780Running On Empty

Running On Empty

MR3-24Exercise takes a lot out of you, literally. So be sure you’re fully prepared before you head out of the door and have something waiting for you when you get back. We like pasta, who doesn’t?
This time of year is characterised by runners starting new marathon training schedules, so it’s important to fuel yourself properly if you’re going to be running further for longer. The following should see you right.


Generally most runners are getting enough protein, unless you’re a vegetarian or have reduced your meat intake in an attempt to reduce your fat consumption, more on that later. For accuracy’s sake a runner should be looking to consume between 1.2–1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight; so around 85-120g for your average 70kg guy.The main issue with runners’ protein intake is that it tends to be at one or maybe two major sittings and these aren’t always around training sessions. Remember, protein is not only there to repair muscles or to build them after your beach weight gym session, it also serves to keep your immune system functioning and help you to make aerobic adaptations in response to your training. This leads us onto the most important feeding of protein – after a training session.

Post run recovery nutrition

Even with the huge amount of information out there, runners are still getting this wrong. Some have jumped straight on to the ‘muscle recovery’ bandwagon and consume protein only shakes after their runs. Others are relying simply on carbohydrates to replenish the body’s stores in the muscle and liver. You should be consuming a complete source of protein, with carbohydrates, soon after completing a training session which is what makes recovery powders so convenient.


Carbohydrates in this context are the starchy, calorific kinds like rice, pasta and potatoes. We should all be trying to choose the most unprocessed, wholegrain and natural sources if we want to look after our long-term health as well as our recovery, therefore sweet potatoes and wild rice are superior to the likes of wholemeal bread and whole wheat pasta.Carbohydrate intake tends to make up the majority of the diet, which in most runners paying attention to their nutrition therefore closely mimics overall energy intake. Your intake should really also mimic your training volume for that day; very often runners under-consume on training days and over-consume on rest days.Those with weight loss goals may not find this too much of an issue so long as energy expenditure is higher than intake, weight loss will ensue. However, those with performance targets will get far greater benefits from altering the diet to cycle carbohydrate - and therefore kcal - intake with training volumes.On training days you want to eat more carbohydrates; very simply, if you have a 500ml isotonic sports drink before and during your training session, followed by a carbohydrate and protein recovery shake after your session you could consume as much as 100g of extra carbohydrate and almost 500 extra kcals. Therefore, by not having these on rest days you will reduce your intake by 500kcals.To monitor your intake, look at the amount of carbohydrate you are consuming relative to your bodyweight. In general it is recommended that on a training day you should consume 5-7g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight, therefore for a 70kg man this would equate to 350–490g of carbohydrate.


As you’ll know from the first issue of MR, fat is an important part of a runner’s diet and without proper care, the best laid plans to “eat healthily” can end up leaving you scuppered. There are a number of essential fats that must be consumed as the body cannot produce them by itself.These fats are important in maintaining cell integrity, the regulation of hormones and proper functioning of the immune system. Dietary fat aids in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K, therefore too little dietary fat can lead to a deficiency in one or more of these vitamins, leaving us with even more problems.Those at highest risk are those not accustomed to eating primary sources of fat such as olives, avocado, nuts and oily fish as well as those who do not eat wholegrain carbohydrate sources such as oats or quiona. Practical tips on fat intake are hard to come by but a great starting point is to ensure that you get at least one of the above sources in your diet per day. A last note that will be covered more in the next issue, eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, eating fat helps you burn fat.


Here is some very practical hydration advice that doesn’t need to be done very often but will benefit every run you do. It’s the concept of working out your sweat rate so that you can drink to stop yourself becoming detrimentally dehydrated.The research you hear of most often is the “two per cent dehydration” reduced performance, but even a loss of one per cent of body mass through sweat loss can reduce muscle performance. For instance, an individual weighing 70kg who loses 0.8 litres of sweat (0.8kg), is over one per cent dehydrated. Considering sweat loss during 60 minutes of exercise can be well over one litre, you can see that it is worthwhile paying attention to this.So, how do we work this out? Weigh yourself with as few clothes on as possible, then get dressed again so you don’t scare the horses and go for your run. Afterwards weigh yourself with similarly few clothes. Add to this figure any additional fluid you took on board, so if you drank 500mls of water during the run, add 0.5kg to your loss.The weight you have lost in kilograms relates to your sweat loss in litres. Divide this figure by the number of minutes you ran and voila! Your minute-by-minute sweat rate... for that intensity and temperature. See the example below.

Hydration formula

Martin’s 90 minute gentle run in 11ºCPre-run weight: 80kgDrink consumed during: 300ml (0.3litres)Post-run weight: 79.4kg= 80 – 79.4 + 0.3 = 0.9kg or 0.9litres of sweat lost0.9 litres ÷ 90 = 10mls/minute

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