This article is part of a series on Base Development; find an introduction to the series here.
On the tropical island of Singapore where I reside, 90% of running events start in the wee hours of the morning. This is because the heat and humidity levels become almost unbearable by 9am on a typical day. As seasoned runners here would say, if you can perform under Singapore’s humid conditions, you will have no problem anywhere else in the world.
One of the challenges of starting at such unearthly hours is getting fuel into my half-awake system.
Through online research, constant trial and error and the occasional exchange with fellow runners, I am slowly learning what works for my body and how to fuel it properly so that I can avoid the dreaded bonk.
I will be sharing my experiences in this and future articles, not with the purpose of telling you what’s right or wrong (since every runner’s needs are different), but rather, to get you started on your own journey to discovering what works for you.
Short and sweet is the key; and I mean sweet, literally. My go-to source of energy on the morning of a training run or short race (lasting less than an hour) is a handful of dried cranberries. Full of fructose - an easily absorbed, natural form of sugar, cranberries give you an instant fuel boost. Cranberries are also chock-full of essential nutrients such as Vitamin C and cancer-fighting polyphenolic extracts, which make them a great alternative to less nutrient-dense carbs such as bread and sugary breakfast cereals.
Sidenote: I always ensure I hit the sack earlier than usual the night before a run. Without sufficient rest, our bodies would break down more easily and no amount of fuelling will help.
When I have time the night before, overnight oats is my fuel of choice for longer runs (21k and above). Rolled oats have a low glycemic index, which means energy is released slowly into the bloodstream, helping to sustain you over longer distances.
Overnight oats is simple to prepare, gentle on the stomach and nutritious. I usually consume it at least 60 minutes before the start of my run to allow enough time for digestion.
What you need
- Mason jar or any glass jar
- 4 to 5 tbsp or half jar filled rolled oats (organic or not)
- Soy milk (use water if you are cautious of gut issues)
- Dried Cranberries
How to prepare
Fill up half rolled oats in a mason jar
Add soy milk or water to completely cover the rolled oats
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours
Add toppings just before consuming it
You can experiment with various toppings such as granola, berries, bananas, raisins, almonds, honey etc... I personally like adding cranberries to mine to give it a hint of sweetness and mask the raw taste of oats.
Rolled oats can even be prepared a couple of nights before; they should be consumed within 3 days once prepared. I find this a really convenient solution to fuelling on hectic, nerve-wrecking race day mornings.
I tend to avoid coffee and milk before a run, especially on race day. As one runner puts it, it might turn into a race to the nearest toilet rather than to the finish line if you have a sensitive gut.
Actually, consuming caffeine before a run has been proven to decrease ratings of perceived exertion (or RPE), meaning you may feel less tired during your workout or race. A shot of espresso might do the trick, though I would only recommend it if you have more than an hour to go before the start of your run - enough time for you to make a trip (or two) to the nearest john.