How to Eat for Running/Biking After Weight-Loss Surgery

Steph Wagner

September 8, 2014

running biking after bariatric surgery www.foodcoach.meStephDadBikesThis past weekend I rode a 40-mile bike ride with my Dad. It was a huge blessing for so many reasons – a beautiful day, quality time with my Dad, and a bit of a physical challenge for me to push myself to new heights.

I’ve been bike riding for a few years now. But this bike ride was not only the longest I had gone to date, it was also the first bike riding event since my car accident in 2012. Having an opportunity to ride with someone I love who helped me through a nasty healing season sparks some interesting emotions, with gratefulness being the biggest of all.

My recent bike rides have gotten me thinking about Sports Nutrition…or how to eat when you are training for a biking or running event. This is a complicated topic for most anyone, but especially if you’ve had weight-loss surgery. Things are a little different for bariatric patients, and I want to help guide you through a few things.

1. Hydration:

Whether you are running or cycling, the most important piece of the puzzle by far is staying on top of your hydration. True for anyone, especially true after weight-loss surgery. This is true no matter how long it has been since surgery. Keep hydrated everyday and the days leading up to an event increase your water or PowerAde Zero® intake. Nothing is worse than cramping up, getting dizzy, or in general just feeling all around sluggish. Have a plan for both training and the event. For myself, I have two water bottles on my bike. Most times I have both bottles consist of half water and half PowerAde Zero® for added electrolytes.

2. Be Smart with “Simple Sugars”

If you’ve been around runners or cyclists before, or you’ve read anything online about what to eat or drink…you’ve likely been reading about Gatorade, Gel Bloks® or fruit when you are training for an event. The idea would be to have quick energy in replacing what you are burning. For weight-loss surgery patients, this may create some conflict. As you may well know, simple sugars like fruit (by itself) or a sugar containing drink like a sports drink may give you diarrhea, cramping or bloating because of the high solute/sugar load going through your system so quickly. Blood sugar spikes and drops can also cause issues with feeling shaky or dizzy.

This is something to consult your dietitian about. Depending if you are running a 5k or a marathon..the recommendations are going to differ tremendously. As a general, if you are running a 5k it is likely not necessary to utilize high sugar foods and drinks for energy during your run. Once again, consult a professional to help create your personal plan.

3. Pair Protein with Your Carbs

Speaking of simple sugars, it’s a great idea to always pair protein with any sugar containing foods. Put your fruit in a protein shake before/after your event or have a protein bar that contains both carbohydrates and protein. Protein will blunt the sugar spike in your blood which will both prevent you from having GI upset and keep your energy more even keeled than a spike and a drop later. What comes up, must come down and when blood sugar comes back down…you’ll be looking for something with more sugar! This could create a feeling of shakiness or dizziness too. Protein will help.


4. Plan Ahead for Before/During/After 

When you are training for an event, you often times think through all the pieces. Which event. Where. What time. Who is joining you. Pre-registration (to save money!) and so on. Be sure to include within your plans, what you will eat before, what you will pack to eat during or immediately after, and what you plan to eat as your next meal after the event. Once again, this is very individualized so it’s important to have a dietitian walk through the plan with you. Practice the plan during one of your training events. Will you have a protein shake with a banana in it an hour before you leave the house? How will you have water with you? (Bonus for cyclist who can put it on their bikes!) What kind of protein bar can you pack to eat during or immediately after your event? Will you go out for a meal when you’re done?

**I noticed while on my bike ride today there were several food options at the bike stops. Two bike stops for the 40 mile ride. At each stop there was a table full of fruit and cookies. Thankfully I had a protein bar in my bike jersey for my mid-ride snack. If not, I would have eaten high sugar foods and both felt poorly and would have been even more ravenous for food after my ride!

5. Think Again Before You “Carb Load”

Exercise events can be an open invitation to go “hog wild” on your food choices. Better hit up the pasta bar the night before the event! Once again, this will matter what event you are training for but in general it’s smart to keep a consistent diet but add complex carbohydrates to the meal. The night before my ride I made Pumpkin Chili which had carbs from the canned pumpkin and the black beans. The next
morning I had a protein bar when I first woke up and a protein bar on the bike. When we finished we went out to breakfast where I had an omelette with fruit. This worked for me and I feel great…but I also think my hydration control is to thank for that! Overdoing the carbs can wreck havoc on your blood sugars and your hunger control which won’t help on race day. Unerdoing your carbs can leave you fuzzy and “out of gas.” It’s a balance we have to find for ourselves and something to practice well before race day!

6. Use Your “Bariatric Goggles” When Researching

Half the fun of training and preparing for an event is reading, talking and researching about what you’ll be going through. You want to hear more about what people do to prepare for a half marathon or what strategies will make your 40 mile bike ride the smoothest possible. There are some things we can’t control, like weather, so we want to control as much as we can.

Any information you read about eating and your training should be taking with a  grain of salt. For example, if you read about the benefits or chocolate milk, remember lactose intolerance is often an issue after surgery and high sugar containing beverages usually don’t end well either. Having a protein shake with fruit will accomplish what chocolate milk can do for others.

If you read about having pasta before or after your event for carb loading, remember how pasta will swell up in your little pouch and waste space you need for good fuel for your event. Better to have a sweet potato with your chicken breast to allow you the space for protein which you’ll need to prevent a blood sugar spike from the sweet potato. Remember, these are mere illustrations and not specific to your individual needs!! 


Above aOntheBike
ll else, remember to have fun and celebrate what you’ve accomplished!
 Avoid comparing yourself to other participants (comparison is toxic) and simply relish in the fact that you have changed your life so drastically, that you are lacing up your shoes to join in something you never thought you could!

I love hearing about the victories postop patients are accomplishing. I have heard from so many Gastric Sleeve, Gastric Bypass and Gastric Band patients who have run marathons, half marathons, 5, 10 and 15k races or have made the jump into cycling and can’t imagine going on a road trip without their bike. If you fit this description yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

If you need help finding a bariatric dietitian in your area, send me an email to and I’d love to help you in your search. 

At the time of this posting, there is a 1 mile walk and 5k run event in the OKC area on October 4th 2014 I’d love for you to join me in! If you are in the area and you want to find out more, click this link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.