It can be difficult to find the best pre and post session foods for you, but I emphasise the FOR YOU part, because what works for one doesn’t work for another. I know lots of people find porridge the best pre-session food, therefore I felt I had to eat that too, but I HATE porridge, and it makes me feel sick, which doesn’t really make for the best pre session food. That being said, it can be helpful to know what works well for others in order to use it as inspiration when you are trialling different things. For this reason, here are some foods that work for me.
If I have a session or race first thing in the morning, my go to is toast with almond butter on it. This works well for me because it sits comfortably in my stomach, fills me up, and I love the taste of it.
Bagels are another great choice. I tend to have bagels pre race as opposed to prior to sessions because I find they are not quite as heavy as toast or bread. Therefore I find them slightly easier to digest before running hard. It also means I am less likely to suffer from a stitch or stomach pain.
If I want a light snack to prevent me getting hungry that isn’t too filling, I tend to go for a cereal bar. I love the yogurt and apricot Eat Natural bars and I also eat these frequently so I know they do not cause my stomach any upset. Any cereal bar that you are familiar with is a great option. I tend to have a cereal bar around 2 hours- 90 minutes before racing to prevent hungry from striking too close to the race.
Another snack most runners are familiar with are bananas. A banana is a great way to get some fuel in if you are slightly pressed for time. They are not too heavy that they will cause you any upset, but they are also substantial enough to fill a hole.
Immediately post-session, as soon as I have finished my cool down, I have a recovery drink. For me this is an Omega 3 recovery drink called Drink eo3. It’s tasty and has everything I need to kickstart the recovery process as quickly as I can. This can however be as simple as a carton of milk, or if you prefer a protein shake, that works too. This allows me body to start repairing before I have even got home. You can of course eat something like a bar straight after training, but I find a drink a lot easier to stomach as I am often not hungry straight after a session. I then make something to eat once I get back home.
Post session foods are definitely a lot easier as you do not need to worry about how they sit in your stomach. The most important thing is to ensure you get a balanced meal in to your body to allow the recovery process to take place as effectively as possible. It is also great to choose something that is easy to prep so you can eat as quickly as possible.
My go to meal quite often includes some form of eggs and avocado. I am an avocado lover, and despite what anyone else says, I actually think it is still underrated! I will often have avocado on toast with poached eggs and smoked salmon. You can switch the salmon for something else, or skip it out if you don’t like it. I add some greenery such as spinach or sometimes tomatoes.
With or without avocado, eggs are a great post-session food. Boiled, scrambled, fried, or even as an omelette, they provide lots of goodness whilst also being tasty.
If I don’t feel like eggs, I will frequently have a sandwich as it’s quick but also satisfying. I love fillings such as hummus and roasted vegetables, goats cheese, or a current fave is a mozzarella, pesto, spinach and sun-dried tomato toastie.
I tend to for bread or toast at lunch, but pasta is a great choice too. It’s quick to cook and you can pair it with almost anything. If you make enough for two, you can have it cold the next day to save time.
These are just a few of the options I gravitate towards. They may or may not work for you, but there is no harm in doing a bit of experimenting.
Some people love it, and others hate it, but for me, the 10k distance is my favourite. I like the fact that it’s a slower burning pain that progressively gets worse, but it is also short enough to allow you to get your legs turning quickly. It is also a great race distance that you can battle with your opponents over. With a 10k focus, you can have speed in your training plan as well as tempos and get immense benefits from covering that range. So, here are my 3 favourite 10k sessions.
E.g. 4-8 miles tempo.
This is my ALL TIME favourite session. As soon as I see a continuous tempo on the plan, I know it’s going to be a fun week. Tempo pace tends to be a comfortably hard effort that you can sustain for an extended period of time, such as an hour if you had to. They can also range from 4 to 8 miles in length, or even further.
If you are new to continuous tempo work, I would recommend starting with something like 3x10 minutes with 90-120 seconds jog recovery. You could then try 2x15 minutes with the same recovery before progressing into a continuous effort. I would then recommend doing 20-25 minutes continuous and slowly building it up from there.
Tempos are great as they are a bread and butter session. They allow you to build up a strong base and be confident in the fact that you are able to maintain a decent pace for an extended period of time.
Interval Session at 10k pace.
E.g. 5-7 x1200m @10k pace with 90 seconds recovery.
This session is especially great if you are looking to do a 10k on the track. If you are not, you can change the 1200m reps for something like 4 minute reps. It is great because it allows you to lock in to your 10k pace and tick off lots of consistent laps. It may initially feel faster than expected, but this is normal, don’t let it scare you, because come race day when you are rested and have others around you, the pace will initially feel easy. This session helps teach you that even when you’re tired, your 10k pace can still flow.
