Fuelling your running

TORQ supplies fitness services to clients and a range of performance nutrition products. They have created this overview on how to adapt your diet to fuel your training.

TORQ supplies fitness services to clients and a range of performance nutrition products, including TORQ Bars and TORQ Energy drinks. TORQ will be showcasing their products and services at the Fitness & Food Festival at the event, and have created this overview on how to adapt your diet to fuel your training.

The days leading up to the event

If you want to perform at your best on the day of the event, you’ll need to be well rested and nicely loaded up with carbohydrate. This means that you should taper your running/training for the week leading up to the event so that you’re doing much less than normal. I guess the flip side of this is that you should have been doing ‘more than normal’ in the few weeks preceding the event to build up your fitness. The diagram below should give you some idea as to how the principle of tapering works.


The objective behind tapering is that you build up a trough of fatigue by training hard and allowing inadequate recovery over a few weeks and then as you back off on the approach to the event, your body ‘super compensates’. Taking advantage of this super compensation or peaking in form will give you your best performance.

The day before the event

So, you’re well rested and peaked, which means there are no training sessions you can do now that are going to boost your performance the next day, or are there? Well really, the biggest single focus for you is to ‘carbo load’ because the more carbohydrate you can cram into your muscles, the longer you’re going to last the next day and the faster you’ll be able to run. To carbo load successfully, the obvious procedure would be to eat a lot of carbohydrate-rich foods the day before the event and that is indeed true, but there is also a little training session you can do to boost carbohydrate storage further.

There have been various protocols investigated over the years for successful carbohydrate loading, some of which have been quite painful and unpopular, but this one discovered by the Australian Institute of Sport in the ’90s showed record levels of carbohydrate storage for relatively little effort.

So what does the procedure involve? Approximately 24 hours before the event begins, give yourself a 5-10 minute warm up, have a good stretch and then find a hill or flat stretch of uninterrupted road/trail that will allow you to unleash three minutes of maximal effort – If you own a treadmill it’s even easier. Make sure that your three minute effort is absolutely maximal so that you feel a real ‘lactate burn’ in your legs afterwards and then for the next 24 hours you need to rest and eat, eat, eat. The vast majority of your calories should be carbohydrate, keeping protein intake moderate and fat very low. Fat will delay the absorption of carbohydrate and your event performance will never be limited by lack of fat stores however skinny you are, you can be assured of that, so fat will be a hindrance at this time. If you’re eating dry forms of carbohydrate, make sure that you drink plenty of water too, because for every gram of carbohydrate you store, you will also retain three grams of water and without the fluid, you won’t store the carbohydrate.

Successful carbohydrate loading will leave your legs feeling quite heavy on event day, but as you use the carbohydrate up (as the event unwinds) you’ll feel better and better. Having muscles full of carbohydrate effectively bolsters your fuel supplies so that your time to exhaustion is increased (you’ll be able to run for longer before you run out of energy). Combining this approach with a solid fuelling strategy on the day (to be discussed next) will pay huge dividends.

Carbohydrates come in 2 forms, starches (polysaccharides) and sugars (mono and disaccharides). Here are some examples so that you can plan your loading effectively:

  • Polysaccharides: Pasta, rice, potatoes, chickpeas, lentils, bread, couscous.
  • Mono/Disaccharides: Sugar, wine gums, fruit pastels, sugary drinks (non-diet), honey, jam.

The advantage of Mono/Disaccharides over polysaccharides from a carbohydrate loading perspective is that they are lower in bulk and richer in carbohydrate calories than polysaccharides. From a long-term health perspective, polysaccharides are favourable, because they contain dietary fibre, some protein and various vitamins and minerals. In essence, for one day, a gorge on the less healthy carbohydrates isn’t going to have a significant impact on your health and will make loading easier, but be aware that carbohydrate loading is quite a unique proposition.

The morning of the event

It is our firm opinion that there’s nothing much you can do on event day morning other than make poor dietary choices that can ruin your performance. You should be carbo loaded at this point, so the effect of further carbohydrate intake on event morning is going to have a negligible effect. In fact, if you consume a significant quantity of high glycaemic index (High GI) carbohydrate in the hour before exercise, this can leave you feeling lacklustre and unfocused on the start line. The diagram below shows how high GI carbohydrate sources will cause a rapid rise in blood glucose followed by a proportional rise in insulin, which in turn lowers blood glucose. This panic response actually sends blood glucose (and your mental responsiveness) to a low point and it’s not a great place to be when you’re about to start a big endurance challenge.


So the key to optimal nutrition on the morning of race day is to make sure that you have a mix of high and low GI carbohydrates for breakfast so that you don’t get an exaggerated insulin response. If you want to learn more about high and low GI sources, do a search, because there’s far too much information out there to put into this article, but effectively more processed carbohydrates have a higher GI, because the body breaks them down more easily. Raw husky organic carbohydrates tend to have a lower GI.

