Your training plan may say it’s time for your lunchtime 10-K, but your grumbling stomach begs to differ. So how do you get through your workout without keeling over from hunger? Have a snack, of course.
[quote]The right snack can prevent premature fatigue on a run and keep blood-sugar levels steady, thwarting cranky moods that might cause you to peter out early,” says registered sports dietitian Jan Dowell.[/quote]
She recommends eating up to 630 kilojoules if you’re running within 15 to 30 minutes, and as much as 1 260 kilojoules 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.
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 vitamin helps prevent muscle injuries and replaces collagen in muscle fibres that break down during exercise,” says sports dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede, of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! Sports Nutrition.
One orange has just 260 kilojoules – enough to quieten a growling stomach before a short run without going overboard.
Snack right: Stick with whole fruit – orange juice is a concentrated source of sugar, supplying too many carbs at once, and drinking a lot of it may upset your stomach during a run.
[highlight]Mashed banana and honey[/highlight]
This snack will remind you of your baby days. It is easy to digest and won’t cause GI problems, making it safe to eat before your workout, says Nisevich Bede. It provides carbohydrates without making you feel bulky.
The banana provides potassium while the honey boosts energy as effectively as gels.
Snack right: Go for raw honey as it isn’t filtered, strained, or heated keeping the nutritional benefits in tact.
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 may cause stomach trouble during a run. “Muscles can convert simple carbs into energy faster than fibre-rich foods,” says sports nutritionist and dietician Barbara Lewin, who works with endurance athletes. Stick to cereals with fewer than two grams of fibre per serving, like Special K or Rice Krispies.
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 Dowell. 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 a quarter-cup serving. Don’t like dates? Try dried apricots, mangoes, cherries, or – Dowell’s favorite – dried cranberries.
[highlight]Iced Coffee Drinks[/highlight]
Iced caffe lattes, and similar cold coffee beverages provide liquid to hydrate you while also cooling you down before a 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: Cold coffees can have around 420 kilojoules – or 2 100, if you get carried away with the extras! As a general rule, order unsweetened coffee drinks with fat-free milk – and skip the whipped cream and mini-marshmallows.
Running in 60–90 Minutes
[highlight]Hummus and carrots[/highlight]
This protein-and-carb combination will help keep you satisfied during long runs. The sodium in hummus 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. Carrots are low in saturated fat and are also a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin C.
Snack right: Pick up a few small containers of hummus rather than one big jar, to avoid wastage.A few whole-grain crackers or a wheat pita are other smart dunkables.
A good source of whole grains, “oats is great for longer runs because it sticks to your ribs without feeling heavy,” Dowell says. 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 is the best choice, but it’s also okay to go with sweetened varieties when you’re clocking longer runs – the extra sugar will provide fuel that’s absorbed quickly.
High in carbs, sweet spuds provide long-lasting energy for your run, says Lewin. 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 it before running.
Snack right: Microwave a small sweet potato at home, wrap it up, and take it to work. Reheat in a microwave. “It’s also just as tasty cold,” Lewin says.