Fit & Fresh

The Basics of Nutrition for Runners


Spring is here which means race season has officially begun! There’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing all of your hard work from training pay off when you cross the finish line on race day. Am I right?

Whether you are running a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon, what you choose to fuel your body with during training and on race day can have a significant impact on how you feel during and after your run.

The 411 on Training Nutrition

As you embark on your training journey, it’s important to recognize that your body will need optimal nutrients in order to perform at its best, so I’ve turned to the experts to help give you some simple guidelines to follow.

Carbohydrates are the “gas” for your fuel tank and can be found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

For longer runs, healthy fats are an equally important fuel source and can be consumed through a variety of nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and salmon.

Don’t forget about protein! While this key nutrient isn’t necessarily used as fuel during the run, it will help speed up recovery and prevent injury. Protein helps build and repair muscle, ligaments and tendons, and can be found in lean sources, such as chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, dairy, plant-based tofu, beans, peas, nuts and whole grains.

Whether you’re training for a race or supporting a loved one in their journey, variety is key to ensure that you are getting the proper amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. And don’t forget – whole, minimally processed foods is best!

Pre-Run Fuel

Let’s talk pre-race/run fuel for a moment, shall we? In order to avoid running “on empty”, aim to eat a snack 45 minutes to one hour before your run. Snacks should be high in carbs and easy to digest. Some healthy snack ideas include toast, a bagel, breakfast bar, sports drinks, coconut water (my favorite!) and fruit smoothies.

Going on a morning run? While it might seem impossible to squeeze in the recommended meal 3-4 hours before a run, there are several ways to work around this. One way is to eat a bedtime breakfast by opting for a bowl of cereal with fruit, fruit smoothie or sandwich with peanut butter and banana. If you don’t like the sound of that, or you aren’t training for an extensive race, opt for light fuel before heading out the door with a banana and peanut butter or bowl of oatmeal.

Post-Run Recovery

After your run, it’s important to refuel and rehydrate. Fitting in a balanced meal or snack made up of mostly carbohydrates, with some protein and healthy fats, will help replenish the nutrients that were used during your run.

Race Day

The biggest piece of advice that I know from my own experience with training, as well as what I read from the experts is to not try anything new on race day. Stick with what you know will fuel your body properly in order to have a comfortable and successful race!

Before significantly altering your diet for your training program, it’s always recommended to talk with your physician or a registered dietitian to ensure that you will be getting the proper nutrition your body needs.


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