Nutrition for Runners – Before, During and After Running

Today, we have a guest post from my friend Mike Burrett, a full-time Firefighter, and fitness junkee active in a range of sports. He’ll be sharing a whole heap of knowledge in nutrition to help us make better decisions, before during, and after race day. To find out more about Mike and his vast knowledge of all things gym and fitness, head over to AmplifiedFitnessTips.co.uk.

Avatar of Mike Burret

Mike Burrett

Fitness Junkee

Whether you have just started running, you’ve been running for a while, or your planning your next marathon, it is important to understand the right nutrition for runners to keep you on the right track.

In this article, we will look at what the best foods you can take to fuel your run, and, just as importantly when to eat them – before, during and after.

Disclaimer: By clicking through the links on this page and purchasing the products you’ll be helping me out. This is done because I receive a kickback from the sellers, at no extra cost to you! I thank you so much for helping me continue with the website!

Before Your Run

What you eat before your run could make all the difference in your performance and achievements. The idea is that you fuel your run to improve your ability, and you don’t just eat anything as this could have an adverse effect.

Eating foods containing high levels of fats and fiber can actually upset your stomach, so my advice would be to avoid these. Instead, look to take on some protein and carbohydrates (carbs), as for any workout.

If you can allow 3-4 hours before you hit the road, take on a large meal containing protein. If you are running within 1-2 hours have a smaller meal, focussing on carbohydrates. For fuelling with 30 – 60 minutes of a run opt for a snack and then go for your larger meal afterward.

You should be looking at 100 – 300 calories for a pre-run snack, for a run of around an hour.

For a deep dive into the best nutrition strategy pre-run, check-out, “What to eat before you run”.

Pre-Run Snacks

  • Bananas
  • A smoothie
  • 2 slices of wholemeal toast with honey/jam
  • Low fiber energy bar
  • 75g of dried fruit

Pre-Run Meal

  • Porridge oats with semi-skimmed milk and some fresh fruit
  • Wholemeal toast with peanut butter and banana
  • Muesli or granola with Greek yogurt
  • Scrambled eggs and vegetables
  • Chicken and brown rice
  • Turkey sandwich with apple sauce

Do not forget to drink plenty of fluids before your run. Water is usually fine, but you can also choose a quality sports drink if you prefer.

water bottle under water

During Your Run

Hydration is key. Even minimal fluid loss (2% body weight in sweat) can cause noticeable, negative effects, and even dehydration. Aim for 5 – 10 ounces of fluid every 15 – 20 minutes.

If you’re looking for options to carry your water, I’d suggest investing in a running vest like the Osprey Duro so you don’t have to carry anything. When you hold a weight in your hand while running you tend to throw off your form.

Unless you are competing or doing long, intensive runs, water is all you really need.

For a deep dive into the best nutrition strategy during your run, check-out, “What to eat when you run”.

Running Duration

  • < 1 Hour – Water or sports drink
  • 1 – 1.5 Hours – 30 – 60g of carbs per hour
  • 1.5 – 2.5 hours – 90g of carbs per hour

Fuel

  • Sports drinks
  • Energy gels
  • Sports gummy chews
  • Energy bars
  • Large banana

The FREE Healthy Runner Course

FREE self-guided 12-week program to catapult your journey to sustainable, physical health using small, incremental adjustments in your everyday life.

After Your Run

Look to refuel within 30 minutes after your run for optimum recovery. This should be a small meal or a snack, concentrating on carbohydrates and protein, ideally in the ratio of 3:1. And again, plenty of fluids to replace that sweat!

For a deep dive into the best nutrition strategy after your run, check-out, “What to eat after you run”.

  • Chocolate milk or milkshake and some fruit
  • Smoothie (natural yogurt and milk)
  • Porridge oats (oatmeal) with semi-skimmed milk and dried fruit
  • Omelet with vegetables and a slice of wholemeal bread
  • Toast and peanut butter
  • Muesli with Greek yogurt and fruits
strawberry smoothie

Nutrition

If you are planning to take running seriously, start thinking about your day-to-day meals and general nutrition, especially if you are looking to enter marathons or other competitions.

A good way to start is to eat what you normally would and track it for a week or two, either in a food diary or app, such as MyFitnessPal.

When you run, record how it went, how you felt during and after each time. The popular app, Strava allows you to track both your run distance and pace but also has a section for you to record your experience afterward.

When you look back over your records you can see what effects your nutrition had on your runs. Did you feel tired or lethargic? Is there anything you would change? Do you have the right amount of meals and snacks throughout the day, and in preparation for a long run?

Think about cutting out (or at least reducing) any snacks high in fats. Rather than not snacking at all, consider replacing the bad snacks for healthier alternatives.

You will come to realize that you need good sources of carbohydrates to maintain your energy levels as a runner; foods such as pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, and quinoa are good examples. Or even explore further by spouting your own food!

Most of us have seen and tried a variety of supplements and vitamins available on the market but try to get what you need from real foods, it’s better for you in the long term.

Log your water intake throughout the day, and I mean water. Try to avoid any sugary drinks – even the ‘no added sugar’ drinks contain some sugar or harmful sweeteners.

Generally, you should be drinking 2 liters of water per day and at least double that on running days.

Summary

Beginner, intermediate and seasoned runners need to understand that there is more to the activity than just throwing on a pair of running shoes and hitting the road. Particularly if you are just starting out and if you plan to enter any reputable competitions, getting the right diet and nutrition takes it from being the occasional hobby to an advanced runner.

Learn what your body needs before, during and after a run, and everything between.

Here’s another good one from Mike you might enjoy : How To Start Running For Beginners

Leave a Reply