Pre- and Post-Workout Foods for Runners

Running has a number of health benefits. Depending on the intensity and amount of time you are planning to run for, there are various food options to choose from, before and after your workout. In addition, remember to hydrate with plenty of fluids before, during (if running for longer than 30 minutes) and after the running session.

The Purpose of Having a Pre-Workout Meal :

  • Reduce muscle glycogen depletion
  • Reduce muscle protein breakdown
  • Reduce post workout cortisol levels

If you are doing a morning run at a relatively slow pace for less than 30 minutes, hydrating with a glass of water, tea or an orange juice could be enough. Whether to eat something in the morning before your run also depends on how long it has been since your last meal, and if the amount of food you had was substantial enough to sustain your energy. If running at a faster pace or for over 30 minutes then a pre-workout meal would be ideal. For an afternoon run aim to consume a pre-workout meal 2 to 4 hours before running or a smaller and more easily digestible snack 30 to 60 minutes in advance to fuel your body and keep the energy levels up.

Pre-Workout Foods:

Aim to consume complex carbohydrates and proteins.

  • Fresh Fruit and Fruit Juices (e.g berries, banana, apple, orange, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, apricots, mango or watermelon)
  • Dried Fruit (e.g raisins, cranberries, apricot, mango or dates)
  • Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters (e.g walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; peanut or almond butter)
  • Whole Grain Bread / Bagel / Crackers / Cereal / Pasta
  • Brown Rice
  • Lean Protein (e.g poultry such as turkey and chicken, fish such as salmon and tuna, as well as shrimps, crab meat and prawns)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Skimmed Milk or Low Fat Greek Yoghurt
  • Tofu
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese
  • Energy / Granola Bar
  • Caffeine (e.g an espresso)

    Pre-Workout Meal  Ideas :

    • Low Fat Greek Yoghurt with Fresh Fruits and Honey
    • Energy Bar – made with dates, dried cranberries, almonds and oats. See recipe here
    • Mixed Berries Smoothie – mix a cup of berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) and 1/2 a banana with a cup of almond milk
    • Oatmeal with Peanut Butter and Nutella Chocolate Spread
    • Low Fat Cottage Cheese on Whole Grain Crackers
    • Whole Grain Toast with Peanut Butter, Topped with Banana Slices
    • Sweet Potato Mash
    • Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry – for recipe click here

                                                                             

    What to Avoid:

    • High-Fat Foods
    • Foods Very High in Fibre
    • Very Spicy Foods
    • Alcohol
    • Too Much Caffeine
    • Eating large meals just before running (allow for 30 to 60 minutes for smaller and lighter meals before heading for your run, and between 2 to 4 hours for larger and harder to digest meals).

     

    The Purpose of Having a Post-Workout Meal :

    • Replenish muscle glycogen that was depleted during your workout
    • Reduce muscle protein breakdown caused by exercise
    • Increase muscle protein synthesis
    • Reduce muscle soreness and fatigue
    • Enhance overall recovery
    • Reduce cortisol levels

    Post-Workout Foods:

    Aim to have a post-workout meal in the first 30 to 60 minutes after completing your run. Consume carbohydrates and protein in a 4 : 1 ration (carbohydrates : protein).

    PostWorkoutFoods

      • Lean Protein (e.g poultry such as turkey and chicken, fish such as salmon and tuna, as well as shrimps, crab meat and prawns)
      • Eggs (or egg whites)
      • Cocoa
      • Protein Bar
      • Legumes (e.g beans, peas and lentils)
      • Hummus
      • Avocado
      • Quinoa
      • Spinach (and other green vegetables such as kale and broccoli)
      • Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters (e.g walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; peanut or almond butter)
      • Fresh Fruit and Fruit Juices (e.g berries, banana, apple, orange, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, apricots, mango or watermelon)
      • Dried Fruit (e.g raisins, cranberries, apricot, mango or dates)
      • Skimmed Milk or Low Fat Greek Yoghurt

     

    Post-Workout Meal Ideas :

    fnd_chocolate-milk_s4x3_lg

    • Chocolate Milk – a glass of skimmed milk with 3 teaspoons of cocoa powder
    • Egg Whites and Spinach Omelette
    • Grilled Salmon with Steamed Vegetables
    • Banana Smoothie – made using 1 banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder and a cup of almond milk
    • Whole Grain Pasta with Green Pesto and Broccoli
    • Hummus Dip with Celery or Carrot Sticks
    • Prawn and Avocado Quinoa Salad – see recipe here
    • Homemade Protein Bar – made with oatmeal, bananas, vanilla protein powder, egg whites, walnuts, vanilla extract and cinnamon. For full recipe click here

     

     

     

    References:

     

    1. Join Position Statement: nutrition and athletic performance. American College and Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dieticians of Canada – Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001 Jan;33(1) – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11128862%20%20

    2. BBC Good Food – What to eat before you run – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-eat-your-run

    3. BBC Good Food – Our top fitness foods – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/our-top-10-fitness-foods

    4. Examiner.com – 10 Foods You Should Always Eat After Your Workout –http://www.examiner.com/article/10-foods-you-should-always-eat-after-your-workout

    5. A Calorie Counter – PRE & POST Workout Meal – What to Eat Before & After Working Out –http://www.acaloriecounter.com/diet/pre-and-post-workout-meal/

    6. Spark People – What to Eat Before You Work Out –http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1074&page=2

    7. About Health – What to Eat Before Exercise – http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/sportsnutrition/a/EatForExercise.htm

    8. Huffpost Living – Foods Before Working Out: 10 Carbs to Eat Before and Post-Work Out –http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/25/foods-before-working-out_n_1624647.html

    9. US.News & Worldwide – Health – Best Workout Foods: What to Eat Before a Workout –http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2011/10/13/best-workout-foods-what-to-eat-before-a-workout

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3 thoughts on “Pre- and Post-Workout Foods for Runners

  1. Bodybuilding Nutrition says:

    I love these more educational posts. I am currently a student studying kinesiology and love lifting and working out, so these posts are really interesting to me. There is so much misleading information online about what is “right” and “wrong” regarding workout fuel, and I think what people really need is a simplified explanation such as your article. It’s not about buying expensive pre-workout supplements. It’s about fueling your body with sources provided from the earth, not a science lab!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nora says:

      Thank you very much ! I find such topics interesting too and I am glad you enjoyed the article:) I do agree with you, obtaining the required nutrients from their natural sources is the best way to nourish the body.

      Like

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