Thursday, August 27, 2009

TIART - Fueling before a long run

Is it still Thursday? I guess it is. So, still time to weigh in on this week's topic for Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday, which is "What do you eat before your long run?" submitted by Jill Will Run.

I'll say my piece because I love to talk about food, but I don't think I'll be very helpful to anyone but myself!

I generally don't like to eat much, if anything, before I run. During the work week I like to run early in the morning (before work), and I definitely don't want to get up early enough to eat and allow for a little digestion (as is generally recommended). When I do eat before those weekday runs, it's more to motivate myself than fuel myself. I'll frequently have a few chocolate-covered coffee beans, both for the caffeine and the treat factor. If I do feel a little hungry, or just want to eat a little something, I'll have half a Quaker Chewy Granola bar or half a mini-breakfast cookie. Sometimes followed by the second half. (Because I want it, not because I need it.) Either way, it's no more than about 100 calories (not including the espresso beans).

On the weekends, when my long runs occur, it's a little different. Generally speaking my weekend runs happen a little later in the morning, so I do have time to eat and then wait at least half an hour before running. Sometimes I wait longer. The more I eat, the longer I'll wait before running. Sometimes, though, I'll head out pretty quickly. It usually doesn't bother my stomach, although depending on what I've eaten, I sometimes find myself re-tasting it during the early part of the run.

A lot of people worry that what they eat will lead to urgent bathroom needs. I definitely have that issue, but I always plan a bathroom stop early in the run, with other options along the way, so I usually eat fiber freely. So many foods I eat are high in fiber. I probably wouldn't eat a bowl of Fiber One cereal, though.

My typical weekend pre-run breakfast is an Orowheat Double Fiber English Muffin (see what I mean?), spread with almond butter or peanut butter, sometimes topped with sliced banana or sugar-free preserves. If for some reason I'm out of nut butter (which I won't be forever now because I stocked up on closeout Justin's AB and PB), then I'll use a bit of butter instead. If coffee's available, I'll have a cup (on Sunday I had instant espresso with Almond Milk, and believe me, I was enjoying that almond milk for hours...well, halves of hours, anyway).

I'm not opposed to oatmeal before a run, but most of the time that's too much work. If I am driving somewhere to run (at least if I'm being driven by someone), I'll often get a latte from Starbucks (either a short one or a tall where I drink part of it) and their oatmeal, maybe with part of a banana. Or I'll bring packets of instant oatmeal to a hotel. At home, though, I just don't want the trouble. Sometimes I've intended to eat some oatmeal after running, but usually by the time I finish a not-so-early long run the time for breakfast has passed!

This last Sunday morning, before heading out on an eleven-mile run, I tempted the running gods by eating a bowl of leftover peach-blueberry cobbler with biscuit topping. (And the afore-mentioned coffee with almond milk.) The cinnamony dessert gave me no problems with the run. Maybe it even helped (9:15 average pace in the end)!

I vascillate about whether I think eating before a long run is really important. I have read different theories. I mostly eat because I enjoy it and it gives me motivation to go out and run, not because I think it will improve my performance. I've had pretty much the same result (with pace and energy) on days where I run on an empty stomach as when I carefully eat an hour before running. Now, I've never run more than 16 miles at one time, so it probably is different for longer distances. If I was running 20 miles, I'd be eating before, during, and after!


Anonymous said...

I've read the different literature for eating vs. not-eating... I've even tried the no-eating before an 18-miler and that didn't go over so well. But it was definitely interesting to read your thoughts on this subject. Thanks for participating in my TiaRT question!

lifestudent said...

I have a very testy running stomach and have to be careful. I would DIE to be able to have coffee before hand! But it just gets my system moving a bit too much (tmi). Anyway, Im very jealous of your pre-run Starbucks. VERY :(