Working through the paces.
E.g. 2 mile tempo, 2 miles @ 10k pace, 6-8 400’s @ 5k pace.
This session bites. Starting off at tempo means that the 10k pace 2 miles hits harder than you expect. When you then pick it up further to 5k pace, you really feel the speed on tired legs. This is however great for replicating a race that may start conservatively and slowly wind up. It gets your legs used to running fast on tired legs and prepares you for the final 3k when your legs are not thanking you for what you are putting them through. It hurts, but you will so much satisfaction once it is done.
These are just a few examples of some 10k training sessions, but you can vary the length of each session depending on where you are at.
Society has progressively built itself on the idea that we all need to be better than we currently are, and to do this, we need to have more. Marketing in all sectors of life, be it clothes, technology, food, even cleaning products, is designed to tell you that your life could be much better if you had more, specifically more of what they are trying to sell. It is a clever marketing strategy, but it has become so ingrained in us and society has placed so much value on it, that it has affected the way we think about ourselves. At every corner we are faced with the decision to continue to be ourselves, or become something better. In the eyes of society, we are never enough as we are, but this is not true. We have everything we need inside us right now to achieve what we want. However, society doesn't always make us feel this way.
This led me on to thinking about how happiness is intrinsic. The only thing that can make us happier comes from within. You may believe that if you had more money and a Lamborghini you would be a lot happier, but then what would make you happy after that? If you are always living life for the next thing that will bring you happiness, it will never be enough, because you will constantly seek happiness externally. Materialism cannot provide genuine happiness. You won’t feel sustainably happy until you look within. In the end, we have to do the hard work ourselves to achieve happiness.
Not too long ago, I found myself never really feeling that enough was enough. I wanted to earn more money, have more things, be more than I was currently. I wasn’t happy within, because I was always waiting for the future, and seeking more externally, instead of enjoying the present. So with some guidance from the wonderful Wendy, I looked within. Asked myself, what is it that can truly make me happy? And the only answer was, myself. Searching for more externally is a sign that I was not feeling enough internally, so I had to work on this.
As soon as I accepted that when my brain searches for happiness in materialistic things, it means I am not happy inside. Therefore I need to get to the root cause. Many of us never look within, because it is difficult and the truth can be painful, but as soon as you explore those darker places and darker thoughts, you find something much brighter the other side. That is contentment. You will of course find joy from doing exciting things, but you will not depend upon them for happiness, and you will not think you need them to be any more than you are. It is also very important when you find yourself feeling ‘not enough; to step away from social media, advertising, television, etc. and find your inner contentment. As great as they can be, all of these forms are built on the idea that we are not enough without them. Step away, and you will find that you are enough, just being you.
The largest amount of happiness comes from accepting that you are enough. You do not need anything to be better than you are. You can do whatever you set your sights on, with everything you have right now. Anything else is a bonus, but you just being happy with you, is more than anyone could wish for.
Your needs as an individual are very different from the next person’s. Not only physically, but also mentally. However, in this instance, I refer specifically to our fuelling needs, and these also differ. If you are an active person, your fuelling needs will differ considerably to someone who lives a very sedentary lifestyle. No matter what others may say, you need to fuel yourself plentifully.
Ignore indirect comments.
It is very easy to find your thinking swaying towards that of believing that your dietary needs are the same as someone else’s. You may find them saying things such as, ‘oh I don’t need pudding, that’s a bit greedy’ or referring to the need to earn food. Nobody needs to earn food, but someone who does very little to no exercise, may be more cautious of the amount they eat in order to maintain a healthy body. However, as active individuals, our focus is instead on making sure we eat enough, therefore you do not need to ask yourself whether you are being greedy, but instead remind yourself of the amount of fuel you do require. It is not greed, it is a genuine physical requirement to stay healthy and fit.
Trust your needs.
For this reason, it is important to believe in your needs and be confident in what you know is best for you. Other individuals may make comments about the volume you eat, but don’t be swayed by their uneducated words. There is no truth to what they say, especially as they do not understand your needs based on the training you do. Be confident that you know what is best for yourself and follow through with that. If you sacrifice fuelling yourself properly ahead of what others think, you will only struggle as a consequence.
What to do if you are losing belief.
If you find yourself becoming affected by the words of others, remind yourself of the detrimental consequences of underfuelling. As soon as you think about the increased injury risk, health complications and hindered recovery, among other things that comes with underfuelling, you will remember how important it is to recognise your own needs and act in line with them.
I hope this blog gives you the confidence to trust in your own needs and not feel pressured into acting differently. Your needs are different to those around you.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!