While distance runners tend to rely on a balance of the right nutrition on race day, what fuelling requirements are there for say 10km runners? On this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition, Mark Wolff tells you how it’s done. There are a host of key factors to take into consideration.
So often on the podcast we look at endurance events because that’s when you need that extra nutrition. Where you need to put stuff in your fuel tank to help you very often get to the finish line of your event. But not every event needs you to have as much supplementation. There are shorter events as well that a lot of people just prefer to do.
If you’re new to the sport of running and if you’re looking at doing something like a 10km, even if you’re an experienced 10km runner and you maybe want to improve your time. Is there a way to do so by taking in nutrition? Mark Wolff joining myself, Mr Active, David Katz on the podcast and Mark, for a 10km in theory, not much nutrition is required is it?
Mark Wolff: There’s no nutrition that’s actually required for a 10km. If we have a look at the natural energy stores of the body, just taking your glycogen stores into account, you’ve got 2 000 calories which you can burn. Unless you’re going to run a 10km in 90 minutes, maybe up to two hours, I don’t see any necessity to take anything on the day.
If you really wanted to you could have a small little pre-race meal or a breakfast if you really feel that you can’t exercise without anything in your stomach and you need something. But there’s definitely no reason to fuel yourself during a run.
The only other thing I can think of which would probably play a benefit might be something like caffeine. Because caffeine we know does wake up the brain, it gives you a little bit more mental focus. So that would definitely help. But I don’t see a necessity to go and load yourself with blood glucose spiking products.
Actually trying to see if that makes a difference. It could help a little bit with performance having that taste of sweetness in your mouth and getting the brain to wake up a little bit. But it’s not going to impact anything as far as your natural energy stores go. You’ve got more than enough natural fuel in the body to fuel a 10km.
When and what to eat before
DK: For someone who wants to have something, they do like breakfast, what would you recommend they have something before running 10km? How soon before the race would you recommend that they should eat?
MW: I think it also depends on how fast a person is going to run 10km. Because if you’re going to run 10km in let’s say under 40 minutes, it’s a fair pace. So you’re going to put your body under a little bit more stress. If you’re going to just jog 10km and just do it as a social runner, that’s a completely different story.
First of all, when the body is under stress the digestive system doesn’t function as well. Then you’d want to try to avoid anything that’s going to load your digestive track. Probably something that’s very measurable and very small and simple. Even something like a little porridge or something or even half a cup or a cup of porridge would be more than enough.
I would never eat within an hour of a race. Especially a 10km at all, especially because you want to make sure that those digestive tracts are fairly clearly and the food has already moved through. Because when you are racing and there is something sitting in your stomach and you are going at a high intensity, it’s going to impact you quite severely.
If you’re just going on a casual jog just to finish a little 10km or even if it’s a Park Run which is a 5km, I would say that you don’t really need to eat anything beforehand. Because at that very slow pace what’s going to happen is that you’re going to actually spare your energy stores even more. I don’t think you have to take in something.
How to get a health/weight loss benefit
If you really, really are craving something, again, something very small and measurable, one thing that you might be very interested in is if you want to make sure that you maximise your amount of fat burn. In other words if you want to utilise that as a weight loss effort or if you want to actually make sure that from a health perspective that run is actually beneficial for you.
Then probably don’t even take any carbohydrates beforehand, don’t give yourself any blood sugar rise. If you want, go with a bit of eggs or go with something completely different, even a little teaspoon of nut butter. A tablespoon of nut butter, get something into the system which maybe will make you feel a little bit satiated and happy. But stick to more protein and fat and don’t even touch the carbohydrates. You’re more than welcome to try and take in some carbs afterwards from a recovery perspective but I wouldn’t overdo it.
It’s not something that I think justifies eating incorrectly. In actual fact, a lot of people use exercise as a means to eat and it should be the opposite way around. You should be nutrifying yourself in order to do exercise and only nutrifying yourself to do exercise if exercise is going to demand that of you.
DK: Mark, looking at recovery then, recovery would be quite important, even at a 10km distance. Important there, you’re told you’re not justified that you can eat anything after a 10km, you can’t. It’s important to refuel but you shouldn’t be throwing anything and everything in your system should you?
Don’t overdo your recovery meal
MW: Definitely not and again, if we have a look at the two types of athletes, the one performing at a very high intensity. He’s going to obviously do a little bit more muscle damage, he’s really going to deplete his glycogen stores, not completely, but he’s going to deplete a certain amount of it.
