Running a marathon is a great time to improve your overall nutrition to support your training and race performance. By applying some performance nutrition principles to your daily meals, you can fuel your body correctly in order to help you get fitter, and perhaps, also reduce your body fat along the way.
Eating properly around your training can be daunting, so we’ve included some tips and meal plans below for guidance. Like training, good nutrition is also about building confidence – both in preparing different meals each week and seeing how food can affect your training.
Our recipes provide a ‘food-first’ approach to meet your daily nutrient targets. Sports nutrition products (such as drinks or gels) can help support your preparations towards the race itself.
Many of these recipes are nutrient-dense (meaning they provide a range of nutrients, including important vitamins and minerals) to keep the body healthy as your training increases.
There are several key elements of performance nutrition that are important to consider to maximise your performance. The main focus with endurance training is to match your daily fuel intake to the volume of training – this is known as ‘periodised’ nutrition.
This means that what you eat should be different depending on your training demands for that particular day – there will be some trial and error to learn what feels right for you.
Getting your fuelling right on different days means that you can have sufficient energy during training, whilst also reducing body fat (if that is your goal) over the course of your training programme.
- Plan 1: What should I eat on rest and easy training days?
- Plan 2: What should I eat on normal (moderate intensity) training days?
- Plan 3: What should I eat on heavy (high intensity) training days?
- How to use the nutrition plans
- More training & nutrition tips for runners
- Optimal Performance: The 9 Best Foods for Runners
- 1. Bananas
- 2. Oats
- 3. Peanut butter
- 4. Broccoli
- 5. Plain yogurt
- 6. Dark chocolate
- 7. Whole-grain pasta
- 8. Coffee
- 9. Potatoes
- The Runner’s Diet
- 5 Foods That Could Make You Run Faster
- 6 Food That Will Slow You Down For Your Running
- 1. Foods With High Protein Content
- 2. Nuts, Fruits And Vegetables
- 3. Milk
- 4. Fatty Foods
- 5. Processed Sugar
- 6. Butter Substitutes
- 15 Best Energy Foods for Running
21 Ways To Boost Your Running Energy
- Count your calories
- Eat more whole grains
- Warm up properly
- Eat consistently
- Sleep more
- Mix up your routines
- Add lentils to your meals
- Eat natural honey
- Reduce your stress levels
- Snack on nuts
- Avoid caffeine
- Eat sweet potatoes
- Have a sports massage
- Drink more water
- Avoid sugary snacks
- Try flexibility exercises
- Eat bananas
- Stay active
- Try energy gels
- Snack on blueberries
- Minimise alcohol intake
- By Stephanie Ede4 min readHaving just qualified as 3rd overall female for the Ironman 70.3 World Champs, her long term sights are set on the full Ironman World Championships in Kona.
Plan 1: What should I eat on rest and easy training days?
Easier days require less carbohydrates to fuel your training. Our rest & easy training day meal options can help you prioritise protein, fats, and mixed vegetables over carbs on easier days, plus how to incorporate ‘fasted training’ into your routine.
Find out what to eat on rest & easy training days.
Plan 2: What should I eat on normal (moderate intensity) training days?
Carbohydrate is the body’s primary fuel for endurance training, so as training volume increases you need more to keep your stores topped up. Our recipe suggestions for normal (moderate intensity) training will help you to get all the nutrition you need on these days.
Find out what to eat on normal (moderate intensity) training days.
Plan 3: What should I eat on heavy (high intensity) training days?
On heavy training days you’ll need to pay close attention to hydration levels and up your carbohydrate intake. Make sure you’re eating the right kind of carbs with our high-intensity training days recipe suggestions.
Find out what to eat on heavy (high intensity) training days.
How to use the nutrition plans
There are lots of free training plans for different abilities and distances available online from trusted sources such as Runner’s World and The Virgin London Marathon.
To give you an example, we’ve included a beginner’s week training plan from The Virgin London Marathon, from week 11 of your training. We’ve marked which diet plan you should be following that day in relation to the volume of training you’re undertaking.
Example training plan
|Training||Rest||10 min easy run, 5 x (5 min interval run, 2.5 min easy run), 10 min easy run||Rest||40 min easy run||Core & stretching||Rest||Run a half marathon|
|Meal plan||1||2||1||1 or 2||1||1||2 or 3|
More training & nutrition tips for runners
- Now you’ve perfected your training nutrition, make sure you eat right in race week with our marathon meal plans.
- Get to grips with eating before, during and after running with our guides.
- Our marathon nutrition hub will teach you how to hydrate properly, carb-load and even how Mo Farah fuels for training.
These meal plans were last updated on 25 March 2019.
James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Are you training for a race this year? What have you found most challenging and do you have any top tips to share with other runners? We’d love to hear from you below…
Optimal Performance: The 9 Best Foods for Runners
A good race depends on more than just your training. To improve your speed and performance, you also need to consider what you are putting into your body. The right foods at the right time can boost your running performance tremendously. Plus, you will reduce the risk of injury and illness. The best foods every runner should include in his or her meal plan are:
If you need a high-carb energy booster before your afternoon run, you can’t go wrong with a banana. This fruit also contains a healthy dose of potassium (about 400 mg). This is especially important for long-distance runs or in hot temperatures when you are likely to sweat a lot and thus lose valuable minerals. Potassium (as well as other minerals like sodium, magnesium and chloride) compensates for this loss and lowers your blood pressure at the same time.
Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast when you want to go out for a run afterwards. It provides you with plenty of carbs (one serving contains about 25 g) and is high in fiber. Plus, oats have a low glycemic index. This means that they cause your blood sugar level to rise slowly, provide you with energy over a longer period of time and keep you feeling full longer. Also, did you know that a healthy adult should get about 50% of his or her total energy from carbohydrates?
3. Peanut butter
Here, we are talking about pure peanut butter without any additives like sugar, salt or oil. It’s a good source of vitamin E, which is probably the most effective antioxidant among the vitamins. While it is true that peanuts contain a lot of fat (making them anything but low calorie), it mainly consists of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These can help lower cholesterol levels in your blood. Plus, they are important for strengthening your immune system, speeding up your post-run recovery and preventing injuries. Peanut butter also contains a good deal of protein and thus helps your muscles grow. Try putting peanut butter on whole grain toast with banana slices – it tastes amazing! It is also good for a snack with a few slices of apple.
This green vegetable is full of vitamin C. According to studies, this can help reduce the risk of, or even prevent sore muscles after intense workouts. Broccoli is also a good source of calcium, folic acid and vitamin K, which strengthen our bones. Our tip: Broccoli tastes great together with salmon or lean beef.
5. Plain yogurt
Yogurt is the perfect combination of carbohydrates and proteins. It has a biological value of nearly 85 %, meaning that it has a high percentage of essential amino acids (which cannot be synthesized by the body and so must be obtained through food). Consumed right after a run, it can speed up your recovery and thus protect your muscles. The calcium contained within also strengthens your bones. An additional benefit of yogurt is that it contains live lactic acid bacteria (probiotics). These stimulate your gut flora and thus boost your immune system. This is important for everybody, not just dedicated runners.
Did you know?
Yogurt delivers a great combination of carbs and protein.
6. Dark chocolate
As a diligent runner, you are allowed to treat yourself once in a while. Dark chocolate (with at least 70% cacao) is the perfect sin because you don’t have to feel guilty afterwards. It can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Plus, the flavanols (secondary metabolites) contained within help reduce inflammation. What is the best thing about dark chocolate (other than the taste)? It puts you in a good mood. But here as usual it always comes down to portion size. Two or three squares are plenty. When combined with a handful of nuts, they can help you beat the mid-afternoon slump.
7. Whole-grain pasta
It is no coincidence that people often hold pasta parties the night before a marathon. These events not only help put you in the right mindset for the next day’s race, but the high-carb meal also fills up your glycogen stores. These glycogen reserves provide you with the energy you need during the marathon. When buying pasta, and bread for that matter, make sure to choose the whole-grain variety – these keep you full longer and contain additional B vitamins (like bananas, too). These are essential for building muscle and can improve your endurance and performance. Enjoy your pasta, for instance, with a tuna and tomato sauce instead of the heartier carbonara version. It doesn’t sit as heavy in your stomach but is still full of calories.
Studies have shown that a cup of coffee can give your high-intensity interval training a boost. The caffeine contained within helps you run faster and cover your training distance in less time. The important thing is that you drink black coffee – without milk and sugar. Many people still think that coffee dehydrates your body, but this isn’t true. What coffee does do is increase your urine output, meaning that you might have to go to the toilet more often than usual. Which, when you come to think of it, probably isn’t such a great thing during a marathon.
Potatoes like bananas are a valuable source of potassium, making them a staple of every runner’s diet. Also worth mentioning is their calorie content. For example, 100 g of the popular vegetable has two-thirds less calories than 100 g of rice. When paired with lean chicken, salmon or fried eggs, they make for a healthy and tasty recovery meal. Plus, did you know that just one large sweet potato can cover your total daily requirement of vitamin A? This vitamin works as an antioxidant, improves your eyesight, strengthens your bone tissue and boosts your immune system. So you see that a runner’s meal plan should be balanced and varied. What you eat, how often you eat and when you eat should always be aligned with your personal goals. You need more eating tips? Find out more about the best foods before running.
The Runner’s Diet
Remember how your mom and your second-grade teacher both seemed to latch onto that sime tired phrase, “You are what you eat”? Back then (and maybe even now, too), that would have made you a giant Hostess cupcake. Here at Cool Running, we’ve made it our mission to make you into a giant carbohydrate, the single most important fuel for the runner.
Despite the legendary junk food binges of marathon great Bill Rodgers, a good diet really does make you perform better; if you follow the basics outlined here, you may find yourself running faster, longer and more efficiently.
Above all, though, enjoy your food. Notwithstanding all the recommendations you’ll find in this section, remember that dining is one of the sublime pleasures of life, right up there with running. Use the information you find here as a set of general guidelines, but don’t get so caught up in the specifics that you no longer taste your food.
