Nutrition Hydration Sleep

Following are some common truths that apply to pre- and post-workout nutrition, hydration and sleep.  All of which are important while training and racing.

Nutrition: Don’t Skip the Carbs

Carbohydrates are fuel for your “engine” (i.e., your muscles).  And, the harder your engine is working, the more carbs you need to keep going.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because while your muscles are trying to do their “thing,” your stomach is trying to simultaneously digest the food in your stomach.  These competing demands are a challenge for optimal performance.  And, even more of a factor, eating too close to a workout may cause you to experience some GI discomfort while you train.

Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 3 hours pre-workout, depending on how your body tolerates food.  Experiment and see what time frame works best for your body.  This is something you need to explore during your training days and not during race day.

Suggestions for pre-workout fuel:

  • A peanut butter and banana, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins, one part nuts)
  • Cereal with low fat milk

Notice that each of these suggestions include some protein as well as carbs.  Carbs are the fuel.  Protein is what rebuilds and repairs, but also “primes the pump” to make the right amino acids available for your muscles.  Getting protein and carbs into your system is even more vital post workout.

Nutrition: Mid-Run

In general, runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour they’re running longer than 75 minutes.  But you’ll need to start fueling earlier than 75 minutes into a run; by that time, your tank will be empty, and once you hit empty it’s very hard to recover.  Start taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the pavement.  Start slow; you need to train your gut (and your palate) to handle fuel on the run.  If you’re new to fueling on the run, take in a little bit of fuel every 15 minutes.  Be sure to follow your fuel with water.  Your stomach can only tolerate a certain percentage of carbohydrate so you need to dilute your fuel in order for it to go into circulation (rather than sit like a stone in your gut).

Nutrition: Post-Workout

Your body uses stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through your workout or race, but after that workout, you need to replenish the nutrients lost.

As soon as possible post-workout, get carbs and protein immediately into your body.  This gives your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they just lost through training and helps your tired muscles rebuild and repair with the available protein and amino acids.  Try to eat within 20 minutes of completing an intense workout.

Post-workout meals include:

  • Post-workout recovery smoothie (or post-workout smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit)
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Turkey on a whole-grain wrap with veggies
  • Yogurt with berries

The above offer mainly carbs, some protein, and are convenient — with the first two liquid options also helping to rehydrate the body.


It’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise.  Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints.  It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy.  If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level.  You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.

A simple way to make sure you’re staying properly hydrated is to check your urine.  If your urine is consistently colorless or light yellow, you’re most likely staying well hydrated.  Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is a sign of dehydration.

There are no exact rules for how much water to drink while exercising because everyone is different.  You need to consider factors including your sweat rate, the heat and humidity in your environment, and how long and hard you are exercising.

The American Council on Exercise suggests the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:

  • Drink 17-20 ounces of water two to three hours before you start exercising
  • Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
  • Drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

In terms of sleep, aim for at least eight hours of quality sleep a night. The majority of recovery happens when we sleep.  If you want to recover well, sleep well.  It’s that simple.

  1. Your body needs carbs to fuel your working muscles.
  2. Protein is there to help build and repair.
  3. Get a combination of protein and carbs in your body 1 to 3 hours pre-workout, and within approximately 20 minutes post-workout.
  4. You need to train your gut to handle fuel on the run.
  5. Stay hydrated all day, every day.
  6. Recovery happens when we sleep.