You asked. We answered. We put our parkrunners’ most pressing questions to our team of experts including nutritionists, physiotherapists and psychologists

Q: Do you lose more weight eating before or after a run?

A: Weight loss ultimately comes down to a simple equation of energy balance over a period of time. If you consume more calories than you expend via activity you will gain weight, and vice versa. The timing of meals has no impact on weight changes, so this is very much a matter of personal preference. However, considering that our digestive function is affected when we exercise due to changes in the autonomic nervous system, it’s always best to eat at least a couple of hours before you run. Read more about eating for performance here.

Chris Foster, Professional Head of Fitness, Nuffield Health

Q: If I drink water while running, or even up to an hour and a half before that, I get terrible cramps. I recently did a 5k without drinking before or during, but now I’ve signed myself up to a 10k and I’ve been told that it would be dangerous to drink so little. What do you suggest?

A: Unless it’s very hot on the day of your 10k race, you’ll be fine. Fast runners do 10k in about 30 minutes, slower ones in 70 minutes. As long as you are not dehydrated before the race, this should be fine. During your training, try experimenting with different amounts and fluids, and make sure the water isn’t too cold either. Try beetroot juice, which will also aid your recovery.

Paul Parker, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Alliance Surgical

Q: I’m a runner but I find it very hard to avoid eating junk food because I’m out and about a lot. What’s your advice?

A: Make sure you are eating mindfully and not emotionally. It is very easy to get into the habit of eating when you are bored, sad or just on the go.

Emotional hunger is in the head, not the stomach – you might crave specific foods, you aren’t satisfied once full and you might feel guilty after you’ve eaten. Physical hunger is about listening to your stomach and its genuine need to re-fuel.

Brendan Street, Clinical Lead CBT, Nuffield Health

Q: What should I eat before the gym in the morning? 

A: Just as a car can’t run on empty, it’s important to consume something before exercising to provide enough fuel to power through a workout.

Rather than a big meal, try a healthy snack before your workout – eating 45 minutes to an hour before training will provide more energy and endurance for a better workout, burn more calories, and improve muscle tone rather than break it down. A small, healthy snack consisting mainly of easy-to-digest carbohydrate and protein is ideal to fuel a workout.

I’d recommend these quick, healthy snacks:

  • A whey protein isolate shake, mixed with oat milk or coconut water (great for hydrating your body) or added to a fruit smoothie with coconut water, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and banana
  • A small pot of plain bio-live yogurt with berries
  • A banana or apple slices spread with natural almond butter, or a handful of nuts.

If you’re planning to work out later in the day, it’s important to stay hydrated and fuelled. Drink water throughout the day and have regular meals at breakfast and lunch, leaving two to three hours before exercise for food to digest properly.

Natalie Braithwaite, Professional Head of Nutrition, Nuffield Health

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