The basic diet
There’s really no such thing as a specialized runner’s diet. The type of diet that is good for runners is the same healthy diet as that generally recommended for everyone. Trouble is, most Americans seem to fail miserably at staying within that target diet. Though runners generally maintain a better diet than the average Joe, we all need to be aware of the general proportions of our diets.
A healthy diet is one that is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and sufficient but not excessive in protein. That translates to about 60 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 25 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein. As in all things, of course, every individual is different and may respond better to slightly different proportions. There is a significant minority of people, for example, who are insulin resistant to some degree. For them, a diet of 60 percent carbohydrates will create big swings in insulin levels and too much fat storage. In that case, a diet of 50 percent carbs, 25 percent fat and 25 percent protein may make more sense.
That said, beware the faddish 40/30/30 diet or the Atkins diet. While many have lost weight following these diets, they are very poor for runners who would find themselves sluggish from the diminished energy stores of such a low-carbohydrate diet. Cool Running strongly recommends that runners follow a high-energy, high-carbohydrate diet. For most, the 60/25/15 diet is a good rule of thumb.
This of course means that carbohydrates should form the cornerstone of your diet. Since carbos are the most important energy source for long-distance running, it’s probably no surprise that so many runners eat hefty portions of pasta, rice, bread and potatoes. Some even find that as they exercise more their tastes change to prefer these foods.
More carbos mean more glycogen
Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen, the primary fuel you need to keep you moving. When this efficient source of energy wears out, so do you. You hit the wall and can go no further (often after about 90 minutes or two hours of running).
Carbohydrates come in two flavors: simple and complex. The complex carbos are the ones you’re after. These are absorbed slowly into your system and give you a steady energy supply. These are the carbohydrates found in cereal, pasta, vegetables and bread (as a dietary bonus, these foods are also generally high in fiber). These should make up the majority of your diet.
Simple carbos, on the other hand, are basically sugars — tasty and good for a short-term energy boost since they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, the “sugar high” wears off quickly and usually leaves behind a sugar low, complete with reduced performance and energy. Even so, these sugars do have a place in your diet when they come from natural sources like fruit or juice. The worst offenders, though, are the refined sugars — those typically found in candy, soda, doughnuts, etc. This is literally junk food; plenty of calories and fat, but no essential vitamins or minerals.
5 Foods That Could Make You Run Faster
How you fuel your training can be the difference between an ‘okay’ run and a great run. Sugar may give you an energy kick to start with, but once the initial rush dies down, you’re left feeling tired and lethargic.
How you fuel your training can be the difference between an ‘okay’ run and a great run. Sugar may give you an energy kick to start with, but once the initial rush dies down, you’re left feeling tired and lethargic.
Build your speed with the best nutrition choices. Here are 5 foods that will help make you a faster runner.
If you’re heading out mid-morning, fill-up on a carbohydrate-rich oat dish. Many fall into the trap of believing that all carbs are bad, which isn’t true – you just need to choose the right ones and eat them at the best possible time.
The beauty of oats is that they have a low-glycemic index and are packed with fibre, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels and leave you feeling energised/fuller for longer. Topped with chopped banana or blueberries and you’ve got yourself the perfect pre-run meal.
Not your conventional running snack, but rumour has it that beetroot is a run-faster food to watch out for. This humble veg is a nutrient powerhouse, rich in vitamins B/C and beta-carotene. However, it’s the nitrates in beetroot that are said to have the performance enhancing effects – improving blood flow and therefore maximising oxygen delivery through the body and to your muscles.
According to The Telegraph, “scientists have discovered athletes who eat baked beetroot before a race run put in a faster time. Researchers at St Louis University in America found that athletes were able to run 5km faster after eating beetroot.” This supports the theory that this handy purple veg can potentially improve muscle efficiency. Try tucking into some before your next training session to see if it provides you with any noticeable performance benefit. You might just be surprised.
One of the most important aspects of training is recovery. To run faster, you need well-replenished muscles than can meet the demand of your workouts. Enter, the salmon – an excellent source of protein that’s rich in omega acids. Not only does this fish promote excellent heart health, but it also helps rebuild and repair torn, tired muscles, ready for your next run. Combine with leafy greens for the ultimate nutrient hit. Check out this healthy salmon recipe.
A major reason for tiredness during training is nutrient deficiencies. Even the slightest imbalance can leave you seriously legarthic and not achieving your best. For this reason, it’s important to consume the vitamins and minerals you need from good food.
Spinach is up there as one of the greatest superfoods around, rich in vitamins A, C, E, K and importantly, iron. To lower your risk of being anaemic, stock up on foods high in iron – it helps make red blood, which in turn, carries oxygen around the body. At only 23 calories per 100 grams, you’ve no excuse – stick it in a smoothie for a healthy start to the day.
Okay this isn’t a food, but studies show that a swig of caffeine pre-race can really help put power behind your run – coffee lovers, rejoice!
Research suggests that moderate amounts of caffeine can help enhance your endurance performance. In his autobiography Twin Ambitions, British distance runner Mo Farah revealed “twenty minutes before a race I’ll normally drink some coffee.” If it works for an Olympian, it works for us.
