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How To Improve Your Running From a Lead Olympics Dietician

Impress your run club crush on Global Running Day (5th June) with these tips from Advanced Sports Dietician, Sally Walker.

Calling all runners who are looking to take their performance to the next level.

Ahead of Global Running Day this Wednesday 5th June, we caught up with the ATHENA Sport Nutrition consultant and Advanced Sports Dietician Sally Walker on her best nutrition tips to supercharge your running game.

With over 16 years’ experience in high performance sport Sally has worked in NRL, AFL and as the lead dietitian at the NSW Institute of Sport where she worked with over 25 different sports programs, including team and individual sports, aquatic sports, track and field and combat sports; and supported athletes from developmental and talent athletes to Olympic and Paralympic medallists. It's fair to say, she knows her stuff.

From what to munch on before hitting the pavement to the best recovery meals post-run, it's fair to say she's got the inside scoop. So get fuelled up and ready to crush those miles on Wednesday...

The time and intensity you run will determine the different nutrition strategy you put in place. Running is an energetically taxing sport with the force put on the body, so the speed, frequency and how long you run, the more energy you will need to meet these demands.

Before a Run
Start your preparation to pre-fuel your run at least 24 to 48 hours out to build carbohydrate stores depending on the length of your run, the longer the run the longer the lead in. It’s not as simple as a big bowl of pasta the night before, as this can have an impact on gut load and excessive portions may also interfere with sleep. To make space for an increase in carbohydrate amounts shifting to a lower fibre carbohydrate option, while not always ideal, fits the bill in this instance to allow accessible carbs to build stores without overfilling or stressing the gut.

Eating carbohydrate foods more frequently or slightly increasing the portion of carbs in a meal over the days prior provides a range of methods to reach increased carb loads in a way that is comfortable and manageable to track. Tolerance for more carb food will be different for different people and body shapes, so increase at your own rate but it’s likely it will be more carbs than you think you might need at approximately 5 to 8g of carbs /kg body
weight over the day. 

Keep Hydrated
Pre-load hydration also so you have something to sweat out. Drinking large drinks of water alone won’t directly mean you are hydrated as your body might not retain all that fluid. Your pre-run hydration strategy requires sipping on water regularly over the whole day and including electrolyte drinks to help retain fluid. It’s essential to drink, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Run Club Day
Stick with familiar foods, by eating foods and supplements you are already used to before your run. Have a high carbohydrate, lower fat and low fibre breakfast at least three hours before a run so the food has time to digest and the fuel is in your blood where it is most accessible. Between a warm up and starting, top up carbohydrates with a sports drink or low fibre carb snack and you are on your way. 
An example of breakfast meal options includes a moderate to low fibre cereal (Special K, Rice Bubbles or Nutri-Grain) with low fat milk and fruit or some thick wholemeal toast with poached eggs or simple spreads and a glass of juice.

During a Run
It depends on the distance you run. For a shorter 5km or 10km run, with a good preparation and food and fluid stores you should have energy in the tank to get through the whole run. For runs longer than 60min you need to stay hydrated and top up fuel stores. A sports drink can do both these if you take them with you via a drink bottle or Camelback for convenience. You might also include a gel at 7-10kms intervals or at 30-45min intervals over a longer run or marathon training. Don’t wait until you are tired, flat or cramping to be searching for more fuel, stay ahead of your bodies needs even if you are feeling great, have fuel earlier and stay that way, rather than digging yourself out of a hole. 

After you have finished, you should be really pleased with yourself and cap off your achievement with a good recovery. You will no doubt be tired from the run and the strain you have put your body under so there is room to recover and celebrate. Where possible including a protein powder (we like ATHENA's Protein Shake + Iron to add cold water to) but an alternative is to buy a ready-to-drink protein drink from a nearby shop or head to a café for a big brunch. Then rest and enjoy your achievement!

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