Eat Better, Run Faster: A Comprehensive Nutrition Guide for Runners

Ein Mann sitzt nach dem Sport in der Küche und trinkt einen grünen Smoothie

Whether you’re a beginning, intermediate, or marathon runner, the right nutrition is essential if you want to fuel your best performance. This comprehensive nutrition guide gives you an overview of what you should eat before, during, and after a run.

Somebody eats two eggs, veggies and bread

Eat this…

…before a run

The food you eat before your workout can have a positive influence on your running performance, but it can also really slow you down. Avoid foods that are high in fiber and fat before your run. They are harder to digest and can upset your stomach. Plus, you should wait about three hours after having a large meal (focus on carbs and protein) before working out. Grab a small, low-fiber, high-carb snack 30 to 60 minutes before your run. You need about 30 to 60 g of carbohydrates per hour for intense workouts over 60 minutes or moderate sessions over 90 minutes. So refill your glycogen stores beforehand; it will give you the energy you need.

Good pre-run snacks (around 50 g of carbohydrates):

  • two bananas
  • two slices of toast with honey or jam
  • two low-fiber granola bars
  • 75 g of dried fruit (e.g. apricots)

Do you want to lose some weight?

Running on an empty stomach in the morning can be a welcome change in your workout. 

Be careful not to experiment with new foods before your run. Stick with what you know you can digest easily. Also make sure you drink enough. In most cases water will give you what you need, but you can also hydrate with a good sports drink. If you don’t drink enough fluids before or during your workout, your performance will suffer.

A green and a red smoothie in a smoothie glass

Calculate how much you should drink per day:

during a run

Staying hydrated on a long run (more than one hour) is vital to avoid dehydration and exhaustion. A study conducted by the University of Connecticut confirmed that even minimal fluid loss (a body mass reduction of < 2%) can substantially impair your endurance and lead to dehydration.

Running more than 10 km? Fill up your reserves with an additional 600 to 1000 ml (20 to 34 oz) of water and/or electrolyte drinks per hour you’re active.

Plus, make sure you also fill up your glycogen stores with carbs (30 to 60 g per hour). Come prepared and bring energy gels or high-carb drinks when you hit the road.

DIY sports drinks for different activities:

  • For moderate workouts (< 1 hour): 80 ml (3 oz) multivitamin syrup + 920 ml (31 oz) water + one pinch of table salt
  • For intense workouts (> 1 hour): 70 ml (2 oz) fruit syrup + 930 ml (30 oz) mineral water (uncarbonated) + 20 g (4 tsp) maltodextrin + one pinch of table salt

A bowl of fresh fruits and oatmeal

…after a run

Recharge your batteries after a demanding run: get your energy back with a snack containing complex carbohydrates and protein (at a 3:1 ratio) one hour after your run. This helps you refill your glycogen stores and boosts recovery. Careful, though: don’t eat too much – a big meal can upset your stomach and lead to nausea.

Perfect post-workout snacks:

Are you looking for great recipes for runners? Check out Runtastic Fitness Coach Lunden’s useful tips for pre- and post-workout snacks:

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Julia Denner Runtastic dietitian Julia is a creative cook. She is convinced that a varied diet and regular exercise are the keys to success. View all posts by Julia Denner »

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