If you run, you’re doubtless aware of the ways that diet can affect your performance. Underfuel, and you’re likely to run out of steam, registering a slower time than usual and feeling lethargic to boot. Overindulge, on the other hand, and last night’s curry could end up wreaking havoc on your guts.
However, there is more to the equation than simply getting the calorie balance right. For runners who want to log their best times yet, the types of food you eat – and when you eat it – can make a tremendous difference. Here are some dietary strategies to help you nail your next PB.
Blame it on the beetroot
Over the last few years, one surprising candidate has come to the fore as a running superfood – and it may sound more congruent with your granny’s allotment than with a sports nutrition lab.
According to a number of studies, the humble beetroot can boost athletic performance, improving both speed and endurance. In one 2010 study, from the University of Exeter, cyclists who consumed 500ml of beetroot juice were able to ride for up to 20% longer than those who drank blackcurrant juice. Another study, from St Louis University in Missouri, tested participants running a 5K. Those who’d eaten baked beetroot were 0.3mph faster, on average, than those who’d eaten cranberry relish.
Andrew Jones, professor of applied physiology at the University of Exeter, is perhaps the best-known researcher in the field. He has published numerous papers on the subject, and even goes by the Twitter handle @AndyBeetroot. As he explains:
“The nitrate in beetroot can be converted in the body to nitric oxide – which can dilate blood vessels, allowing more oxygen to reach muscles and improve the efficiency of muscle in producing energy. One concentrated beetroot juice shot taken 2-3 hours before exercise can improve performance by 1-3%.”
While this benefit is only small, it is enough to make a difference in a sport where every second counts. And if you can’t stomach the purple wonder veg? A number of leafy green vegetables appear to have similar properties.
“Increasing the daily consumption of nitrate-containing foods like beetroot, spinach and rocket can be useful for general health and for supporting an active lifestyle,” Jones says.
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Carbs – Before, during and after
Carb-loading is a well-known strategy in the days immediately prior to a race. As Jones puts it:
“Carbohydrate is an essential fuel for exercise performance. Tapering training and consuming high carbohydrate foods (rice, pasta, bread, potatoes) over the last 2-3 days before a big race can ensure that muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores are topped up.”
In general, runners should aim to eat complex carbs, such as whole grains and legumes, rather than simple carbs such as sweets and white bread. Aside from their other nutritional benefits, this will help you feel full for longer, and ensure you don’t overeat.
The exception to the rule is during your run itself, when you need a quick burst of energy. Although this is unlikely to be necessary during shorter runs, if you’re on the go for much longer than an hour, it may be worth consuming a sports drink or energy gel. The sugar hit will help top up your glycogen stores and prevent you from ‘hitting the wall’.
You should also take on some carbs in the hour after a race or hard training run, when your muscles are particularly good at absorbing them. Some runners swear by a banana smoothie (which also replenishes the potassium lost during exercise), a piece of malt loaf with peanut butter, or a glass of chocolate milk.
“It is important to consume carbohydrate (to restore muscle glycogen levels) and protein (to help repair and build muscle) as soon as possible following a hard training session. Sports drinks can be useful early in the recovery process,” says Jones.
The performance enhancer on your breakfast table
Although it’s not currently banned by doping committees, caffeine is a true performance enhancing drug. A rapidly absorbed stimulant, it improves reaction times, lowers perception of effort and encourages the body to use more fat as fuel, slowing down the depletion of glycogen.
In one study, cyclists’ time to exhaustion was nearly 15 minutes longer when given 330mg caffeine one hour before exercise. (Three to 6mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight is recommended for endurance exercise, which works out about the same as two or three strong cups of coffee.) There is also evidence to suggest that caffeine can be helpful for mid-race fuelling, most likely in the form of a special energy gel.
Be careful though – too much caffeine can have a laxative effect, contributing to the infamous runner’s trots. It probably won’t be your fastest race if you spend most of it in the Portaloo.
Getting the balance right
Overall, healthy eating for runners looks much like healthy eating for the rest of the population – albeit with the occasional tactical tweak. And while you will probably require more calories than your sedentary friends (around 300kcal extra a day for a person who runs 20 miles a week), gorging yourself won’t do much good for your speed or your waistline.
“Just remember that while running burns calories and this should be balanced by increased energy intake, this is not a free license to over-indulge all the time!” points out Jones. (As someone who set the British junior half marathon record, he would know!)
6 Food That Will Slow You Down For Your Running
Running is an interesting kind of sports and brings an abundance of benefits for runners. In fact, the speed of running depends on each person’s ability but improving it is absolutely possible if you control the factors contributing to the increase or decline in the running speed. In some cases, everything outside remains constant but your speed suddenly slows down or you find it tired very soon.
This can be explained with the food you ate before. It is surprising, right? You may think that food supplies you with energy, so how they could affect your running speed. In reality, some kinds of food can slow you down for your running. So, if you have tasted these foods then it’s best to make sure they are digested before you run.