It’s also a good idea to consume some lean savoury protein at breakfast if you fancy it, because this is going to be the last satiating meal you’ll have for a while. And this triggers the final point ‘lean’. Choosing low fat is going to be a key concept to remember if you’re going to get through the day in respectable shape. Within reason, you can celebrate and do what you like when you’ve finished, but don’t drop a ball now. The reason fat intake is such an issue on event day is because it takes so long to digest and in its dietary form it’s metabolically useless.

As an aside, an excellent TORQ-recommended pre-run breakfast is beans on toast with no butter on the toast and if you fancy it, a rasher or two of lean bacon (with all the fat trimmed off). This ticks all the boxes as far as we’re concerned.

During the event

It’s during the event where TORQ products are meant to be used. You could use low fat forms of carbohydrate like Jelly Babies and jelly blocks as fuel, because these are essentially delivering carbohydrate to your blood stream, but this isn’t an optimal approach and quite frankly, we wouldn’t have a business if our products couldn’t do a significantly better job and get you home quicker and more comfortably.

Before the turn of the millennium, research had proven that glucose-based products delivered energy quicker than any other whilst exercising and specifically a special polymer of glucose called ‘Maltodextrin’. Using maltodextrin-based products, it was deemed possible to deliver approximately 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, which basically meant that 60 grams of stored carbohydrate was ‘spared’ per hour of exercise. As carbohydrate is stored in limited supply within the working muscles, fuelling at this rate was (and still is) considered to be hugely beneficial to endurance performance.

In 2005, new research studies suggested that a 2:1 maltodextrin: fructose formulation allows the user to consume and use up to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour. The implications of being able to deliver and use 30 grams more carbohydrate than previously considered possible has significant implications to endurance performance. In short, it gives you 40% better carbohydrate-sparing than using maltodextrin alone, which is quite a staggering finding. This extremely fast delivery of carbohydrate also means that the product isn’t in the gut for long, so stomach problems from these formulations are extremely rare.

The final point to get across is that you should NEVER wait until you’re hungry or thirsty. You need to assume the mantle of ‘eating/drinking machine’ right from the gun, because the carbohydrate calories you take on board at the start of the ride will save you towards the end. If you run out of carbohydrate, it’s a phenomenon in running known as ‘Hitting the Wall’ and it’s not very pleasant at all. If you’ve Carbo-loaded and fuelled properly throughout however, ‘hitting the wall’ is almost impossible, so do the right thing.

After the event

One school of thought is that once you’ve finished your event, you have every reason to reward yourself with a beer and some high fat indulgences. Whilst we can’t argue with this perspective, there is a compromise. Within 15 minutes of finishing, you should ideally consume a proper recovery drink, because the correct nutrients at this time will perform a huge amount of work and it’ll mean that you’ll be able to walk and function relatively normally the following day. Once you’ve absorbed your recovery drink, hey of course, chill out, have a beer and eat some of the stuff you’ve not been allowed to for the last couple of days.

The main function of a recovery drink is to restore muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) levels to normal as soon as possible, enabling you to exercise again sooner. Other components within a good quality recovery drink will aid muscular/biochemical repair and support your immune system. Our opinion is that recovery drinks are best used during high load periods of training (like you might have done in the lead up to this event), because they increase your resilience to training and allow you to perform a higher training volume. After an event like this, they certainly help you to feel less fatigued the next day, but presumably you’ll be giving yourself a few days off running anyway as a reward, so how necessary is it? The choice is yours.

TORQ’s recovery product isn’t available in a single sachet, because the dose you need is bodyweight dependent and we don’t believe in selling someone a product that doesn’t work properly. We sell small tubs (4-7 doses) and larger tubs (12-20 doses). Once again, there’s the subject of fat content. If a recovery product is high in fat, it’s going to delay carbohydrate and protein absorption and the whole point of a recovery drink is to get the correct mix of calories into your blood quickly whilst enzyme activity is elevated (enzymes are the chemicals within your body that do the graft of storing and building). TORQ recovery has 0.7g fat per 100g of powder, which is extremely low fat. Remember that with pre-mixed recovery drinks, most of the product is calorie-less water, so this can distort your perception of fat levels. For instance, 0.7g fat per 100ml of ready-to-drink is actually quite high fat.

TORQ recovery also contains whey protein to facilitate carbohydrate absorption as well as providing the building blocks for muscular repair and Ribose, HMB and L-Glutamine, which are extremely potent natural ingredients specifically chosen for their recovery/immune enhancing properties. Ribose in particular is very unique to TORQ.

For more comprehensive information on this subject and others, visit our website or phone our fitness consultancy on 0845 128 4312

Martin Rendel
TORQ Fitness