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Nutrition Tips for Runners

Nutrition is a complex topic as diet and nutrition requirements varies for each individual. This is dependent on diverse factors So while we can't give specific dietary recommendations, what we can do is give you general framework on how to think about this. My recommendation for you is to apply this framework and try few things to figure out which sticks for you.

So how to think about Nutrition to power your run and beyond?

Let us first align on what does success look like for a proper nutrition and diet. For me, the answer to this question is dependent on the following factors:

- You have adequate energy resources to power your run

- You are taking care of post run recovery to mend your body after a run

Nutrition then can be divided into 3 stages:

1. What you eat before the run ?

2. What you eat during the run ?

3. What you eat after the run ?

Before we go into each of these at a high level, what are some high level ideas on nutrition:

1. Most runners run for weight loss. That does not mean you run without eating anything and assume magically all your fat will be dissolved. It wont. You will get fully exhausted or even injured if there are no readily available energy source and your mind is pushing for a high calorie need activity like running .

2. To burn fat, you need to train your body to burn it in a controlled manner. This can be achieved with discipline and committed effort over the training period.

3. In general the thumb rule we recommend on nutrition: 60-70% Carbohydrates, rest from Lean protein, health fats etc. One need to ensure Vitamin D, Calcium and Iron (especially for Women runners) stores are adequate. All of them are needed for bone health to avoid stress fracture. So if you are deficient in these and you are training hard, please talk to your physician and start with some supplements.

1. What you eat before the run?

- We recommend if you are having a proper meal (say) before the long run in the afternoon, give 2-3 hours

- If you are planning to eat a snack, do it about 45 mins before the run.

- If it’s been more than three to four hours since you’ve eaten, a carbohydrate-rich snack a half-hour before running can ensure you have adequate glucose available before you head out.

- Some suggestions: Bananas, Bagels, White bread toast, Good sized bowl of Cereal works great !

2. What you eat during the run?

- The idea of eating something during the run is essentially to ensure you do not go into a Glycogen deficit mode during the run and hence get into what is called as 'Bonking'. It means that calorie requirement is lot higher than calorie available. Even though you have fat stores, unfortunately your body is not able to process it or not yet trained to process fat and give you the energy.

- During run eat typically is needed if the runs are more than an hour. So you do not have to worry about eating for say most of your weekday runs (except FM runners)

- During runs as your distance increases we will recommend Gels which is a easy source of glycogen for you that will help your body not go into bonking mode.

- Other things you can try is having some home made juice, dates, oranges

- How to burn fat you ask? - Well run CP!

3. What you eat after a run?

- This is very important and often missed by runners.

- This is when your body is in rapid recovery mode. Like torn micro failures of muscle fibers are being rectified. Also need to replenish glycogen stores a bit. So you should have some protein and good complex carbs

- Best is to have a nice healthy protein shake. Others have done Peanut Butter sandwich, Pastas etc. Unfortunately I like to have a nice big South Indian carb rich meal after a long run... (NOT GOOD! I am still working on it.. but boy it is too good to resist after a long run)

4. Finally what foods should a runner avoid before the run?

- The logic for this is very simple.. avoid foods that will cause discomfort during the run. Discomfort can come in many forms. Some examples from my own personal experience

- Spicy/Fatty foods - It caused GI issues for me. Digesting such heavy food requires lots of blood supply and when you do a long run.. that is sort of constricted and hence you get GI issues during the run! - AVOID

- High fiber food before run - Again same GI issues

- Caffeine - Very tempting to have a nice shot of coffee and run. But boy it has a direct impact on increased HR and you all know how that will affect your run! As a matter of fact, I have personally gone total decaf.

Useful References:

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Coach Balaji Sankaran (Bala) and his team of coaches deliver a 5K/8K/10K/half/full/ultra marathon training program - ‘Runner’s High with Bala’ under RHWB LLC. This is a 16-20 weeks structured cardiova


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