Ideally, you should avoid the following foods before running, whether in the morning, at night or at any other time of the day. And now, let’s find them out!
Photo Credit: 123rf
1. Foods With High Protein Content
Protein is a source of nutrients for the body. However, high levels of protein in the body can lead to the difficulty to digest. Protein-rich foods often do not contain enough carbohydrates which provide energy to the body. Thus, they do not generate sufficient energy for the body’s activities. If you eat a lot of these foods before running, it can affect the stomach because the stomach still has to work hard to digest all that protein while you are still running.
In the long run, you need to consume 25-40 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein. Some foods which are rich in protein are eggs, cheese, Ezekiel bread, milk, oat, quinoa, fish, shrimp, peanut, bean and so on. This does not mean that you should not eat those kinds of food, but you should avoid eating them right before running, or if you do, let’s eat them at least 1.5-2 hours before starting your running.
Photo Credit: 123rf
2. Nuts, Fruits And Vegetables
While all of these foods are nutritious and high in fiber, but few people know that they need a lot of time to be digested. Instead, people think they are just snacks, thereby suitable for providing some energy before beginning jogging or running. But it is opposite. Thus, you should not eat these foods just before running because while running, your body still has to work to digest these foods.
The ultimate result is increasing risk of cramps and stomach discomfort, which probably has an effect of your running and slows down your speed. You should eat low-fiber fruits and vegetables instead, like tomatoes, olives, grapes, and grapefruit and so on.
Photo Credit: 123rf
Some people may think that milk that can supply for the body with many nutrients and energy is perfect food for running. However, it is not the best choice for you before starting a certain heavy workout.
In fact, milk does not give you more energy; it even causes stomach upset if you eat before exercising or running. In addition, milk can deplete energy because it helps slow the absorption of carbohydrates for the body. Thus, even though it is beneficial for health, you should avoid milk if you plan to run. Likewise to milk, some dairy products such as cheese or butter also slow you down in running.
Photo Credit: 123rf
4. Fatty Foods
Fatty foods are always attractive to you in the morning, but they can devastate to the body if you plan on exercising right after eating. Foods that are high in fat make the body feel full, uncomfortable and slow as fat is easily converted to energy like protein.
Therefore, if you want to get benefits from running, stay away from fatty foods before doing the activity. Such foods are burgers, beef, fried dishes, and so on. Of course, you can enjoy it after finishing exercise, but do not eat them too much.
Photo Credit: 123rf
5. Processed Sugar
Many people while heavy workout or running face low-blood pressure, then they think some kinds of sweet thing like sugar can help them deal with that situation. It is not wrong but if you use sugar, especially processed sugar in advance to prevent low-blood pressure occurring while running or to get more energy, it is a big false. As you know, sugar is one of the main causes of diabetes or cancer, at the same time; it also causes inflammation and lowers immune system if you eat it too much frequently.
Thus, energy from sugar is not necessary to you in running; let’s get yourself enough carbohydrates instead. One kind of processed sugar you should absolutely avoid is high-fructose corn syrup that can activate the fat storage hormone of the body.
In fact, this kind of sugar is different from cane sugar and it can cause the body to store fat more than other common sugar. Therefore, if you want to get yourself something sweet, let’s eat ripe bananas, honeyed foods or cane sugar, but remember to eat them with the moderate amount.
Photo Credit: 123rf
6. Butter Substitutes
Instead of using butter substitutes, runners should use healthy oils since butter substitutes are usually highly processed and contain partially hydrogenated oils which can have the negative effect on the heart. Thus, while running, you may feel discomforts inside the body or even light heart attacks.
For that reason, you should avoid the kind of food. If you have to use fat, let’s take butter, avocado or coconut oil.
The above are some kinds of food you should avoid eating if you plan to have a run. Hoping that after finishing reading the article, you will know how to improve your running and gain more benefits from this activity.
15 Best Energy Foods for Running
Eating the right foods helps you get the most out of your run. If you lack calories and nutrients, your body might go into premature fatigue. Your muscles will feel slow and heavy, and you won’t be able to run as far or as fast. Combat exhaustion by eating the right energy foods for running.
The right pre and post run snacks help you maintain blood-sugar levels steady, and delays the onset of fatigue. Additionally, post-workout snacks are also paramount in muscle recovery because they provide necessary proteins. It’s what helps you become faster and stronger. Here is the 4-1-1 on what you should be eating.
Before You Run
For pre-workout snacks, look for foods that are easy to digest. You want calories that are readily available as energy. Aim for low-fiber and low-fat foods because fiber and fat are hard on digestive system. Additionally, if you’re eating 30 minutes or less ahead of your run, choose a small, light snack. You don’t want food bouncing in your stomach with every step. Check out our recommendations below.
A medium banana has about 100 calories, most of these from natural sugars and other easy-to-digest carbs. Not to mention, bananas are known for their potassium content. Athletes use up potassium at faster than average rates. Therefore, runners need to take in more potassium than the average person. Replete your stocks with a pre-run banana.
