It didn’t take me very long as a new runner to figure out the importance of hydration. It did take me quite a bit longer to actually pay attention to nutrition. Actually, it took me until I started training for a half marathon to realize that nutrition influenced my performance. For 5K runs and even 10K distances I can probably survive (but not thrive) with my normal diet and some extra water leading to the run.
I learned really fast that hydration throughout the day made or broke a 3 mile run. You would think that knowledge would have carried over in my mind to make me understand that proper fuel makes better runs. All it told me for a long time was that I couldn’t run well while dehydrated. That is a fact, but there is so much more to it than that. I can’t run well without the proper fuels that make my body go. Food is that fuel. Eventually, it clicked and I realized that during long runs (over 6 miles) I would start to hit a wall and feel drained. At that point, I kept going to a run walk and my pace would tank.
Frustrated about how I couldn’t run the distances I wanted without walking I decided to try some gels. I bought some Muscle Milk Gels (which I can’t find anymore – let me know if you see them somewhere) and went for an 8 mile run. Around mile 4 I ate half the pack. At mile 6 I still felt good. At mile 8 I was still going. This was the breakthrough I was needing. I finally realized that fuel matters. That translated in my mind to the fact that nutrition matters.
I am certainly not a dietition. You can look at my waist and question if I even understand what the word nutrition (or diet) means. I do, but I also understand what the word pizza means. I don’t pretend to have many answers about nutrition. I have learned that for me what I eat, and when I eat it, before long runs or races has an impact on the results. So if you aren’t already pay attention to your normal routine and try tweaking things slightly and see if you notice a difference.
I found this article by Dietitian Cassie that has 10 tips for runners with their nutrition. It could be really helpful to get a new perspective if you want to see if there is a chance nutrition is holding you back.