Written By: Charmaine Jones, MS, RDN, LDN — Superfeet Wellness Panel Member. Charmaine Jones is founder and owner of Food Jonezi, a website and nutrition counseling service dedicated to ensuring all individuals have access to proper food and nutrition education to achieve optimal health.
You decide to take a run.
You start off strong with a burst of energy.
But thirty minutes into the run, you notice your body has started to slow down.
What happened? Why are you feeling fatigued and sluggish so early in your run? More importantly, how can you prevent this feeling and stay energized while running?
Runner’s Fatigue Syndrome
At some point along the trail, runners may experience hunger or weakness, and feel sluggish, sleepy or dehydrated. It’s a feeling I like to call runner fatigue syndrome. This can occur in both short- and long-distance runs.
Runner fatigue syndrome is when a runner experiences a plunge in energy during and after the body has used up its energy stores. As a result, runners progressively start feeling tired, dehydrated and even hungry.
During a run, the body breaks down stored glycogen into glucose – this process is what supplies the muscles with enough power to fuel your run. With increased heat and energy output, your body craves quick sources of fuels to keep fatigue at bay.
Prevent Runner Fatigue Syndrome with a Mid-Run Snack
Before I start with nutritious snacks ideas, I would like to share an important rule for exercising or training: Aim to drink 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes, for a run lasting 60 minutes or longer. Proper hydration during exercise keeps the body replenished with electrolytes, and your internal thermostat regulated.
Check out this easy homemade sports drink for runners to re-energize mid run:
- Add one pinch of salt (for sodium) and squeeze 1-2 tablespoons of fresh orange (for potassium and carbohydrates) to 32 ounces (4 cups) of water.
- Shake and sip your homemade sports drink while on your run.
- Alternative hydrating mid-run drinks: a bottle of coconut water or beet juice.
Some of my favorite re-energizing snacks to carry on your run:
Dried fruit mix. Dried fruits like bananas, cranberries, raisins, dates or apricots are quick energy boosters that will give the body fuel it needs to keep going and are easy to pop in your mouth in the middle of a run.
Honey packets. Honey is composed of two simple sugars — glucose and fructose — making it a direct source of quick energy to the bloodstream. One honey packet provides 12 grams of carbohydrates (sugar) that will pick you up immediately in the middle of a run.
One cup pineapple chunks topped with one teaspoon ginger powder. Pineapple provides 22g of total carbohydrates (including dietary fiber), 1.7 milligrams of sodium and 180 milligrams of potassium. Pineapple also contains a high level of the enzyme bromelain which serves as a natural anti-inflammatory to support ligaments and muscle cramping. Adding the ginger will give you an extra boost of energy. Ginger contains properties that delay onset muscle damage and soreness during and after exercising.
¼ cup frozen watermelon and orange slices, topped with a pinch of salt. A sprinkle of salt on frozen watermelon and orange slices will refuel and rehydrate your body during your run. The salty and sweet taste of one serving of these fruits gives your body 11 grams of carbohydrates (watermelon) and 18 grams of carbohydrates (orange), totaling to 29 grams of carbohydrates, plus an enormous amount of potassium. These fruits snacks can be packaged in a snack-sized bag and placed in your running belt.
12 salted pretzels, saltine crackers or animal crackers. These mini snacks contain a significant amount of salt to keep your body’s sodium level balanced. They are low in calories, but add enough carbohydrates to keep you on course with your run. These small mid-run snacks are convenient and easy to carry. They are also very low in fat and fiber, so you don’t have to worry about any gastrointestinal distress like bloating and diarrhea during prolonged runs.
Beet juice. A newly-recognized resource for runners or athletes is beet juice. Beets have been shown to boost stamina to help you prolong your exercise routine, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Beets are rich in nitrates that get converted into nitric oxide in the body. This helps with blood flow. One study showed people who drank beet juice for six days had better stamina during prolonged exercise or trainings.
(Note: If you decide to drink beet juice to boost your energy, don’t be alarmed if your urine changes colors — that’s a natural occurrence.)