Varieties seem limitless, from the drink version to the gooey version, from the food version to the mix version. They populate markets, from your grocery stores, supermarkets and even running stores. With so many options, it may be hard to answer the ultimate question: what kind of running snack is the right one for you?
Unless you’re training for more than an hour at a time, I’d suggest you skip the goos, the sports drinks and the energy bars. Why? Because you can find exactly what you need in the dairy or produce section – and often for a much cheaper price.
I personally love this article from Runner’s World, which offers 25 snack ideas and why they’re beneficial for individuals running or anyone who is exercising. I’m a big fan of eating bananas before a workout to give me a quick shot of energy; it also helps that bananas are about as low prep as foods come. Bananas also have good carbs that help fuel you on your run – and help manage protein metabolism. How’s that for my favorite yellow fruit?
Chocolate milk, which the article also suggests, is also one of my favorites, because, well, I mean, who doesn’t love a little chocolate treat (except for one of my best friends who, magically it seems, doesn’t like chocolate)? But it also gives you protein, carbs and helps keep your bones strong. I knew I should have chocolate on a regular basis. One of my favorite things, too, is a Carnation Instant breakfast. It adds extra vitamins and is so deliciously chocolately.
Again, though, if you’re running under an hour, as this BBC article suggests, refueling is really not necessary. One of the many reasons why people run is to lose weight; you don’t want to start gaining weight because you’re eating too much before, during or after your run.
Now, of course, if you have health complications, obviously these suggestions would change. My husband, Kyle for example, has Type 1 diabetes. Running has been a trial and error phase for him.
Kyle has an insulin pump and monitor that he wears at all times to give him insulin and to track his blood sugar so he can see when he’s going too high or too low. If he goes high, it could cause long-term health issues. If he goes low, he could pass out and – I know it sounds morbid, but it’s true – he could die. During runs, he often found that he would go too low either during the run or after the run, making him eat (and often overeat), which did nothing to help him lose weight. This went on and off for a while until he figured out the best way to give himself insulin before, during and after his run. Now he takes a bottle of water and a couple of glucose tablets on every run just in case, but he rarely has serious lows.
In other words, most of the time, you can run without having to overcompensate by eating. Most sports drinks and energy bars are expensive, too. How about just grabbing some string cheese or a granola bar?
Granted, I’ve drank the energy drinks, the mixes, the gooey substances that claim to taste like vanilla or cherry and really just taste like nasty toothpaste (in my humble opinion). I’ve used them on long runs with the air of, “This is a long run. Therefore, I can spend the extra money on these for long runs.”
Who was I kidding? I’d be just as happy – if not more – with a glass of chocolate milk or some Cheerios.
These days, while I’m definitely less likely to go for a long run (in fact, they don’t happen at all right now), I still try to make sure to hydrate, though. That may be the most important fuel for your run: hydration. If you’re running early in the morning, make sure to drink a lot the afternoon and evening before you go to bed. Drink water all day. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but we all know the benefits of drinking water.
And afterwards, I like to reward myself with some fresh produce – and a glass of chocolate milk on the side.