running.

By Alyssa Shaffer
vegetables soaking in a pot

Plan developed by Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City.

What you put in your body before, during, and even after your workouts can make a big difference in how you feel. "Many times people will say that they are afraid to eat before they head out to run, but you can’t do a half-marathon or a full marathon on air!" says Nancy Clark, RD, a sports nutritionist and author of Food Guide for Marathoners (2nd edition, 2008). "Plus, you need to train your intestinal track just like you would your heart and lungs. So practice what you eat, especially before and after your workouts."

For a pre-workout meal, choose a carb-rich snack or light meal that’s about 200 calories — such as cereal with low-fat milk, or a small bagel with a little peanut butter. If you will be exercising for more than 90 minutes, you’ll need to replenish with a mid-workout snack — about 100-200 calories an hour. "You can do this with a sports drink or an energy gel, but I also like to have real food: dried fruit or fresh orange slices, or even some hard candy," says Clark. Finally, after your workout, reach for a protein-carb snack such as yogurt and fruit, crackers and cheese, or a turkey and cheese sandwich, to refuel your muscles quickly and reduce soreness.

One important point to keep in mind: If your goal while doing a marathon or half-marathon is to lose weight as well as to reach the finish line, ignore the urge to skimp on meals or snacks around your workout. "You’ll usually end up starving and ready to devour the entire refrigerator," adds Clark.

Next Training Tip: Practice "Pre-Hab"

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Originally published on MORE.com, January 2009.

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