I want to thank my friend Jackie over at Running Fuel for providing some great tips about dealing with fatigue due to running. Here are five things to look at if you are feeling tired or overly fatigued after running.
Training Tired? Check Your Diet
Five signs you’re not adequately fueling your running
By Jackie Dikos, R.D.
As featured in the Web Only issue of Running Times Magazine
When you hit a patch of substandard running, and your training log doesn’t reveal obvious causes like poor sleep or a lingering cold, check your diet. Here are five signs that you might not be fueling (and refueling) well enough to support your running.
The Obvious: Weight Loss
To use weight as a guide, weight should be based upon a measurement with consistent variables, such as a naked morning weight when you first wake. Evaluation of fueling based on weight loss can take two forms. The first is a loss of weight from one day to the next. Weight change over such a short span of time is more of a reflection of fluid weight changes as compared to fat loss. Fluid weight change can let you know if you are under-fueled from a hydration standpoint. If you drop three pounds from one day to the next, you’re likely going into your morning run dehydrated. Such information could be useful for an afternoon workout to let you know to make extra effort to hydrate throughout the first half of the day.
The other form of weight loss to use as a tool is tracking weekly weight trends, which is a greater indication of fat loss. Fat loss of one pound occurs when there is caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. Losing two pounds in a week reflects a shortage of 7,000 calories that could have been used to energize and recover from demanding workouts.
If unintentional weight loss presents itself, divide out the estimated total calories “lost” in pounds throughout the week. Then add it back per day. For example, a 1-pound loss would require adding 500 calories per day. An extra peanut butter sandwich and glass of milk daily would do the trick.
Couch Potato Syndrome: Post-workout or Long Run Fatigue
Do you return from a long run or hard workout wishing you could move on with your day, but lacking the energy to pull yourself from the couch? No one wants training to interfere with the rest of day such that you can’t do much of anything else. Aside from the normal feeling of pleasant fatigue that comes with a good workout, consistently feeling completely zapped of energy is likely an indicator you’re shorting your body on the necessary fuel to support the remainder of the day.
Such workouts aren’t the time to skimp on calories. Adjust the day to have a reasonable pre-run meal. Hydrate and consume carbohydrates during your long run or high-intensity workouts. A big key is to refuel within 15-30 minutes of the workout. Do this by drinking at least 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during the workout. Also eat about half your weight in grams of carbohydrates combined with 10-20 grams of protein. Follow that up with a good meal within the next 1-2 hours.
Hungermares: Waking Hungry in the Night
A good night of sleep will support recovery from the beating your body endures during the day. Waking at night due to hunger not only shorts you of much needed sleep, but can also indicate improperly fueling while awake. A late run or early meal easily contributes to hungergmares.
Going to bed with a “full” feeling isn’t necessary, but avoid going to bed with a hungry sensation. If you feel you ate enough over the course of the day, in the very least, drink a glass of milk before hitting the sack. If waking hungry happens often, consider restructuring mealtime or having a small evening snack that includes a source of protein such as peanut butter toast, cheese and crackers, or fruit and yogurt.
Missing Mojo: A Pace Struggle
When your pace is consistently slower than expected, a lack of fuel could be to blame. It may be more relatable if you think back to a harder run or hill workout that you knew you were entering short on fuel. All of the sudden during the workout the ability to hold pace became drastically challenged or even impossible. Maybe you held on for the workout, but your cool-down felt more like a fast walk than a run. These are all signs that your glycogen stores are falling low.
Those who try to follow a lower-carbohydrate routine may notice a greater incidence of pace volatility compared to those to consistently follow a carbohydrate-rich diet. Carbohydrates fuel working muscles. When enough carbohydrate isn’t on board, performance suffers. As tempting as the low-carbohydrate routine might be, to train well carbohydrates can’t be missing from the diet equation.
Hard-to-Quell Cravings: Longing for “Bad for You” Foods
A strong craving for sweets, salt, and fatty foods may clue you in to a lack of balance in the diet. A healthy amount of fat, protein, and salt are required for any diet, let alone one with high training demands. Depriving your body will only lead to such cravings and follow with the overconsumption of poor-quality foods.
It’s not that these foods can’t be incorporated into a healthy diet. It’s when the “bad for you” foods start to dominate meal and snack time that you start missing out on the foods that will better fuel you for training and racing. Make sure meal and snacks include a high-quality source of protein, such as dairy, meat, fish, soy, beans, and nuts. Include healthy fats such as avocado, olive and canola oil, fatty fish, nuts, even a slice of cheese. During the hot summer months or when excessive sweating leaves you craving a little salt, enjoy a bowl of sodium-rich soup, add extra mustard to a sandwich, or top off rice and beans with a heap of salsa.
Save the empty, quick-burning fuel like candy, ice cream, chips, cakes, and donuts for after your main meal or snack. You’ll be far less likely to overindulge because you’re more satisfied with the high-quality food choices you made with the main meal. The biggest advantage: Your body will receive the proper nutrition to support your training.
Jackie Dikos, R.D., is a 2:45 marathoner and mother of two. All of her Fueling the Runner articles can be found at http://runningtimes.com/fuel.