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Fuelling up for the big run

Complex carbohydrates are the ideal fuel source for a fun run/walk Photo: Getty
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You’re up early, a little excited, the day of a fun run, four to 10 kilometres – depending on what you’ve nominated – but really, it’s no big deal.

You’ve done some long walks, some jogs, bit of stretching.

What else is there to think about? You’re set to go.

But what about fuelling up for the event? Have you sorted out when and what to eat?

Dr Dominique Condo is a lecturer in sports nutrition at Deakin University.

What you need to eat, she says, is complex carbohydrates: “You have to think of complex carbohydrates as your primary fuel source, whether you’re running or walking.”

“It’s our carbohydrates that gives us our energy that we can utilise most efficiently for exercise,” Dr Condo says.

“When we are talking about fun runs or walks, we have to make sure we have enough carbohydrates in the system to be able to fuel that event.”

Dr Condo recommends foods such as oats, rice, pasta and yoghurt.

The latter suggestion might surprise some people who don’t recognise dairy as a complex carbohydrate. In fact, it’s a whole food, with 4.7 per cent lactose content.

“It’s lactose that provides the carbohydrate,” she says.

“Dairy is one of those all-rounders. I use dairy a lot with athletes because it’s great for fuelling, but also great for recovery.”

However, oats is probably the best option for a fun run, topped with milk or yoghurt (the dairy component), and some nuts and berries.

If you’re partial to a hot breakfast, that’s OK too.

Dr Condo suggests baked beans on multigrain or dark rye toast, and an egg for some protein.

That’s breakfast suggestions taken care of. But when exactly should it be eaten? Dr Condo says you need to eat two to three hours before your event.

“Timing is crucial,” she says. “To make sure your breakfast is digested, and generating the energy you need for your muscles – and not just sitting in your tummy – two to three hours is when you’d want your last meal of complex carbohydrates before the event.”

If you want to eat something within that two-hour period, Dr Condo says, it needs to be something more easily digestible than complex carbs.

“You can top up with less complex carbohydrates, such as a piece of fruit. A banana is good,” she says.

Where do sports drinks fit into this? Or more sugary snacks for a quick boost?

“You don’t need those simple sugars. For a four to 10-kilometre event, you can get all the energy you need from those whole foods complex carbohydrates; we don’t need those added refined sugars,” Dr Condo says.

“It’s a common misunderstanding: ‘I’m going to do this fun run, I need my sports drink’. That’s not the case. You just need to eat really good quality carbohydrates at the right time.”

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