Recipe to try: Almond Butter and Banana Sandwiches
When it comes to a pre-run snack, applesauce is a better option than whole apples. This is because applesauce has a lower fiber content. Fiber slows down your metabolism, but during a run you want your body to break up food for energy as fast as possible. Therefore, a low-fiber snack gives you quick energy. One cup of unsweetened applesauce has around 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar.
Recipe to try: Slow Cooker Skinny Applesauce
Oatmeal might not seem like the ideal pre-workout snack because of its fiber content. However, most of the carbs in oatmeal are not fiber, but other simple and complex carbs that pack tons of quick energy. Not to mention, oatmeal is highly customizable. Add a half cup of berries or a teaspoon of honey for some additional sugar. Try eating your oatmeal at least an hour before your run.
Recipe to try: No-Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Bites
Green and black tea are not just bursting with antioxidants, they also have the perfect caffein boost to power your run. Try having a cup of tea to go with your pre-workout snack. This small change might make a big difference.
Recipe to try: Iced Tea with Peaches and Lime
Just like green tea, the caffein in your favorite coffee drink can be the perfect power-up for your run. If you like indulging in coffee shop drinks, a run could be the perfect excuse. Just keep an eye on the calorie content because many of these drinks can have around 500 calories!
Recipe to try: Cinnamon Spiced Coffee
6. Granola Bars
Granola is made from oats, which makes it a high-carbohydrate, ideal pre-workout snack. Added fruits provide vitamins as well as extra sugar for quick energy.Try having a 200-calorie bar about 30 to 60 minutes before your workout.
Recipe to try: Oat & Fruit Chocolate Chip Granola Bar
After You Run
Kickstart the recovery process with a snack that includes both carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates replete your energy supplies to stop your body from breaking down muscle for energy. The protein provides amino acids that are necessary for muscle repair. Because muscle repair is essential right after a run, you should aim to consume 30 to 40 grams of protein within 30 minutes of your workout.
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is great for post-run recovery because it contains both carbs and protein. One cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt has about 23 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbs, and 130 calories. You can add fruit for additional sugars, or a spoonful of peanut butter for extra protein.
Recipe to try: Yogurt & Blueberry Jam Popsicles
8. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese isn’t for everyone, but if you like its particular brand of creaminess, it’s an excellent alternative to Greek yogurt. One cup of non-fat cottage cheese has 15 grams of protein for a measly 100 calories.
Recipe to try: Skinny Cottage Cheese Pancakes
There are several benefits to a post-run smoothie. First, you can drink a smoothie relatively quickly, which means if you’re scrambling to find food within 30 minutes of your workout, a smoothie might be the answer. Second, liquid calories are easy to metabolize, meaning energy and nutrients will be readily available. The biggest benefit of smoothies, however, is that they are easy to pack with carbs and protein, the two nutrients your body will need most. For carbs, add fresh or frozen fruit, a tablespoon of oats, or a teaspoon of honey. For protein, try Greek yogurt, silken tofu, or a clean-eating protein powder.
Recipe to try: Skinny Banana Split Protein Smoothie
Eggs are a great post-run meal, even if it’s not breakfast time! They are popular among athletes because they contain all essential amino acids, and therefore provide the protein you need to rebuild and strengthen muscle tissue.
Recipe to try: Breakfast Egg & Veggie Muffin
Salmon is known for providing the good kinds of fats, fatty acids that you need for proper function. However, what makes salmon a great post-run meal is not its fat, but its protein. A 3-ounce serving of salmon has 17 grams of protein for just 170 calories!
Recipe to try: Salmon Teriyaki with Snow Peas
12. Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is a leaner option than salmon. One serving has about 27 grams of protein for under 150 calories. Look for lean options that contain little fat. Pair chicken with some carbs, such as quinoa or whole grain pasta, and you have a complete post-run meal.
Recipe to try: Chicken Breast with Pasta & Pesto
During Your Run
Eating during your run might sound a little strange, especially if you’re new to running. However, athletes have been refueling mid-run for decades. Your body can use up food-derived calories in as few as 45 minutes. If you’re running for longer than this, you might benefit from a mid-run snack. Test several snacks to see what works best for you!
13. Sports Drinks
An ideal sports drink contain sugar and electrolytes. The sugar provides energy and electrolytes keep you from dehydrating. Check out options at your grocery store, or prepare your own with fruit juice. Add a dash of green tea for caffein and nutrients.
Recipe to try: Orange Sports Drink
14. Chewy Candy
Another popular option among athletes is chewy candy. A few bites of candy provide energizing sugar without sitting too heavy in your stomach. Sports brands such as Gatorade make energy chews specifically for mid-workout snacking. However, candy such as Starburst can work just as well.
15. Dried Fruit
From raisins to dried mango, you can find dried fruit to suit anyone’s tastes. Dried fruit is like a healthier, adult version of gummy candy. Its high sugar still makes it a good mid-run snack, but you can rest assured that all ingredients are natural.
21 Ways To Boost Your Running Energy
Need more energy? Check out these 21 ways to boost your running energy and you’ll be ready and raring to go for your next training session or race.
