Personal Best 101: Tips to your fastest 5k #5 – The PB Lunchbox

Ever blunchboxeen halfway through an evening time trial and wished you hadn’t had that chicken curry for lunch? Or, you can hear your stomach grumbling above your breathing from skipping lunch?

Taking an hour to relax and enjoy a wholesome home-packed lunchbox has become a thing of the past in today’s time-pressured McDonald’s society. Yet, that could be just the thing you are missing for that personal best .

The Kenyans have a very true saying – “An empty sack won’t stand up” . Translated – if you don’t eat well, you are going to suffer on your run.

There are two lunchtime mistakes we can make as runners which will have a big negative effect on our run.

The first is skipping lunch. When we do this, we simply just do not have enough energy to run at the fast pace we are asking of our body. If you had a good breakfast then the effect is less, you still however need to keep that blood sugar topped up during the day for optimal performance. With a long easy run, you can get away with not eating much in the hours before as the energy demands in both amount needed and how quickly it is needed are not as high. When going for that 5k PB, you are going to need a lot of energy and need it fast. This means that your body is going to relying primarily on glycogen stored in your liver and muscles. Glycogen is basically stored carbohydrate. So we need to ensure that our glycogen stores remain full by getting in enough carbohydrate throughout the day.

The second mistake is eating the wrong foods at lunch. These are foods that take long to digest, are gassy, cause acid reflux, could lead to nausea or an upset stomach or very sugary foods that can lead to blood sugar spikes (with accompanying dip on your run!). For example, red meat can take up to 7 hours to digest, so if you have a steak at lunchtime, you could still be digesting come time for your time trial. This will mean that the blood your muscles desperately need for running, is being diverted to your stomach. Common culprits for an upset stomach are: very spicy food, onions, dairy for some people, gassy vegetables and fruit, highly processed foods, caffeine for some. If you regularly get the “runners trots”, then avoiding all dairy and caffeine in the last 4-5 hours before your run can help.

That said – what are good lunchbox choices?

  • Wholewheat sandwiches with e.g.egg, ham, cheese and tomato, chicken, salad
  • Egg on toast
  • Root vegetables – Sweet potato, potato, butternut, carrots
  • Rice/couscous/pasta salads
  • Bananas, Grapes
  • Dried Fruit and nuts
  • Low sugar fruit and nut bars

Timing of your lunch is also important:





Try to eat the bulk of your lunch 3-4 hours before your run. Then if necessary have a light snack eg. Honey on toast, banana, a few raisons, a little sweet potato an hour before.

If you have a long commute, then it is worth keeping light dry snacks in your car for topping up your fuel on your way to running that PB.

Very NB: Make sure you are staying hydrated during the day! If you drink a lot of coffee, then drink a glass of water with each cup to counteract the dehydration effect of the caffeine.


Make your whole lifestyle a Personal Best!

Coach Kathleen


About Coach Kathleen

Coaching since 2004, I have coached both young and old athletes from those achieving provincial and national medals in track, biathlon and cross country to runners running their first ever half marathon or marathon. I am a specialist in youth coaching and my coaching philosophy is to not only help each athlete achieve their best with their athletic talent but to guide each athlete in developing character and transforming their lives beyond the track. As an athlete I have competed at high levels across all the running disciplines, track, road, cross country and trail running as well as internationally in triathlon. I have a personal best of 2 hours 45 min for the marathon and have twice been part of the winning ladies team in the AfricanX trail race. Qualifications IAAF Athletics Lecturer Level 3 Distance Running Coach SAQ Fundamental Movement Certificate Personal Running Performances
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