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What would you be prepared to eat for extra energy?

by editor
Friday 30th March 2018
Tags  nutrition   |   Brooks
We runners will try anything to try to improve our performance. Interestingly, training a bit harder or smarter is often not our favoured strategy! Recent independent research found all sorts of things that runners were willing to try, including deer penis wine! 
The top 5 foods runners said they eat before running contained no surprises: bananas, energy bars, pasta, nuts and eggs. Coffee was also popular, with 22% of runners downing one before a run. 35% of runners in the research said that they would down pickle juice, which I guess isn’t that unusual as some ultra runners swear by it to stave off cramp. But what was surprising was that 29% of runners said that they would down baking soda (baking soda!) to get extra energy to run further and it gets worse from there!  24% would eat caterpillar fungus, 13% would try blood custard (a Massai tradition with curdled cow blood and milk) and 10% would drink deer penis wine (a Chinese remedy)! 
Dr. Friederike Feil, leading nutrition, health and metabolism expert and guest Lecturer in Sport & Nutrition at the University of Heilbronn, Germany, author and two-times winner of the UK Tough Guy Race in the UK, said of the findings:
“I’m amazed by the things that runners are willing to eat and drink to run further. I really wouldn’t recommend anyone eating blood custard or drinking deer penis wine, as it might make you rather unwell during your run. I also wouldn’t advise eating pasta before a run because it spikes the blood sugar which stops your fat metabolism, which you will definitely need to keep running. Pasta is also hard to digest. The less work your gut has to do, the more energy you have. However, eating a banana at least two hours before a run will give you some extra energy to run further."
We spoke to Dr Feil about the research and what simple tips she has for running nutrition. 
Dr Feil, what was the most surprising thing that came out of the research for you?
The research is impressive because it shows the importance of running and how much the individual performance counts. So many people would eat crazy things just to enhance their performance. It shows that running has become more than just a hobby. It is something people identify with. It is something they use to satisfy their individual need for steady improvement.
You mention in the article that you don’t recommend eating pasta before a run? Can you elaborate a bit on that and what would you suggest as a better alternative for those runners who are overdoing the pasta?
Well, pasta makes the blood sugar spike. As soon as blood sugar levels drop, performance drops with it. So, a better solution would be a source of carbohydrates which contains slow releasing carbs. Sweet potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, red beetroots are all sources of slow releasing carbs. So they would be a better choice. I also recommend to eat not only carbs, but also to add some protein which will protect the muscles and make your blood sugar more stable.
The London Marathon is obviously coming up. What simple tips would you give runners to keep them fuelled for the full 26 miles? 
The best and most natural thing would be red beetroot juice. That will enhance performance. It is also very important to take in some salt, especially if the runner is sweating a lot. If salt levels drop too much, performance is impacted.
In general, runners shouldn’t eat pure sugar gels, because that stops their fat metabolism, which they need. Some gels only contain glucose, which would be the better choice. Bananas and fruit take a long time to digest. It takes almost two hours till the energy is available for the runner. So a banana might make sense for breakfast but not during the race. 
As a pretty impressive athlete yourself, what would your best nutritional tips for recovery be? 
When I compete or train very hard, I always take in some extra protein afterwards. The best choice is a pure whey protein shake with 25g of whey protein. If my muscles are really sore, I add some “jokers” in my shake. 6g of arginine, an amino acid which enhances blood flow and thus recovery. I also add ginger because ginger helps to improve sore muscles.
What events do you have coming up?
I have not competed for almost two years. After having won so many obstacle races, I now prefer coaching and putting my energy in my business. I still love running, just not as competitive as two years ago.
Although runners around the world swear by eating and drinking unconventional food and drink, there is of course, a much easier way to get extra energy to run further - simply by switching to an “energy running shoe”. Most UK runners (89%) would switch their shoe if it gave them extra energy to run further.
“As runners ourselves, we know we’re all looking for something to help make running further, just a bit easier,” said Claire Butters, UK & IE Marketing Manager. “And while some food might give you a bit of extra energy, switching to an energy running shoe is really going to help you go the distance. We’ve spent years in the Brooks lab perfecting a way to give all runners more energy to run further – and we cracked it. Brooks Levitate provides the most energy return of leading performance running shoes and features our revolutionary DNA AMP midsole technology which releases energy straight back to you, so you feel like you can run forever.”

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