To find the best way to stay energized before, during, and after a run, Shape's nutrition editor sought out some expert advice
As the nutrition editor at Shape, I’m constantly looking for the best, most up-to-date info on healthy eating and pre- and post-workout fuel. But even though I have the most recent studies and knowledgeable experts at my fingertips, I found myself struggling with how to adapt my meals and snacks as my weekly training mileage started creeping up.
Translation: I was experiencing runner’s hunger, a.k.a. “runger.” The day after a long run, I’d be ravenous. And mid-morning on a day I’d logged five miles before work, my stomach would be growling and I’d get super cranky. So I called up sports nutritionist Lauren Antonucci, R.D.N., the owner of Nutrition Energy and nutrition consultant for New York Road Runners, who helped me make a few tweaks to my meals and snacks.
Eat More Protein
When it comes to squashing that running-induced hunger, Antonucci stressed the importance of protein—and not just immediately after a workout. I’m working on eating protein-rich foods three or four times a day—which basically means at every meal and snack. Some of my favorites: ricotta or cottage cheese with berries for breakfast, tofu in my salads at lunch, and eggs instead of pasta for a quick weeknight dinner.
Eat Something Post-Run—and Quickly
“After a really hard or long workout, I’d make it my business to have a recovery drink immediately, or stop on my way home for a smoothie,” says Antonucci. I used to come home, stretch out, take a shower, and relax…and wait to get hungry before eating something. (Weirdly enough, my appetite is a little suppressed right after a tough workout.) Once I started getting some nutrition in right away, I felt a lot better the afternoon and day after my long runs.
Take In Water and Carbs On Longer Runs
This one I’m still working on. I hate carrying a water bottle, and I usually just chug water before and after a run unless I happen to pass by a water fountain. I know it’s bad for me, but I haven’t really figured out a solution. As for bringing a gel or other snack…I wear Invisalign, which makes this really tricky. I can’t eat with them in, and I’m not supposed to drink anything sugary with them in either. So zero for two on this tip.
Think Outside of Protein and Carbs
Yes, runners need carbs for fuel. And yes, protein helps squash the runger. But Antonucci also stressed the importance of good fats to reduce my injury risk and keep me full. And fruits and vegetables are important too. Their antioxidants help with recovery—making my favorite spinach, blueberry, and almond butter smoothie an ideal post-run drink. (Or try these 5 Great Packaged Post-Workout Snacks.)