How do I get energy for running?
Having sufficient stores of energy is really important during a run and some food and drinks that can help maintain energy levels include:
- Energy bars
- Energy gels
- Balance Mineral Drink
- Coconut water
- Beetroot juice.
Read on to find out more about why these options are helpful during a run.
Why do you get tired when you run?
If you run for less than an hour, you're unlikely to need to eat during this time as most of your energy will come from glycogen stored in your muscles. However, for longer runs (especially those over two hours) you might need to top up your fuel. Your body has a limited supply of glycogen available to fuel your muscles and these reserves typically only last for up to 2 hours.
During high-intensity exercise, glycogen stores can be depleted after 20 minutes; whilst in low-intensity exercise, they can last for up to 90 minutes. However, you are unlikely to need to refuel during a 1 hour run, unless the first part has been very high intensity.
After this, your muscles start to get their fuel from your blood sugar which, again, comes from stored glycogen - but this time from your liver. The glycogen from the liver is also a limited source (unless refuelled) so, once it's been used up, your blood sugar level falls and so too does your energy.
When to refuel during a run
On a longer run, it is sensible to eat 30 minutes into the activity so that you have energy to call upon later on – be proactive rather than reactive!
When it comes to drinking during a long run, you may want to drink little and often rather than gulping down a whole bottle all at once. Drinking a lot all at once, whilst also on the move, has the tendency to cause stomach cramps.
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The best foods to eat during a longer run
If you're prone to energy dips during longer spells of running, carry with you small amounts of foods that are full of energy and easy to digest. High-GI carbohydrates are best at this time as they will top up your blood glucose quickly, fuelling the muscles that need them.
Energy bars, as the name suggests, are designed to give a good boost of energy whilst on the go. We'd recommend buying some that are free from junk like refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Alternatively, you could make your own from simple ingredients! Try these tasty cinnamon and chia seed energy balls – they're really easy to make and provide lots of energy for your run!
Bananas are popular among athletes for good reason. They're quick and easy to eat and they provide a good amount of carbohydrates without the tough fibre of, say, apples. After all, you're looking for something easy to digest, and soft, squishy bananas are just that!
Why not get a handy running bum bag and put your snacks in there?
High in calories and light on the stomach, raisins are a great way to refuel during a run. Their handy size means you can eat a couple here and there, rather than having to eat a whole piece of fruit, which could cause digestive problems if you aren't used to eating on the go.
Pop a handful in a re-useable Tupperware box or paper bag and snack as you run.
Pretzels are high in refined carbs (which in this case is good because it releases energy quickly), as well as some sodium which helps to replace lost electrolytes.
Isotonic energy gels contain a combination of water and food and are ideal for providing fast energy boosts. They provide glucose directly into your bloodstream and are an easily absorbed form of carbohydrates. They're easy to carry in your pocket, and easy to snack whilst on the go. However, they can contain lots of preservatives and artificial flavourings so we wouldn't advise you consume these regularly!
What to drink during a run
There are several things you can drink during longer runs to help prevent you from running out of energy and to boost your performance.
Dehydration usually only occurs on runs lasting more than an hour, so you may find that you don't have to drink a lot during a run lasting less than an hour. However, if you do, plain water is the best choice.
If you're running long distances, or running in hot temperatures, it's very easy to become dehydrated and, consequently, fatigued. So, in this case, staying hydrated is very important as it helps to replenish the fluid lost through sweating, plus it helps to maintain your endurance levels.
Balance Mineral Drink
If you're running for longer than an hour, or taking part in more intense runs such as a marathon, you may also need to replace electrolytes, which are lost when you sweat. Electrolytes help you retain fluids and can also prevent muscle cramps.
Balance Mineral Drink provides a fantastic alternative to electrolyte-boosting sports drinks, which are often full of chemicals. It contains key electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium that can quickly be lost during longer runs.
Coconut water also contains electrolytes, making this another good substitute to sports drinks.
Research suggests having some beetroot juice before endurance exercise could help to improve our stamina and oxygen uptake!
You can read more about this topic in my blog 'Does beetroot improve athletic performance?' and, if you decide you want to try the drink for yourself, Biotta's Beetroot Juice is a good option. Made From 100% organic pressed beetroot, you can drink this as it is or incorporate it into a smoothie.