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How to Prepare Nutritionally for Your First 5K

Practicing proper nutrition should be included throughout your entire training program to not only enhance your running performance but to prevent injury and to aid in muscle recovery. Your nutrition pace needs to be set for it to match your running pace during a 5K and training runs. So, out with bad eating habits and in with eating clean – priming your hard-working muscles with the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Because as a runner food is fuel.


1. Pre-run Fuel

  • Carbohydrates are the prime fuel source for running. The body stores about 500 grams of carbohydrates as glycogen, which gets used as a form of energy during endurance-based sports, like running

  • 100 grams of glycogen is stored in the liver and the remaining 400 grams are stored in the muscles

  • 90 minutes before a run, consume fast-digesting carbohydrates with some protein

  • Ideal pre-run meal should be around 300-400 calories

  • Banana with peanut butter

  • Fresh fruit

  • Protein smoothie

  • Toast

  • Choose a food that will agree with your stomach, avoid fatty and high-fiber foods. They will take longer to digest and cause discomfort once you start running

  • Can cause cramping and GI distress


2. Staying Hydrated

  • Two hours before a run, drink 8 to 16 ounces of water

  • 15 to 30 minutes, take one to two sips

  • Hydrating too much can cause cramping and GI distress

  • Other hydration options: Pedialyte, Gatorade, NUUN hydration tablets

  • Drink 2 hours before running

  • During a run: swish and spit practice or small sip

  • Always you to refuel with glucose

  • Helps to replace electrolytes - sodium and potassium

  • Post-run: slowly drink 16 ounces of water

  • If it's hot, make sure to run with a water bottle or sports drink

  • Take a small sip every 15 minutes

  • Dehydration symptoms: dizziness, dark urine, feeling thirsty, nausea, muscle cramps, feeling weak


3. Fuel While Running - More Than 3 Miles

  • Run with a running belt to store energy gels

  • Energy gels contain, 25 to 30 grams of carbohydrates

  • Common practice: one gel every 30 to 40 minutes or every 3 miles

  • If you start to experience low-blood sugar symptoms, take an energy gel


4. Road to Recovery Fuel

  • Within 1 hour after running, consume carbohydrates and protein to replenish muscle glycogen stores

  • Protein will repair damaged muscle tissue while supporting exercise adaptation

  • Carbohydrates will refuel glycogen levels

  • Food choices: chocolate milk, protein shake, turkey sandwich, banana with peanut butter, fresh fruit, recovery cookie, oatmeal

  • Once you cross the finish line, there will be fresh fruit - orange slices

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