From the June 2012 issue of Runner’s World
Need a snack stat? These pre-run foods and drinks are ready when you are
By Jessica Girdwain
Your training plan may say it’s time for your lunchtime 10K, but your grumbling stomach begs to differ. So how can you get through your workout without keeling over from hunger? Have a snack, of course.
“The right snack can avoid hunger pangs, prevent premature fatigue on a run and keep blood-sugar levels steady,” says sports dietitian Anthony Meade, APD. He recommends eating up to 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate if you’re running within 15 to 30 minutes and as much as 30 to 60 grams if you have an hour or more to digest. And, yes, it’s okay to have a nibble if you’re trying to lose weight – just keep it on the lighter side and focused around training preparation rather than all day snacking.
These options contain carbohydrates for quick energy, a bit of protein to hold off hunger, and some electrolytes to keep your fluid levels balanced (it’s best to avoid too much fat and fibre, which take longer to digest and can spell GI trouble). Best of all, these snacks take little or no prep, so you can grab a bite and go.
RUNNING IN 15-30 MINUTES >
Easy to stash, slow to spoil, and hard to bruise, oranges quench your thirst while providing more than 100 per cent of your daily need for vitamin C. “This antioxidant vitamin helps recovery and collagen formation in muscle fibers that break down during exercise,” says Meade, sports dietitian at Adelaide’s Wakefield Sports Clinic. One orange has just 300 kilojoules – enough to quiet a growling stomach before a short run without going overboard.
Snack Right Stick with whole fruit – orange juice is a very concentrated source of sugar, supplying too many carbs at once, and drinking a lot of it may upset your stomach during a run.
PUREED APPLE OR FRUCHE
These scoopable snacks are easy to digest and won’t cause GI problems, making them safe to eat just before your workout, says Meade. Both options also provide a hit of carbohydrates with little or no fibre. A sweet bonus? One small fruche supplies around 20 per cent of your daily need for calcium. Stick with low fat varieties.
Snack Right Choose no added sugar pureed fruit – it has nearly half the kilojoules of traditional.
RUNNING IN 30-60 MINUTES
Forget the All Bran before lacing up. While high-fibre cereals are a healthy bet any other time of day, they’ll likely cause stomach trouble during a run. “Muscles can convert more refined carbs into energy faster than fibre-rich foods,” says Meade, who works with many endurance athletes. Stick to cereals with fewer than two grams of fibre per serving, like Corn Flakes, Special K or Rice Bubbles.
Snack Right Eat it plain or pour in milk – your choice. Top with half a cup of sliced strawberries or bananas for an extra kick of carbs and vitamins.
The natural sugars in these little gems are a concentrated source of quick carbohydrates, says Meade. They are also packed with potassium, which aids muscle function; Two dates contain 10 per cent of your daily needs – the same as a small banana.
Snack Right Dried fruit can have up to three times the kilojoules of fresh, so stick to two tablespoons serving. Don’t like dates? Try dried apricots, figs, mangoes, bananas, or the old fashioned sultanas.
ICED COFFEE DRINKS
A quick, drive-through option, Frappuccinos, iced caffe lattes, and similar cold coffee beverages provide liquid to hydrate you while also cooling you down before a warm workout. The milk provides some protein, while the caffeine can improve your focus during a run. A recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology also found that caffeine delays muscle fatigue during intense workouts.
Snack Right Frappes can have around 400 to 2000 kilojoules depending on how they’re made. Go for skim milk and skip the whipped cream.
RUNNING IN 60-90 MINUTES
HUMMUS AND CARROTS
This protein-and-carb combination will help keep you satisfied during long runs. The sodium in hommus will make you thirsty for a few extra sips of H20. Carrots are rich in beta carotene, and according to a study review published in 2010 in the journal Nutrients, eating carotenoid-packed fruits and vegetables may help defend skin against sun damage – good news for midday runners.
Snack Right Pick up handy single-serve cups, like Copperpot Mini Heavenly Hommus. A few wholegrain crackers or a pita are other smart dunkables.
A good source of whole grains, “porridge is great for longer runs because it fills a hole without feeling heavy,” says Meade. The instant variety is convenient when you can’t make it from scratch; plus, one pack supplies 40 per cent of your daily need for iron.
Snack Right Plain instant oats are the best choice, but it’s also okay to go with sweetened varieties when you’re clocking longer runs – the extra sugar will provide quickly absorbed fuel.
High in carbs, sweet spuds provide long-lasting energy for your run, says Meade. One has 230 per cent of your daily need for vitamin A, key for a strong immune system. The skin contains soluble fibre, which, according to a study in Obesity, can help reduce belly fat when paired with exercise. But if you eat it, give yourself an hour or more to digest before running.
Snack Right Microwave a small sweet potato at home, wrap it up, and take to work. Reheat in a microwave. “It’s also just as tasty cold in salad,” says Meade.
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