Do you think you can eat whatever you want as long as you burn it off by running? Do you carb-load before every race or even training session? Do you think sports drinks are always a good choice? Well, you might want to read on. There’s a chance your nutrition plan can use a serious update.
Carb-loading before every race
Carb-loading is the practice of increasing dietary carbohydrate intake in the days before a race in hopes of increasing the glycogen stores and having more fuel on race day. It’s a valid concept, but there are a lot of caveats. For example, studies show that carb-loading has no effects in events shorter than 90 minutes (1) and even for longer events carb-loading has been shown to enhance race performance only when athletes consume little or no carbs during the race itself. Also women get no benefit at all from it due to their poor ability to store glycogen and better ability to utilize external fuel during exercise. So unless you’re planning to run a marathon with almost no external fuel, focus your energy on proper hydration and recovery leading up to the race and don’t waste your time overeating carbs.
I can eat anything I want because I will burn it off running
An hour of jogging will burn roughly 500 calories which is equal to about two Kit Kat bars. That’s not much. The notion that you’ve earned junk food if you’re a runner, can easily result in overcompensating and binging way beyond what you’ve actually burned off. Also, not all calories are created equal. Running doesn’t magically transform the donut into a healthy food. The sugar, refined oils, and other chemicals inside of it will still be bad for your health (2).
And lastly, even if you consciously decide to only have those two Kit Kat bars you technically “deserve”, that doesn’t mean your brain will be ok with that. You’ll want the bar even if you didn’t run and soon just two won’t be enough. The dopamine reward for eating something designed to be addictive is just too strong for you to fight it every day with pure force of will (3). So, by all means, have an extra snack after your run to refuel as long as it’s nutritious, but don’t try to trick yourself into thinking that running gives you a free pass to eat anything without consequences.
Any sports drink or gel will do
Just the fact that something has sports in the title or is sold in a fitness store doesn’t make it useful or healthy for you. The vast majority of sports products out there are full of refined sugars and chemicals. Sugar has its place in running nutrition, namely for events lasting longer than an hour that need to be run at high intensity. Most recreational runners will be better served by drinking water and having a proper post exercise meal to keep their sodium and potassium levels in check.
If you do train and race in long events and need the extra fuel, be very picky. You can do much better than the sugar-water that often called a sports drink. The same simple sugars are also in fruit without the added chemicals. And if you add some naturally occurring amino acids and minerals found in nuts and insects, you will easily cover all that your body needs even for a very long run.
Try our insect-based bars made with natural ingredients only!
1) Ivy JL, 'Muscle glycogen synthesis before and after exercise.', Sports Med. 1991, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2011684
2) Tauseef A. Khan and John L. Sievenpiper, 'Controversies about sugars: results from systematic reviews and meta-analyses on obesity, cardiometabolic disease and diabetes', Eur J Nutr. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133084/
3) Sørensen LB et al., 'Effect of sensory perception of foods on appetite and food intake: a review of studies on humans.', Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14513063