An athlete that’s running at a very high pace will definitely require some carbohydrate intake to stabilise his blood sugar, get the glycogen stores back up again. Obviously protein intake to try and help with any muscle re-synthesis and get to any damaged muscle tissue repair. That’s generally the kind of meal that somebody would look at.
But if myself, personally, if I’m going on a 10km, very easy, controlled pace jog. It doesn’t have to be a jog, it can even be a pace where you’re not actually performing at a very high intensity but a very comfortable effort. There’s no reason for me to load myself with carbohydrates after it.
My glycogen stores are not depleted, without a doubt I probably haven’t even depleted them at all. Probably after a run like that, I might just go with scrambled eggs and salmon and avocado as a meal. Just keep that nice, healthy nutrition going and actually utilise that run as a benefit for me.
People that are doing Park Runs, it could be a 70 minute effort for some, but it could be a 40 minute effort for others. You’ve got to understand, if you’re looking at burning off roughly, at a very high intensity you could burn off maybe 1 000 calories per hour. But probably at a lower pace you might only burn anywhere between 600–750 calories per hour. Then you’re running less than an hour, so running maybe 40 minutes.
So you’re going to take off that time, maybe you’ve burnt off 400-500 calories in that 40 minutes.Then what actually happens afterwards, if you look at 400-500 calories from a meal perspective, muffins and cappuccino and beers and all these kinds of things is just not going to do that run justice.
I think you’ve got to decide. I prefer looking at it from a health perspective, not necessarily from a performance perspective, exercise is there as a means for, it’s a social outlet, it’s healthy, it’s a de-stressor. I think that nutrition plays a very critical role in making sure that you achieve what you’re setting out to achieve.
Just by the way, if you do overload on carbohydrates afterwards, there’s one simple thing that happens. Any glucose that’s in your bloodstream is utilised obviously to replenish your glycogen stores, once the glycogen stores are topped up and there’s still a lot of glucose left in your bloodstream, your body is ultimately just going to go and convert that to fat. If it can’t get rid of it, it’s going to convert it to fat, so that’s basically a problem that I see with a lot of athletes is that they overdo it after exercise. They actually tend to justify the exercise as a means to eat.
How to make caffeine work for you
DK: Mark you touched on caffeine probably being the one thing that would be beneficial. Would you take it during the race, would you take it just before, what do you recommend?
MW: Caffeine takes usually 60 minutes to hit its peak as far as metabolising the caffeine goes. It obviously depends on what caffeine you’re taking. So I would say take the caffeine and generally what I do is I recommend take the caffeine 60 minutes before the start of the race.
Then maybe take one again just before the start of the race and then you’re covered for the entire race. You don’t need to take one during, not at that short distance. Over a longer distance you might want to top up your caffeine intake during, but again, you have to experiment with caffeine. If you’ve never tested it before, you need to see that it does work for you.
When people say to me: I drink coffee, you never know how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee, you never know how much caffeine is actually in a cup of tea, that changes from one cup to the next. The dark strength and taste of the coffee doesn’t mean that there’s more caffeine in it. It’s really just the roast usually, or it’s just how it’s been blended.
Caffeine is definitely a measurable, I find it works extremely well for me, it works extremely well for a lot of the elite and amateur athletes out there. It does help you with mental focus, it keeps that brain alert and it does have a very big benefit.
What caffeine does after exercise is that it actually can help speed up the replenishment of your glycogen levels, by even up to 50%, which is quite significant. If you have put in a very, very hard effort and you have depleted your glycogen stores by taking in say a complex carbohydrate. Then taking in some caffeine with that, it will actually speed up that recovery process. It does have a benefit post-exercise as well.
If you want caffeine to really work for you, you shouldn’t be, I call them a ‘coffee addict’. Because if you’re drinking six or eight cups of coffee every single day and then you expect to take caffeine on the day of the race and you expect it to be a ‘wow’ impact, it’s not going to happen.
Your body is extremely tolerant to the caffeine and if you want the caffeine to work, you should be slightly less tolerant of the caffeine. I’m not saying cut out coffee completely but if you’re having one cup of coffee a day and then you take caffeine on race day, for sure it’s going to help and it’s going to benefit.
A lot of elite athletes actually reduce their caffeine intake way before an event and completely stop the caffeine intake maybe a week or two before an event and then take it on race day. It does play a benefit but again, it’s when and how you utilise it and again, what your body is actually used to from a tolerant level perspective.
DK: Well, 32Gi have a great caffeine product called the G-Shot, I’ll put a link up to it on the end of this podcast but from Mark Wolff and myself Mr Active, David Katz, whatever distance you’re running, whatever endurance event you’re doing, do it safely and just remember, you are what you eat.