Whether you are a seasoned runner or newbie, a good fueling plan is important and can make or break your run. Get doable nutrition tips for runners that could be just the ticket to a faster, more enjoyable run.
Tip #1 - Fuel Early and Often
Runners often wait too long to begin fueling their runs. This can put them behind on staying hydrated and bring on unnecessary gut distress.
Start fueling within the first 20-25 minutes with either a sports drink, water or food. Continue to do this at regular intervals throughout your run. It's important to do this whether you feel thirsty or not or your energy dropping or not. The goal is to prevent your energy from crashing and keep you from getting dehydrated.
It's important to use training runs to practice what this rhythm should be. Don't go into a race blind. Practice your fueling just like you practice your pace.
Fuel early and often.
Tip #2 - Put Fluid in Your Body Not Just Your Head
It's very common to see runners zoom through a drinking station and simply dump their cup over their head. I get it; it cools you off, but it needs to go INTO your body to really make a difference.
A good rule of thumb is to take 2-4 gulps of fluid at a time, every 15-30 minutes. Again, practice this during training runs to find the right interval for you.
For an all natural sports drink, try my recipe for Green Tea Sports Drink.
Tip # 3- Try All the Fuel Options
I tell all my athletes that nutrition is their secret weapon. It's not about how little can you get by with to perform, but how much do you need to be amazing. From there, I coach them to find their "power foods" the mysterious types or combos of food that make them feel amazing.
As a runner, you have all kinds of options for fueling your body during runs and races. Try them all and find your powder foods!
Sports supplements like beans, gus, blocks or beans are all a great, convenient choice. Typically, the whole serving (pack) should be consumed in each hour of running.
Food can be a good choice too. Try pretzels, granola bars, fruit snacks, bananas or even candy (yes, candy). I like Annie's fruit snacks and Peppermint Patties as specific ideas.
Tip # 4- Don't Run Empty
When your runs happen really early in the morning, eating might sound like a chore. I encourage you to change that narrative.
If you want to get the most out of your runs (who doesn't?), then having fuel in your system is crucial for accomplishing that. This is even more important as you age! As a young buck, you could probably hit the pavement with zero in your system and be just fine. Well, those days are over and it's time to fuel for a purposeful run.
Practice eating breakfast before training runs to get used to having fuel in your stomach. This can only help you when you run long distances.
Simple ideas for pre-run fueling are:
- Honey Packs (my personal favorite)
- CLIF Bar Mini's
- Sports Drinks
- Fruit Snacks
- Pre-workout supplement
Tip # 5 - Carb Loading is More Than One Meal
While the meal the night before a big race is important, a balanced diet based on carbohydrate is important day in and day out when you are a distance runner. Try to get about 60% of your meals from carbs like fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and dairy/milk alternatives.
There's nothing magical about pasta the night before a race so don't be afraid to try other options. I like big sandwiches (low in fat) or a grilled chicken sandwich on a big bun with fruit. Homemade pizza could also be a good option. Whatever you choose, just make sure you've tried it before.
Here are some easy recipes that make meals the night before a race or really any night:
- Vegetarian Beans and Rice Casserole
- Beans, Rice and Plantain Dinner
- Simple & Sweet Marinara
- Autumn Rice Bowl
- All Year Round Turkey Cranberry Sandwich
Tip # 6 - Recovery Nutrition Matters
Recovery nutrition immediately following the race can make a BIG difference in how you feel the next day. Berries are a great source of inflammation fighting compounds and some of them, like cherries, have been shown to reduce post exercise muscle soreness.
Try making my Chocolate Tart Cherry Recovery Smoothie ahead of time and bring it in a cooler to have right after the run. The protein, carbs and antioxidants will help repair muscles and alleviate muscle soreness.
For a grab and go option, I love drinking tart cherry juice after a hard workout.
Tip # 7 - Find the Right Fueling Equipment
Obviously, fluids and fuel do not just appear for you out on your run like Super Mario coins. You have to carry fuel with you.
There are so many options for running gear that help you carry your fuel and fluids. Keep trying options till you find what is the most comfortable for you.
I personally love this Nathan Handheld Running Water Bottle because it's ergonomic and holds some fuel in the pocket too.
Personal Nutrition Coaching for Runners
For runners who are looking for a more personalized nutrition plan, I offer sports nutrition coaching packages through my private practice. Check out my offerings HERE and more about me as a sports dietitian HERE.