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Fueling: Before, During and After the Run

February 08, 2024
Fueling: Before, During and After the Run

We worked with Sports Dietitian, Meghann Featherstun MS RD CSSD of Featherstone Nutrition to learn more about the importance of fueling and recommended best practices for athletes to follow.

Fueling: Before, During and After the Run 

As runners, giving our bodies what they need when they need it is key. Nutrition & hydration for runners include our daily nutrition choices & specific performance nutrition habits. Performance nutrition is not always intuitive for runners and encompasses three areas: before, during, and after our runs. If we give our bodies what they need in each of these stages, it optimizes our performance and improves our recovery so we can be healthier, stronger, happier, and more successful runners for the long haul.

HydraPak, a global leader of high-performance hydration solutions, recently launched its Tempo squeeze bottles, a durable, ergonomic product collection designed to help runners build effective hydration strategies. Influenced by the fueling habits and product preferences of top marathoners, HydraPak created the Tempo as a sleek, lightweight training and raceday bottle that is coded for key phases of fueling – hydrating, energizing and recovering.

We can use the 3-pack of Tempo bottles to remind ourselves of the importance of fueling before, during and after runs.

Before the Run 

Fueling our bodies before all runs is imperative to performance & recovery. Eating carbohydrates (with or without a little protein and/or fat) before every run or workout gives us the fast energy we need to support that run. If we do not eat before exercise, it can lead to slower paces, fatigue, increased rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and can negatively affect hormones.

Another piece of pre-run fueling is hydration. If we are dehydrated, we have reduced blood volume, increased heart rate, decreased skin & GI blood flow, increased core temperature, and increased rate of muscle glycogen usage. Generally, we need 8-16 oz of fluid before going out for a run, but this amount can vary based on individual needs. Fill your Tempo Bottle with your fluid of choice to prepare for your run! If you have trouble eating before your runs, fill your bottle with a carbohydrate-rich electrolyte drink and hit your carbs and hydration in one bottle.

During the Run  

Fueling during the run is recommended for any run >60 minutes to maintain blood glucose levels and improve athletic performance. A general rule is to consume 25-30 grams of carbohydrate every 30 minutes on runs >60 minutes.

Hydration during the run is also extremely important. Most of us have probably experienced symptoms of dehydration on a run: decreased performance, inability to hold paces, fatigue, GI distress <stomach sloshing, cramps, diarrhea, nausea>, increased perceived exertion, and muscle cramps. To avoid these undesirable & performance-tanking symptoms, we need to drink throughout our runs & understand our own hydration needs through sweat rate & sweat composition testing. This allows us to alter our fluid intake during runs depending on the weather and our sweat losses.

Most runners need 10-24 oz of fluid per hour while running to avoid dehydration levels that negatively impact performance. Why the big range? How much fluid we need while running is dependent on the weather and our sweat rates. Grab a Tempo Bottle and fill it up with water or an electrolyte drink to stay hydrated on our run.

After the Run   

The goals of recovery nutrition are to restock glycogen stores, stop muscle breakdown & repair our muscles. If we delay recovery nutrition, it can lead to fatigue, increased injury risk, decreased muscle mass, impaired immunity, and a crummy mood. Our bodies are primed to refuel & repair immediately after exercise, and we can do this if we eat adequate protein & carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes post-workout. We also know that we can continue to refuel, repair, and recover all day long after activity. Runners should aim for 20-40 gm of protein post-run to stimulate our muscles to repair & rebuild + 50-90 gm of carbohydrates to begin to restock glycogen stores.

Don’t forget to include hydration in your recovery nutrition strategy. Dehydration increases muscle soreness & delays recovery. Let’s make replenishing our fluid losses a priority after the run. Aim for 16-20 oz fluid per pound of body weight lost in sweat + electrolytes after your run – some people may need more than this! To make it easy, fill up your Tempo Bottle with a protein shake, water, or a sports drink and consume within 1 hour.

Tips for Successful Performance Nutrition Habits   

Plan ahead of time. Pick what you will eat & drink pre-run and have it ready.

Meghann’s Pick: 4 graham crackers + Tempo with 1 serving higher sodium electrolyte drink.

Practice during-run nutrition & hydration.

Meghann’s Pick: 1 gel every 25 minutes + Tempo with 1 serving of sports drink.

Have recovery nutrition ready to consume as soon as your run is finished.

Meghann’s Pick: 1 serving whey protein powder + 1 serving sports recovery drink in the Tempo bottle.

Having the 3 pack of HydraPak Tempo bottles is a clear & discrete reminder of the 3 stages of performance nutrition: before, during, and after. Nail your nutrition & hydration at all three stages and watch your running improve!

Meet Meghan Featherstun

Learn more about Running Nutrition and Hydration from Meghann at Featherstone Nutrition.