As warmer weather approaches fuelling becomes an even more critical part of our running and sporting lives. Not only is it important to keep hydrated with water AND electrolytes but it is also vital to maintain your intake of carbs. Whilst the warmer weather may somewhat suppress your desire to embrace the carb life or leave you craving lighter meals, summer salads or BBQs in doing so might mean missing out on our key foods which fuel our running cycling and swimming.
With a plethora of diet, nutrition and recipe advice lurking over social media, often dished out (pun intended) by those not necessarily qualified to share, it is important to ensure we are still maintain an adequate supply of carbohydrates to fuel our summer training adventures and stay hydrated too. With this in mind, I have teamed up with NHS Dietitian and good friend Livvy Mason to share some of her top summer nutrition tips.
Breakfast, meals and snacks
A huge bowl of porridge is usually my go to breakfast fuel for whatever adventure awaits that day. But on a hot summer’s morning the thought of warm porridge for breakfast isn’t always as appealing compared with winter. Livvy’s top tip is to switch it up! Instead of porridge, try giving your oats a twist and turn them into overnight oats! Just soak them in milk and/or Greek yoghurt and pop in the fridge the night before, then add your favourite fruit the next morning and/or nuts and seeds…voila! I find adding summery feeling fruits like mango can also add variety and a tropical twist.
Warm weather might also leave you craving lighter meals or disrupt your appetite. Summer salads are often a key feature of seasonal restaurant menus and a true BBQ staple, but how can we ensure that we are getting enough carbs to fuel our running? You can still enjoy salads, just be sure to add some carbs alongside your usual protein and fats. Some good choices to pair with summer salads are couscous or quinoa, new potatoes and even sweet potato and also cold pasta salads.
In addition to this try including some quick carb snacks between meals such as fruit which you could pair with yoghurt and honey, trail mix or oat cakes topped with your topping of choice.
Long run/cycle fuelling
For me, this has been a great difficulty. In 2019 I ran the Race to the King Ultramarathon- 54 miles over 2 days and I really struggled with my nutrition and the heat. Race/run nutrition is usually a lot of trial and error and eventually finding what works for you, but often the temperature can disrupt this. Gels and sweets can become gloopy and sticky in the heat, making them less appealing and more messy. Livvy suggests keeping your usual gels in the fridge, or if it’s a really long run and super-hot out, freezing them (this works best with isotonic gels) and by the time you need it, it’s still nice and cold and really refreshing! Just don’t forget about them!
Or you might find it easier to consume fluids, in which case you can get carbohydrate powders to mix into your water (such as Tailwind or SiS Go Energy). Again, you can freeze this overnight if preferred and run with it frozen so it stays cool….just be prepared for wet patches if you carry them in a pack! I definitely find running with a cold pack on my back helps me feel cooler in the heat.
If you find munching and running/cycling works for you then don’t change it, just be mindful to how you’re storing your food in the heat (e.g. will it melt or go off?) and how you’re discarding your wrappers. For more info check out my blogs on sustainability and running fuel and being a more eco-friendly runner.
Hydration is key
Another important aspect of nutrition during this hot weather is hydration. Often without realising, this can become neglected and we can find ourselves becoming dehydrated which will not only leave us feeling tired and dizzy but can also hinder performance. It’s important to try and stay hydrated before, during and after running and exercise to avoid this. If it’s hot out, be sure to carry some water with you and also consider taking on electrolytes, as we lose a lot of salts through our sweat. You can buy electrolyte tablets to add to water that you can sip before, on the go or post-run, cycle or swim. You can even make up your own electrolyte ice-lollies by using the mixed water with some fresh fruit and place into lolly moulds – it’s great after a hot training session!
Hydration is also vital if you’re doing long open water swim sessions or pool swims during the heat, if you’re able to, leave a bottle with some electrolytes near the water to have a quick sip on mid session, or you can invest in a tow float with a bladder for swimming. Staying hydrated when swimming helps avoid cramp- some extra tips here.
Hopefully this has helped equip you for the hot weather ahead and given you some inspiration for staying hydrated and fuelled during summer. Always remember to listen to your body especially when running and exercising in the soaring summer temperatures. I’m now off to freeze my energy gels….
Livvy, aka @TheNutritiousRunner is a keen runner, dog enthusiast and NHS dietitian with a first class degree in Dietetics. When she’s not on the wards, you’ll find her on the trails, in the water, enjoying a good dog spot or even on the BBC! For more meal ideas, running adventures or just to say hi be sure to check her out on Instagram or head over to her blog.