You’ve completed the ‘U to Running’, 8 week 5km training program written by Professor Greg Whyte OBE – Click Here to download the plan for FREE – and you’re ready to go and run your first 5km… but what should you eat?
Never underestimate the power of good nutrition. The proper pre-race fuel will help you stay energised throughout the run, without leaving you with stomach cramps or have you rushing for the bathroom.
Here are our top tips:
- Stay Hydrated.
It’s best to sip water regularly throughout the days before your run. Try to avoid drinking lots of fluids right before you start; this could you leave you feeling sick or needing to take a break from the run to go to the bathroom.
It’s okay to have coffee, tea, or a sports drink if you regularly drink those fluids before your runs and they don’t upset your stomach. If you don’t do it in practice, don’t do it on race day.
- Avoid ‘Carb loading’.
The idea of carb-loading (increasing your intake of carbohydrate-heavy foods while cutting back on protein and fat in the days before a race/event) is mainly aimed at events of 90 minutes or longer. As you are likely to be done with your 5km long before that, there is no need for you to worry about carb loading!
For a 5km, it’s likely that you have enough fuel already stored in your muscles - from a healthy balanced diet. Don’t over eat before you run, as you’ll end up with lots of calories that you don’t need, which could make you feel bloated, nauseous, and feeling like you have heavy legs.
- Eat the right foods.
If you’re going to run in the morning, eat a light breakfast of about 200- to 300-calorie, one to two hours before the race. The majority of the calories should come from whole, unprocessed carbs.
Keep the meal low in fibre and fat; both take a long time to digest. Aim for less than 10 grams of fibre per serving (or less if you have a sensitive stomach); limit fat to 5 to 10 grams.
Experiment with different foods before training runs so you know what works (or doesn’t work) for your body, and there will be no surprises on race day.
If you are going to run in the afternoon or early evening, what you eat at breakfast and lunch will have a big impact on how you feel for the run.
At lunch, try to avoid high-fat and high-protein items since they take longer to digest. Avoid eating until you’re stuffed, you don’t want to start your run still feeling full.
- Pre-run snack.
If you feel hungry before you run and it’s been a while since your last meal, have a small snack of about 150 to 250 calories that quiets your hunger but without filling you up.
You could have a small banana or a handful of energy chews or an energy bar for quick fuel that’s easy to digest. Choose one that is high in carbohydrates and has less than 10 grams of protein and fat. Be sure to wash it down with a few sips of water or sports drink.
- Pit stop.
Always try to make a pit stop before you run, or try to plan your run after your normal daily bathroom routine.
There is nothing worse than the feeling of needing a pit stop while you are running. When you run, blood flow decreases to your gut, and increases to your muscles. The harder and longer the run, the more likely it's going to mess with how well your gut is functioning.
So always give yourself time to digest your food before you run.
- Don’t do anything new.
Whatever you eat and/or drink, make it something that’s worked for you during your regular training runs. It should be something that makes you feel energised but doesn’t leave you with an upset stomach. Don’t try anything new; you don’t want your first 5km to be derailed by a pit stop.
Have fun and enjoy the achievement of running your first 5km… give yourself a lot of praise for having completed your training and 5km run… it’s estimated that less than 46% of people will ever run a 5km run/race… but you have!
Now let’s look at how to optimise your recovery.
- Cool Down.
After your run, don't just stop running. It's important for your muscles to cool down. Your cool down could simply be walking for 5 to 10 minutes or a slower jog/run for a mile or two.
You may not have burned a lot of calories, but you still need to make sure you replace the calories you lost. You won't need a lot, so look for things that have extra nutrients such as oranges or bananas.
You may also want to have your favourite energy bar to help refuel after your run. Be careful you don't overeat.
No matter what your speed was, you need to make sure you hydrate after your run. Replacing the fluids you lost is essential to help prevent any headaches, and muscle cramping.
Adding 6g of Active Greens will help you refuel and hydrate.
- Next day.
The day after your 5km, go for a short, easy-paced run. This will help get the blood flowing through your system to aid in muscle repair. A short run can also help to alleviate any aches you may feel.
Please comment below if you found this article helpful. Do you have any other helpful tips and tricks? Share this with someone who you know would benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other.