Making sure you get your nutrition right for your 4km is so important. You wouldn’t set off on a drive without fuel in your car, and your body is exactly the same. It needs the right fuel to give you the energy to finish as quickly as possible. These tips are for beginners - if you’re already an experienced runner, you’ll know what works best for you.
Your nutrition for the 4km will be split into four different areas:
- The night before
- The morning before
- During the run
- After the run
1. The night before
The night before you’re planning to run your 4km, look for a meal that has a strong carbohydrate element. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy during exercise, so making sure you get enough of them in your system is key.
Now isn’t the time to be trying new foods, as you don’t know how your stomach will react to them. Stick to healthy meals you know and love. If you’re in need of inspiration, the below meal ideas are perfect:
Jacket potato with chickpeas - Chickpeas are rich in protein, and the jacket potato is a walking carbohydrate machine. The perfect combination.
Pasta with chicken and asparagus - Pasta is simple to cook and easily turned into energy by your body. Chicken adds protein, with an added boost of vitamins from the asparagus.
Grilled salmon and whole grain rice - Fish is a great source of protein and in combination with whole grain rice, you will feel fuller for longer and be giving your body all the energy it needs.
Think moderation with anything you eat the night before. Eating too much will leave you feeling lethargic, and could risk stomach issues while you run.
2. The morning before
On the morning of the run you’re looking mainly for carbs. Don’t be tempted to skip breakfast. Your body and brain will need something to feed off and you can’t expect to run on an empty stomach.
Fat and fibre can cause problems of their own in terms of digestion and bloating, so don’t put your body under stress.
Try the perfect pre-run breakfasts below, but as with before don’t experiment with anything new:
Oatmeal - A good source of carbs, and high in protein, oatmeal will help keep those mid-race slumps in energy on the backburner. Goes great with practically any fruit.
Peanut butter on whole grain toast - Peanut butter helps you feel fuller for longer and releases a sustained amount of energy as you digest it. It’s also packed with muscle-friendly protein.
Greek yoghurt with fruit and granola - Greek yoghurt contains double the amount of protein as standard yoghurt, and less sugar. Your carbs will come from the granola, and your favourite fruit provides flavour.
If you you’re a coffee drinker, was your breakfast down with a small cup of coffee. Caffeine assists athletic performance and is great for recovery too. Make sure your body has time to digest everything by having your breakfast around two hours before your run.
3. During the run
With a distance like 4km, depending on how quickly you run, you most likely won’t need to eat during the run itself. However, if you want to keep a small snack with you like a banana, or a couple of sweets, they can be a good instant energy boost if you need it.
Don’t be tempted to knock back energy gels while you run. These are designed for much longer distances, and all they’ll do during a 4km is risk upsetting your stomach.
Most importantly stay hydrated with a water bottle, especially if you’re running outdoors in warm weather.
4. After the run
Once the run is over it’s a good idea to start the recovery process straight away in terms of what you eat. Have a snack almost as soon as you finish. Again a banana or an energy bar is ideal.
Next, try to eat a carbohydrate rich meal within two hours. Your body will have been depleted of glycogen and you need to kick start the refuelling process.
Eat some protein to help with muscle repair, but wait until your body has cooled down before you do. A lot of runners swear by the recovery powers of chocolate milk, even preferring it over sports drinks.
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