5 best foods for trail runners

Fuel up right for Trail Running magazine's #Run1000Miles challenge in 2017 with sound nutrition advice on keeping your energy levels topped up with healthy, whole foods from our expert dietician Renee McGregor.

RECOVERY WINDOW?

You’ll have heard the hype about
getting a recovery meal in within 30
minutes of finishing your training. In
truth, this only really matters if you’re
planning on training twice within 12
hours, or can’t eat until two hours
after a high-intensity session.
Otherwise, eat normally
and don’t fret.

You’ll have seen it before: marathon runners furiously necking bowls of pasta the night before a run in some short-sighted carb-loading effort. And, yes, you do need carbohydrates to fuel high-intensity efforts – but the truth of the matter is, as ever, a touch more complicated than that. So put down the penne and pay attention. Not only is your food responsible for delivering energy to working muscles to fuel your #Run1000Miles challenge, it needs to also ensure sufficient recovery and maintain the steady performance of internal processes, including your immune system and digestion. It’s easy to believe the hype thrown around on #foodstagram that you need beetroot, cherry active and caffeine every 30 seconds to stay healthy, but in reality you simply have to balance your food intake with the activity at hand. Once your running preparation basics are on point, you can start thinking about adding in superfoods and performance-boosters. Sign up to #Run1000Miles here!

Start early 

For high-intensity sessions – like a half or full marathon – you need to get a regular intake of carbs in every meal during the 24 hours before the session, not just swamp on pasta for dinner. A mass influx like that will be difficult to process, whereas steadily topping up your muscle glycogen stores will ensure you’re better prepared come the start line.

Don’t ditch dairy

Dairy-free milk alternatives like almond, coconut and hemp have been evangelised so much by bloggers and self-professed healthy experts that you’d think regular dairy was your worst possible option. On the contrary, cows’ milk actually contains exactly the right ratio of carbohydrates to protein to encourage muscle recovery, and its contents are – on the whole – easily digestible by most people.

Choose home comforts

On the morning of your run or race, opt for something you’ve tried and tested for breakfast – controlling as many factors as you possibly can will stand you in good stead for the run ahead. Renee’s personal choice is a toasted bagel topped with nut butter and banana; it plates up around 85g of easily digested carbohydrates, and tastes pretty darn good too!

Think it through 

For runs lasting less than 90mins, you don’t need to worry about fuelling on the move; it’s anything beyond that you need to be concerned with. For fast-paced trails, energy gels and sweets are more easily absorbed, but if you’re running at a steady pace – i.e. for an ultra-distance event – then you should be able to tolerate real food, like flapjacks or salted peanuts. Aim for around 60-90g of carbs an hour for anything over three hours.

Settle down 

Nausea when running is a common occurrence and could be attributed to a number of things, like dehydration, a lack of salt through sweating, or low blood-sugar levels. All of these can be prevented by being proactive with your mid-run nutrition. Aim to take on fuel about 20min into a long run to immediately stock up your internal stores, then wash down with an electrolyte drink – exactly how much will come down to personal preference.

5 best foods for runners

Keep your cupboards stocked with these pre and post-run favourites

EGGS

The simple, humble egg is in fact anutritional powerhouse, packing around 7g of protein each and 50% of your daily requirement of vitamin B12, which is essential for the formation of red blood cells. Don’t worry about
cholesterol either; each egg only contains 1.3g of saturated fat.

Greek Yoghurt 

Natural Greek yoghurt has a high protein content – 10g per 100g, in fact, double the amount found in standard yoghurt. So, as well as aiding recovery, this sweet
treat is also incredibly versatile when used in cooking. Not only can you add it to smoothies, but fruit, cereal and desserts are all made better with a dollop.
 

beetroot

This now infamous veg has been proven to increase oxygen uptake by up to 16%, having a marked improvement on performance. The results are due to its high nitrate content, but this can have another positive effect: the body converts nitrate into nitrite and nitric oxide, the latter of which relaxes blood vessels to help reduce blood pressure.

milk

Milk’s 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein ensures that after high-intensity exercise, glycogen stores will be mostly replenished after being depleted. It’s also a great source of minerals and electrolytes, so is an ideal choice for rehydrating.

nut butter 

True, these are high in fat – an important distinction to make, though, is the type of fat they contain. Largely, regular nut butters are made up of mono-unsaturated fats, which can improve blood cholesterol and provide a stable source of energy.