You run – no matter which event or the distance, every participant is simply putting one foot in front of the other. Therefore, it’s easy to think that all runners need to eat and drink the same way – but this isn’t the case. There are several key differences that can make or break your big day, so we thought we’d go over some of these so that you can prepare as well as possible and enjoy your Great Run experience!
Let’s start with something that is key for everyone. Eating the right foods will support your training and help you get fitter faster, but what are the ‘right foods’? Research has constantly shown us that natural, unprocessed foods that haven’t been smushed into something unrecognisable are what we should all be basing our diet on. Ask the following 3 questions: 1) Does it look natural? If so, you’re onto a good start! 2) Does it come in a packet? If so, someone put it there and that can suggest it’s been processed. 3) Recognisable ingredients? If all the ingredients read like something from a chemistry set, it might be best to stay away. In addition, eating the most colourful diet possible is another way to be healthy as the nutrients in different, natural foods show themselves in different colours. You can’t out-train a bad diet, but a good diet will boost your training!
Before the event
Your Great Run might be from 5km all the way up to a marathon, but how you eat before the event is more about your completion time than the distance you will cover. A big question to ask is, ‘how long will my event take?’ If the answer is less than 90mins, you don’t need a huge intake of carbohydrate in the days beforehand. Longer than this however and eating a few more carbs can help to sustain your energy levels. You’ll be training less but aim to maintain your training diet. Grains, bread and cereals in meals during the, 3-1 days before the race will help you race as well as possible. However, if your event will take less then 90mins, light meals and snacks that don’t leave you feeling too full are the order of the week.
During your run
Follow the points above and you will have 75-90 mins of energy stored up for your run. Again, it’s useful to think about how long your event will take to complete. If it will take this long (or longer) then you might want to take on board some energy during the event. There is a Clif feed station on all 10 mile, half marathon and marathon course, (the location will be detailed on the event guide) the station will be giving out Clif Shots Energy Gel's and Clif Bloks Energy Chews these will provide muscles with easy-to-digest carbohydrate in as little as 5-10 minutes. Each Clif Blok is good for 15 mins of running and each Clif Shot 45 mins, they are formulated to provide working muscles with a continuous supply of energy to help sustain your level for longer. If you plan to use the feed station make sure you have used these products before.
After the event (or training for that matter!):
How well we recover is largely governed by the stuff we eat and drink, so if we want to recover well we should try to make sure that our recovery food & drink are as good as possible. In general, you will have burned through some energy in the form of carbohydrate and fat, sweated out fluid and sodium and also used some protein. Therefore, these are the things that you need to replace remembering that the longer or more intense your event (or training session) the more you will have used. You will be given a CLIF Bar, or CLIF Nut Butter Filled Bar at the end of your event. These bars are designed with a balance of nutrients which will help kick-start your recovery so eat them in the 30mins after the event along with some water to rehydrate. In the 48hrs after your event, you should look to eat wholesome meals and snacks that give a good range of carbs, protein (found in meat, dairy eggs, but also in grains, beans, pulses and nuts) and vitamins and minerals found in berries, greens, vegetables, beans, spices (particularly ginger and turmeric) as well as dark chocolate and all will help heal our body more quickly after exercise without stopping the body’s natural ability to fix damage from exercise.
Eating and drinking well before, during and after your Great Run is really important, so make sure you take time to get it right.
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The ideas and suggestions written above are the opinions of Joel Enoch, an award winning triathlon coach for the Hartree JETS, 9-time GB Age-group triathlete, 2x Great SwimRun winner and CLIF Bar’s paid nutritional ambassador in the UK. This article is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. The contents of this article are not intended to make health or nutrition claims about Clif Bar & Company products. Always seek the advice of a Doctor or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition related activity.