Need more energy? Check out these 21 ways to boost your running energy and you’ll be ready and raring to go for your next training session or race.
While your running energy requirements can partly be met by having a balanced diet, you also need a balanced lifestyle. Here are some top tips combing both dietary and lifestyle choices helping you keep your running energy high throughout your runs:
Count your calories
As a runner there is a big difference between watching what you eat and not taking on enough fuel. The daily recommended calorie intake for men and women is 2,500 (10460 kilojoules) and 2,000 calories (8,370 kilojoules) respectively, and those calories are the fuel that keeps you going throughout your runs. A 15 mile (24km) run burns around 1,500 calories (6,275 kilojoules), so it’s clear you’ll need to up your calorie intake slightly on your long run days to fuel yourself.
Eat more whole grains
Whole grains are the holy grail of runners’ foods. The high fibre content of whole grains means they take longer for your body to digest, therefore fuelling you for longer during your runs. They’re also packed with other body-friendly nutrients like iron and magnesium.
Warm up properly
As well as helping to prevent injury, warming up before you run gets your body kick-started and ready to train. That means your energy reserves will be ready for you to dip into as soon as you need them, allowing you to keep going for longer when you reach the run itself.
Keeping your energy levels high is all about eating consistently throughout the day. Try having multiple small meals instead of one large meal at the end of the day. By doing so you make sure your energy intake is constant, rather than one large spike at the end of the day.
Did you know Paula Radcliffe used to sleep around nine hours each night when she was at her peak? Sleep is when your body is able to recover from your training sessions, and tops up your energy reserves for the next day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night – get that and your running energy will soar.
Mix up your routines
No matter how much you love running, if you use the same routes and routines over and over again you will get bored. We all know that boredom leads to lack of motivation and energy when it comes to running, so make sure you mix up your training by adding a variety of sessions to your schedule.
Add lentils to your meals
Lentils are tasty, versatile, and a great energy source for runners. They’re high in energy-boosting carbohydrates, and most importantly have a low glycaemic rating. That means they won’t lead to spikes in your blood sugar level, which can often lead to tiredness while exercising.
Eat natural honey
This is one snack that is best eaten before a run, rather than generally throughout the day. Natural unsweetened honey contains sugars that are easily digested by the body, making it a quick boost of natural energy to keep you going during your run.
Reduce your stress levels
One of the biggest causes of tiredness is stress. If you’re feeling stressed at work or at home this can spill over into your running training by making you feel tired and lethargic. Take steps to de-stress and you’ll soon notice a newfound burst of energy when you run.
Snack on nuts
With their healthy fats and high levels of protein and fibre, nuts are a great snack for runners. Almonds, pecans and hazelnuts are all great options, as they’re also high in vitamin E, which is an antioxidant.
You might think of it as an energy boost (and there are some short-term benefits to consuming caffeine), but as soon as you consume it you’ve potentially kick-started a cycle that leads to tiredness while you run. Caffeine consumption can cause dehydration and energy peaks and troughs.
Eat sweet potatoes
A study carried out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest pitted all vegetables against each other to find out which had the highest nutritional value, and sweet potatoes came out on top. As well as being a healthy source of carbohydrates, they contain fibre, vitamin C and potassium.
Have a sports massage
If your muscles are feeling stiff and tired, you may need a sports massage. Sports massages are great for loosening your muscles and reinvigorating your performance, so the next time you run you’ll be brimming with energy.
Drink more water
As well as avoiding diuretics, one of the best ways to prevent dehydration is obviously to drink enough water throughout the day. By drinking enough water you’ll avoid any feelings of mid-run fatigue, and make sure you’re full of energy until the end of your training session. Try drinking at least two litres (approx. 70 oz) of water per day, more depending on your level of you exercise.
Avoid sugary snacks
Snacking on sugar during the day of a run is never a good idea. With every sugary high there has to be a low, and if that hits when you’re running you’ll feel sluggish, tired, and will really struggle to perform at your usual level.
Try flexibility exercises
Supplement your training with flexibility exercises such as yoga and Pilates to seriously increase your energy levels. The breathing and flexibility taught in these disciplines will make you a more efficient runner, which means you’ll be losing less energy.
When it comes to quick and easy energy filled snacks that are good for you, it doesn’t get much better than bananas. Their high carbohydrate contents will boost your energy levels before a run, and they also contain the mood boosting amino acid tryptophan.
Even on days where you don’t have any running planned, make sure you stay active. Small tasks like walking to work instead of driving, and taking the stairs instead of the lift all add up, and ensure that your energy levels don’t start to dip due to inactivity before your next run.
Try energy gels
If you know you’re going to be running a long way then energy gels are always a great idea. They’re easy to carry, easy to use, and will give you a real burst of energy when you need it most. There’s plenty of varieties out there, so experiment during training runs to find what works best for you.
Snack on blueberries
Blueberries are a great food for runners because they’re high in both fibre and carbohydrates, as well as the antioxidant vitamin C, which all combine to keep energy levels high. As an added bonus, research carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found blueberries also improve balance and coordination.
