The end of winter can be a sigh of relief for many runners – no more dark morning runs or wondering if you have enough layers on. More daylight before and after work means we can make the most of being outside and top up our Vitamin D levels! However just as we start to enjoy these longer and warmer days… our appetite can begin to fluctuate. Warm porridge and roast dinners become less appealing and we start reaching more for fruits, fresh salads and summer barbecues.
“CARBS ARE OUR FRIEND”
For many of us, our food choices may become ‘lighter’ and our plates could be missing our usual wintery beloved carbs. While there is no one-size-fits-all runners menu, carbs are a runners best friend. Unlike fats and proteins, which take longer for the body to break down, carbs make for a quick energy source to fuel your running. Inadequate intake can affect your performance, recovery, compromise your immunity and can also affect your hormone levels – so it’s important to find a way to include them in your diet all year round.
A lot of people avoid carbs because they feel it makes them ‘bloated’. This doesn’t need to be the case. It’s important to find something that you enjoy and that keeps you feeling satiated, not uncomfortable. One way to achieve this is to spread out your intake throughout the day, rather than loading up one particular meal.
You can spread out your intake over breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that fit around your planned training sessions. Whilst this may feel easier to during the winter months when you crave warming 'comfort' foods, you can still get in the carbs during summer without reinventing the wheel at meal times.
“SPREAD YOUR INTAKE OVER THE DAY”
Some simple meal ideas include pairing your summer salads with a grain such as couscous or quinoa, or mixing your go to fresh veggies with sweet potatoes. At those summer barbecues, don’t shy away from the pasta salads or potato salads…as long as you remember to add carbs to your plate alongside your usual protein and fats, then your summer diet shouldn’t be compromising your sessions.
For breakfast… a bowl of warm porridge might not tickle your fancy like it does during the winter, however oats are still a great option in the summer to provide long lasting energy. To give them a summertime twist, soak them overnight in milk or Greek yoghurt and add your favourite fruit the next morning (my go to right now is mango and coconut shavings…a tropical delight!) Or perhaps you’re a bagel fan… you could change your toppings to fresh fruits such as berries or kiwis matched with a nut butter or cream cheese - this makes for a great snack pre or post run too!
ON THE ROAD…
You may be on top of eating enough carbs in the day, but what about your long sessions on the road/trail which you would usually fuel? The heat and humidity can make this harder but it’s important to not neglect it. While what you choose to snack on mid run is up to you and what you can handle, be sure to drop a snack or two into your running belt if you anticipate running for more than 60-90 minutes. Whether that is in the form of a gel, sweets, sports drink or flapjacks (whatever your go to is). Your appetite may be lower in the heat, but your body is still working hard (if not harder) and you will need to replenish your glycogen stores by maximising carbohydrate availability.
WHAT ABOUT HYDRATION?
Often without realising, one part of our nutrition that becomes neglected during the summer months is hydration. As we run, our bodies inevitably get warmer and the body tries to cool down by sweating. This causes the loss of water and salts through our skin which will increase in hot and humid conditions…so if you are used to heading out for your run without taking any water with you, you may want to reconsider your habits for the summer.
Dehydration will not only leave you feeling tired and dizzy but can also hinder your performance. Try and stay hydrated before, during and after your runs to avoid this. Water is generally best and for activities up to one hour will usually be sufficient. However, if you are running for longer or more intense sessions where losses are more, you may want to consider taking on electrolytes. You can buy electrolyte tablets to add to water to replace any salt losses that you can sip on the go and post-run. I also like to make up ice-lollies using my made-up electrolyte water mixed with fresh fruit for a refreshing post-run electrolyte hit. Just place your fruit of choice into the lolly moulds, fill with your electrolyte water and place in the freezer.
By building good hydration habits, keeping carbs on your plate and remembering to fuel during those key sessions, you will be able to take full advantage of your summertime runs whilst still enjoying good food and fresh summer ingredients.
*Note: Whilst I am a dietitian in training, I am not yet a Registered Dietitian. Always do what works best for you, your running and overall health and seek help from a registered professional if needed.
Student Dietitian from Plymouth
Club: Plymouth Harriers