Nutrition strategies for runners

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Long Distance running requires a mindful approach to food, since everything we drink and eat has a direct impact on our performance and even our enjoyment of the sport: It’s hard to love being a runner when you’re bonking. So I compiled the best advice on how to fuel your runs—including the finest energy sources, smartest hydration strategies, and ideal timing techniques tips. Whether you’re looking to uncork your performance potential or to shed those final five pounds, you’ll find answers here.

Fuel Rules:

Running keeps you fit. But to lose weight and run your best, focus on what you eat!

1: Eat Real Food:
Convenience food have their place: Energy chews during a run or a bottled smoothie afterwards provide fast and nutritious fuel. But the bulk of a runners diet should consist of whole foods. Fish, chicken, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low fat dairy, fruit - these healthy staples provide more nutritional value than highly processed options. Plus, preparing meals from real-food sources gives you more control over your sodium, fat, and calorie intake.

2: Quality Carbs:
Because they fuel workouts and nourish spent muscles, carbs should be the backbone of a runner’s diet. But some carbs deliver greater value than others. Make most of your carbs whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And remember: The less processing a plant receives, the more nutritious it is (think potatoes, not potato chips).

3: Write It Down:
Write down everything you eat and drink for several days to evaluate your eating habits. Are you snacking more than you realise? Reaching for sweets too often? Keep a ledger to identify areas where there’s room for improvement.

4: Indulge in Occasion:
Allow yourself the occasional dessert or cocktail to satisfy cravings and keep those urges from becoming binges. Just keep an eye on portions and frequency.

5: Drink Deliberately:
Fluids are an essential part of any runner’s fuelling plan: By staying hydrated, you’ll boost performance and minimise nuisances like GI distress. But watch the calories: Drinks that are high in sugar can contribute to weight gain. Limit fruit juice, pass on soft drinks, and switch your morning mocha to a cup of tea or coffee.

How Much Do I Need?

Your calorie needs vary by body weight and activity level. Here’s how to estimate what’s right for you:

1: Multiply your goal weight by 10.
2: Add to that: 20 percent of that number if you’re a desk jockey; 50 percent if you’re moderately active; 70 percent if you’re moving all day.
3: Add the calories burned during your workouts.
4: Reduce the total by 15 percent.
5: The final figure is the number of calories you should consume daily to achieve or maintain your goal weight while maintaining enough energy for exercise and your daily activities.


Going overboard in the days before your event can ruin your big day. Here’s how to handle prerace nutrition:

The Myth:
Bingeing on carbs before a race maxes out muscle glycogen, which sustains endurance for distance events like marathons.

The Truth:
Flooding your system with more carbs than it can handle will leave you feeling bloated and increase the likelihood of unplanned porta-potty stops.

The Strategy:
You don’t need to gorge yourself on extra calories; simply shift more of your total calories toward carbs (about 60 to 65 percent) in the weeks before your marathon or half-marathon, while reducing your mileage. You’ll effectively boost your glycogen stores without incurring those unwanted negative side effects.

A Runner's Plate:

To make sure each meal delivers the nutrients you need, give key food groups their place on your plate.

Carbohydrates (55-65%) Such as fruits, whole-grain breads, pasta, and vegetables
Unsaturated fats  (20-35%) Such as olive oil, walnuts, and avocados
Lean Protein (10-35%) Such as chicken, sirloin, tofu, nuts, and seeds

Count your carbs:
You know that 55 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbs. If you’re running 25 miles a week, that’s about 2.25 grams of carbohydrate for each pound of body weight: A 150-pound runner requires 340 grams a day. Running higher mileage? Increase your intake to 3.5 grams of carbs for each pound you weigh.

Slow versus Fast Carbs:
High-fibre carbohydrates (such as oatmeal, fruit, and vegetables) are slowly digested, so they deliver long-lasting energy. Slow carbs should be the basis of your diet. But right before or after your run, reach for fast carbs (such as pasta, white rice, and potatoes): These low-fiber fuels are quickly digested to provide a fast energy hit.

Timing is everything:

To get the most from your workouts and races, use these fuelling strategies before, during and after your run:

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