Minimise alcohol intake
Try not to rely on alcohol as a means of unwinding during the evening. It has very negative effects physically in terms of muscle recovery, weight gain and on sleep patterns. Or, if you can’t give it up, try and have a glass of wine rather than the whole bottle.
By Stephanie Ede
4 min read
Having just qualified as 3rd overall female for the Ironman 70.3 World Champs, her long term sights are set on the full Ironman World Championships in Kona.
If you’re looking to up your running mileage or beat your PB it’s important to fuel your body properly before, during, and after your run to ensure you’re running at your best. I’m going to share some of my advice on how best to fuel your muscles to keep you running further, faster and for longer.
What you eat before you hit the road or the treadmill all depends on when you’re running and what kind of run you’re planning. Many people don’t have the time, or the stomach to eat and digest food before a workout, especially if it’s taking place in the early morning. As a general rule of thumb, I have a small snack 1-2 hours before a short run (less than an hour) and a larger snack or small breakfast before longer runs or a run later on in the day. A pre-exercise snack of 100-300 calories is plenty for runs of up to 1 hour.
Small Snack Examples:
An energy gel with water
An energy bar
For longer runs, or if you run later in the day, aim to consume 300-500 calories 1 to 2 hours before. Long lasting breakfast combinations will be rich in complex carbohydrates, have a small amount of protein and a little healthy fat, ensuring you have everything you need to keep you ticking along.
Larger Snacks or Breakfast Examples:
Porridge with fruit compote or honey
Muesli with Greek yogurt
Toast with peanut butter and banana
Running and stomach issues
I don’t believe anyone who says they’ve never experienced any kind of stomach issues when out running! Even the most experienced runners get eating wrong and end up with those dreaded issues whilst out on a training run or even worse, during a race. We just can’t predict exactly what our bodies will do and when. Studies have shown that 30 – 90% of endurance athletes suffer from some form of stomach/bowel distress, with the percent increasing with longer distances. What can we do to avoid those on-the-go gastrointestinal complaints?
Avoid certain foods pre-run
Although pre-run foods should be high in carbohydrates avoid any that make you feel full or heavy and in particular, in the 2 to 4 hours before your run, avoid the following foods known to cause gastrointestinal distress.
High fibre foods for several days before your event
Excessively fatty foods
Too much caffeine
Foods high in fructose, particularly sports drinks that are sweetened with only fructose. (Somewhat paradoxically, drinks that contain some fructose along with other sweeteners such as glucose appear to be less troublesome).
Get a routine going
Practice, practice and practice again. If you’ve had problems in the past, practice new nutrition strategies, both pre-event and while running to see what works for you.
Less is more
Despite what you might think, you can have too many calories on race day. Remember that it’s always easier to add more calories, but not so easy to “remove” them when running!
Whether it’s a drink or a drink mix or a gel, liquid calories are far easier for you to consume and process whilst running under race day stress.
My go-to nutrition brand – Science in Sport
To start I have 500ml of Hydro (Berry) every morning when I wake up. Why? It gives me the kick start and boost I need first thing in the morning and fills my body with added electrolytes ready for my training session. It also tastes great which makes me gulp it down quicker than water!
Pre and post runs I have trialled using Beta Fuel along with GO Electrolyte drink which I use to fuel much longer runs. I find these provide ample amount of carbohydrates, taste great and are a good way to take on board fuel to prepare for a heavy training day or a big race (marathon or long distance multi-sport race e.g. a triathlon).
Personally, I take on a Energy Gel around every 8km. The amount fluctuates with pace and total run distance, but without fail I always get some fuel on board around that mileage. However, I would not take a gel on a 10 or 12k run for example, I reserve gels for the runs over 90 mins. Flavours wise, I love the fruit salad or vanilla and berry with added caffeine at the later stage of the run – it works a treat! These flavours sit well with my stomach, but I like to mix them up as there are so many delicious ones!
As an Ambassador for Science In Sport I have been using REGO and the Protein 20 bars for the last 4 months now and believe they help me recover quicker and also give the best blend of carbs and protein.
I always prepare REGO in advance as timing is critical for me. At the track, it’ll be in a sachet in my bag. If I am running from home, I’ll mix it up in advance and pop it into the fridge so I can consume it as I get through the door. Maximising recovery is a key part of my training. REGO aids the recovery process so that you can come back stronger, ready to go again. There are a good variety of flavours but my personal favourite is chocolate orange.
I also love the taste of the Protein 20 bars. These provide an added energy boost before a session or are a perfect snack during the day. They are low in sugar and really high in protein (20g) so tick all of the boxes. My favourite flavour is chocolate peanut crunch.
I stand by the range of SiS products that I use, they work for me and my requirements and really help fuel my training.
Home-made is also cheap and easy
When you have some spare time (which is not very often if you are anything like me!) making your own energy snacks is a great way to save money and make sure you know exactly what you are eating. One of my favourite recipes is actually specific for cyclists, however it can definitely be used by runners too. These rice cakes are a Great Britain Cycling Team staple and provides a perfect fuel for endurance sports and have been proven on the world’s toughest bike races.
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