Runner’s diet: what to know
Running takes a lot of energy, but knowing what and when to eat can be confusing for new runners. Eating a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates will keep runners energized and satisfied.
Each plan is individual. No single diet works for everyone, and there is no specific diet that works for every runner.
If someone is starting a running program, they may want to make some changes to their current diet. They can
A person’s calorie needs vary depending on their weight, height, and energy expenditure. Runners should be aware that they will need to increase their calories to recover and function properly when increasing their mileage.
Read on to find out what runners should eat, how they should plan their pre- and post-race meals, and more.
A runner’s diet typically includes a balance of all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
By focusing on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, people are generally getting enough micronutrients. These include vitamins and minerals that help the body function and recover from workouts.
Diet is individual and different ratios of macronutrients may work better for some people than for others. According to
- 45 to 65% carbohydrates
- 10-35% protein
- 20-35% fat
Runners should also make sure that they are consuming enough calories to support their training program. The caloric needs of a person depend on several factors,
- resting metabolic rate
- The daily activities
- specific training needs
- body composition
- race conditions
As a general rule, the more kilometers a person travels, the more calories they will need.
Learn more about how to determine daily calorie needs.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, and the body uses them in many life-sustaining biological processes. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables will generally provide a person with a healthy level of micronutrients.
They can be particularly important for athletes.
Doing a lot of training can put the body in an inflammatory state, sometimes immunocompromised. It makes it easier to get sick and feel exhausted. A 2000 article points out that in addition to eating enough calories, consuming enough micronutrients
While most people can get their micronutrients from food, some people with restricted diets may lack them.
Research from 2019 suggests that people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet
Eating enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat will keep runners fit and healthy. Although individual needs vary, many runners can follow some basic guidelines when planning their diet.
Carbohydrates are a
A 2008 study of elite runners found that most participants consumed
While most amateur runners don’t run the 100 or more miles per week that elites do, they should still focus on getting enough carbs. Eating too little can lead to slow runs, poor recovery, injury, and overtraining.
Nutritional sources of carbohydrates contain fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some popular sources of carbohydrates among runners
Learn more about nutritious, high-carbohydrate foods to try.
Some runners limit their fiber intake at certain times to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort. This could mean eating a low-fiber meal before a workout, long run, or run. However, the amount and types of carbohydrates that an individual’s gut can tolerate vary from person to person. Runners may therefore want to experiment with the pre-race foods that work best for them.
Protein builds and repairs hard-working bones, tissues, and muscles. This means that eating enough protein is essential for muscle recovery after training.
It can be helpful to prioritize consuming a high protein snack or meal after a run.
Healthy protein sources include:
Fat is an essential part of a balanced diet and is particularly important for nerve function.
Healthy sources of monounsaturated fats include:
Healthy sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
Many runners find it difficult to get the right nutrition before workouts. They need to find a balance between eating enough calories and not eating foods that can upset their stomachs.
Runners should aim to eat an easily digestible meal or snack before a race. If they are doing a longer run, they may want to consume more carbohydrates to ensure they have the energy to complete the workout.
They should also prioritize a snack or meal that is high in carbohydrates and protein after the race.
Before you run
Runners should eat a small meal that is low in fat and fiber before running. They should aim to have a moderate amount of protein and a high amount of carbohydrate.
Several hours before a workout, a person should consume 1 to 4 grams (g) of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass. An hour before running, they may want to recharge their energy stores with a small, high-carb snack, such as a banana.
Runners don’t have to worry about consuming food during most races. However, long efforts like marathon training runs require people to eat while they run.
If someone runs for 1 to 2.5 hours, they should aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour.
The meal that a person consumes after a run is important for muscle recovery. What they should eat depends on the length and intensity of their run.
They need to make sure their meals contain protein to promote muscle repair and carbohydrate to replace depleted glycogen stores. In addition, they must drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids.
Whether a person is training for a 5k or a marathon, starting a new running program may require dietary changes.
Anyone who thinks they could benefit from a better understanding of how their diet affects their training may want to contact a registered dietitian. They can help a person plan their diet to support running performance and help runners cope with any issues they may have.
A runner’s diet varies from person to person, but it should incorporate a balance of macronutrients, adequate carbohydrates, and micronutrients from plant foods.
Carbohydrates are the
If a person wants to improve their diet to increase their running performance, they may want to contact a registered dietitian.