RUTLAND BITES | By STEVE PETERS
With the Shiver Me Shamrocks St. Patty’s 5K Fun Run coming up this weekend it’s made me think a little about running. No, not of running myself, but it had me thinking about food and running. This shouldn’t surprise you, because if you haven’t read enough of my column to realize it yet, I think about almost everything through a food lens.
So while I’m not a runner, I often hear how people load up on carbohydrates the day before a race. This had me wondering what other food and running notions are out there and are they even accurate?
I started by talking with a few of my runner friends. As avid runners they informed me that a 5K isn’t very long of a race. OK, so I knew that much. But what I hadn’t considered was that because it isn’t a long race they didn’t put too much thought into their diet beforehand. Extra large spaghetti dinners are not part of the routine. It turns out that the energy supply from a carb rich meal won’t really get tapped into in shorter races like a 5K. However, with something a little longer, like a 10K, those extra carbs become much more important.
But just because you don’t need to plan that carb feast before your 5K this weekend doesn’t mean there aren’t basic food habits to consider. My friends, and resources I consulted, like runnersworld.com, had a few common suggestions to offer.
But just because you don’t need to plan that carb feast before your 5K this weekend doesn’t mean there aren’t basic food habits to consider
First, and this might come as common sense, but don’t eat right before you run. You want to eat anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes beforehand. And even then, you don’t want to take in a large meal. Instead, eat something on the lighter side with a good balance of carbs and protein. The common guideline Runner’s World suggests is a 3-1 carb to protein ratio. The carbs provide energy and the protein helps it last.
Simple foods in small portions are a good idea. Peanut butter on toast or a small bowl of oatmeal are two decent options. Avoid eating much in the way of fatty foods, dairy and meat before you run, and maybe even the day before. These foods can be hard to digest and possibly cause you to take an unwanted detour to a toilet. The days leading up to your run are not the best time times to try out new foods either. You never know how you might react.
The day before is the time you should truly hydrate yourself. Too much water right before you run can be just as detrimental as over eating. Either way you could find yourself slowed down with cramps.
But it turns out that what you eat post run might be even more important than what you before. Although many people don’t have much of an appetite immediately after exercise, eating within 30 minutes will help your body recover and repair muscle damage. This is especially important if you run or exercise often.
Chocolate milk might sound like a less than healthy post run treat. However, chocolate milk contains more protein and more carbohydrates than most sports drinks. And unlike water, which will only rehydrate you, you’ll replenish your body and muscles much more effectively through a glass of chocolate milk. It’s also bound to have less sugar than most sports drinks too.
Berries are another good post run snack. They’re filled with antioxidants that help repair muscle damage. And they’re also low in calories, so you won’t negate your time spent exercising. You can top protein rich Greek yogurt — which will also help with recovery — with berries or blend them into a smoothie. Both berries and yogurt are good sources of calcium as well. Calcium contributes to stronger bones and strong bones are important to avoid injury while running.
Despite everything I just suggested, there are two important aspects to keep in mind about eating and running. First, everyone is different. What works for you might not work for your best buddy running with you. It helps to pay attention to your body’s needs, including energy level and food reactions. Second, especially with races with great causes, like the Shiver Me Shamrocks, make sure to have fun. I hear that all participants receive a voucher for a free beverage at Griffins afterwards. And you know what, that’s OK too. Good luck!
Steve Peters is a cook, gardener and baker living in Rutland.