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What to eat before a 5K or 10K run

Get ready, set…eat! Before heading out for a run, it’s important to make sure you are properly fuelled so that you have enough energy to go the distance. Eating the right foods, at the right time, can not only help you run better and for longer, it can also help avoid stomach cramps, dizziness and falling energy levels. To help with this, today I am going to look at what to eat before a 10k.

1. Eat – Low GI foods

The glycaemic index (GI) is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It measures how quickly these foods are digested and how soon they affect blood sugar (glucose) levels after being eaten. The faster the body breaks these down, and blood glucose rises, the higher the GI rating.

According to our Nutritionist Emma Thornton, it’s important for runners to eat foods containing low GI carbs, particularly in the 2-3 hours before a run, as these foods release energy slower and at a more sustained rate. She says: “This will help to preserve energy stores in the muscles and should allow fat sources to be used thus ensuring energy levels are higher for longer.”

It is particularly important to avoid all high GI foods in the 20 minute window prior to exercise as there can be a physiological effect attached to the drop in blood glucose at this time. This means energy gels are one to watch as they can be packed with sugar, meaning their effects on your energy levels may not be very long-lasting.

Low GI foods:

  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Dried apricots
  • Oranges

. Eat – healthy carbohydrates

When it comes to carbohydrates, it is important not to overload as this group of foods can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. However, eating a small amount of carbs the morning before a big run should help to see you through. That’s because carbs are able to boost stores of glycogen which serves as a source of energy.

Before a 10k, aim to have around 1/3 of your meal made up with carbs and use fish, meat and vegetables to fill up the other proportions.

Healthy carbohydrate foods:

  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Potato
  • Porridge
  • Cereal

3. Eat – protein

A little bit of protein before a race can help you feel full for a longer period of time – as a rough guide, around ¼ of your dinner plate should be made up of protein. On top of this, protein is really important for the muscles as it is used to build and repair tissue there. It makes up tendons, for example, as well as ligaments, collagen and elastin, the latter of which is essential for repair work. This means it is important to get protein both before and after a run.

Read our blog ‘How much protein do you really need?’ for further information on protein.
Protein-rich foods:

  • Beans
  • Pulses
  • Fish
  • Eggs

4. Eat – healthy fats

Nutritionist Emma Thornton says that we mustn’t forget about eating healthy fats before a run. These provide fuel to sustain the body through a long distance and help support the absorption of multiple nutrients too. Healthy fats also help support the health of the muscles and joints.

Emma says: “Healthy fats should make up 1/4 to 1/3 of our daily diet so these should feature during periods of training, although you might want to reduce this intake in the few hours prior to running as they are much slower to digest.”

Foods containing healthy fats:

  • Flaxseed
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Tofu
  • Fish

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