“I’m a fighter,” said Marcus Aguirre, a Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing fighter based in the San Diego UFC Gym off Sports Arena Blvd. “This means I try to fight past the pain I experience during workouts and runs.” Aguirre’s hand rested on the table in front of him as he leaned forward, excitement lacing his voice.
He told me about a fight he once had in Mexico. He needed to cut his weight down to 130lbs, and he only had two days to do it.
“I needed to do it,” he said, “But for those two days all I had was a protein shake and some almonds. I cut 8 pounds the first day and 5 pounds on the second day. On the second day I even went for a run in a sauna suit.”
Aguirre reached his goal, but even after the run, he didn’t eat until four hours later, after the official weigh-in. The only way to reach your objective, he said, is to see past the pain, to work around it toward your immediate goal, and just run.
“Your body can survive for at least a month without food,” Aguirre said. “It’s water that you really need to worry about. In some cases, a person’s pre- run hunger might not be as bad as they think. They’re probably just thirsty.”
Aguirre also said that in many cases, he believes some people might use that hunger as an excuse to avoid going on the run instead of working past it. He suggested eating a small snack, if you feel it’s necessary, but doing the run no matter what.
“There are some people who might have hypoglycemia or diabetes and will need to have a snack before every workout,” Aguirre said. “But even then, they need to figure out what works and what doesn’t, without letting such problems get in the way of their fitness.”
Nevertheless, most runners have experienced that pre-run pang of hunger that pops up right when you’re stepping out the door. It’s too late to scarf down the meal, but you might not want to run on an empty stomach either. If you’re someone who would rather eat before a run, then Sarah-Jane Bedwell, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for LUNA, has five top tips for avoiding the growling insides right before you lace up.
- Eat a smart snack one to two hours before the run.
“Focus on carbohydrates,” says Bedwell. “For easy to moderate runs less than 1 hour, 1/2 gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight (about 30 grams for someone weighing 140 pounds) eaten 1-2 hours before should be sufficient (as a part of an overall balanced diet). A pre- workout snack for these runs might be a medium banana or LUNA bar. For runs lasting 1 hour or more, about 1 gram of carb per kilogram of body weight should be consumed 1-2 hours before. An example of fuel for these longer runs might be the medium banana and LUNA bar, or one cup oatmeal topped with 1/4 cup raisins.”
- Stay hydrated.
Do this by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, as well as at least 8-12 ounces within the hour prior to running. Our bodies sometimes confuse hunger with thirst, which tends to make us raid the fridge rather than the water container.
- Eat regular meals throughout the day.
“Not only does eating every 3 to 4 hours keep your metabolism and energy levels up,” says Bedwell. “It also helps to prevent overwhelming hunger pangs throughout the day.” Don’t stuff yourself; make the meals small but filling, and try to drink glasses of water with each one.
- Make protein, fiber and fat part of your meals.
While it isn’t a good idea to incorporate these nutrients into the meal you eat prior to your run, consuming them during other parts of the day slows digestion and helps you to feel fuller for longer.
- Find the timing of a pre-run snack that works for you.
“When I first started running,” says Bedwell. “If I ate something before a race, I would get sick. Then I discovered that I was eating too close to the start time of the race and that my nerves were getting the better of me. When I started eating about 2 hours before the race, not only did I not get sick, I could actually eat a little more and found that that helped me have more energy and not hit the wall as quickly. While some people can eat something just 30 minutes before a run, others need closer to 2 hours to digest the food and get the most out of the nutrition. Pick the schedule that works best for you and stick with it.”
Autumn Shultz is a senior journalism major and the A&E editor for The Point.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN SOCH