Running Nutrition - Diet Tips for Runners

Proper sports nutrition is often the most neglected part of a runners training. The entire message I'm going to convey regarding running nutrition can be boiled down to the following statement:

Eat right and you'll run better.

It's that simple.

Your body functions best, and you run better, when your diet includes the right kinds of foods in the right amounts at the right times. The following sports nutrition information will enable you to put together your ideal diet, one that will help you achieve your ideal body weight, and get the most out of your running. You'll learn the basics of good sports nutrition. Finally, you'll learn how to hydrate and fuel your body before, during and after your workouts.

Ready? Here goes!

Listed below are the sports nutrition topics we will be discussing in this section:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Fats
  3. Protein
  4. Water
  5. Vitamins/Minerals/Supplements
  6. Eating Before, During, and After a Run
  7. General Nutrition Tips for Runners
  8. Top Running Nutrition Recommendations


Why are carbohydrates so important?

Here's the easy one-word answer: Energy!

Carbs (as they're sometimes referred to), are your body's main source of energy for aerobic exercise. Your body coverts the carbohydrates you eat into glucose (a simple sugar). Glucose is then immediately used by your body for energy or is stored in the muscles as glycogen. Glycogen stores are utilized by runners and help keep you from "bonking" or "hitting the wall". You've run out of carbohydrates if you have to slow dramatically to continue running.

So, how do you keep from "hitting the wall" or running out of glycogen stores?

The trick is to store energy by eating carbs on a continuous basis. Experienced runners focused on meeting their nutrition needs eat the right carbs in the right amounts at the right times! Experts recommend that your diet should consist of 60 to 65% carbohydrates. This amount will keep your muscles well-fueled so that you can meet both your nutrition and training goals.

Carbohydrates are broken down into two basic categories:

Simple carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are the most basic form of sugar. Examples of foods containing simple carbohydrates are candy, fruit and sodas. These foods can provide a quick burst of energy-but it's only temporary. For this reason, you should keep simple carbohydrate snacks to a minimum. But feel free to enjoy a treat every now and then, especially after a good run.

Complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates provide energy on a more consistent, long-term basis. That's why experts recommend that the majority of the calories you get from carbohydrates be in the form of complex carbohydrates. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates include cereals, pasta, breads, rice, potatoes, and vegetables. It's important that you maintain a diet high in complex carbohydrates to support your running program and meet your sports nutrition needs.

Looking for simple, healthy, and great tasting way to meet your carbohydrate needs so you can perform your best?

I highly recommend: The Athlete's Cookbook.

The Athlete's Cookbook contains over 192 pages of unique high carb and low fat recipes for the true athlete.


Fats, in many cases, get a bad rap. The confusion lies in how much fat is healthy in your diet as well as the type of fat you should be eating.

So what's the bottom line?

Your body needs fat but not all fats are created equal!

Each type of fat is okay in limited amounts, but some fats better meet your running nutrition needs than others. Fats are classified as:

  • Saturated
  • Poly-Unsaturated
  • Mono-Unsaturated

Saturated fats
Saturated fats are easy to spot. They remain solid at room temperature. Common examples include red meat and dairy products. These fats are required by the body in small amounts and should make up just 10% of your overall caloric intake.

Poly-unsaturated fat
These fats stay semi-solid at room temperature. Many margarine and butter alternatives as well as vegetable oils are made with poly-unsaturated fats. Poly-unsaturated fats are a step closer to the "good" fat you should make a staple of your diet. However, you can go one step farther.

Mono-unsaturated fat
Mono-unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Examples include olive oil and most other natural oils. Recent studies have shown that diets with a higher proportion of mono-unsaturates seem to reduce the risk of heart disease and better meet your sports nutrition needs. As a result, you should obtain 20 to 25% of your daily calories from fats with the majority of those coming from mono-unsaturated fats.

Once again, I recommend The Athlete's Cookbook as a great source of information and ideas on simple ways to eat right so that you can run your best!


As you exercise and eat right, you'll feel your body getting stronger.


Proteins absorbed during consumption.

Protein helps to build muscle and tendons, repair broken down muscles, and regulate hormones. Meats, eggs, beans and nuts are common examples of foods that contain significant amounts of protein. Experts agree that runners need 10 to 20% of their daily calories from protein.

Most people, however, eat two to three times their protein requirement each day!

As a runner, your increased caloric intake needed to maintain a sufficient energy level for running should be more than enough to meet your recommended protein and nutrition requirements.


Did you know that water makes up between 60-70% of your total body mass? Although water doesn't provide energy (or calories), your body requires large amounts of H2O in order to function properly. It's a running nutrition requirement.

Water regulates the core temperature of your body. As you run, your working muscles produce large amounts of heat that must be released in order to prevent your core temperature from rising to dangerously high levels. To dissipate this heat, your body perspires causing water loss and potential dehydration.

As a runner, you should consistently hydrate yourself during both warm and cold weather. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already suffering from dehydration, causing your running to suffer, and putting you at risk. Most runners fall short on their fluid replacement and manage only to replace about half of their losses. You know you're drinking enough water if you urinate about once an hour and it is clear.

Finally, spread out fluid intake during the day to maintain steady water levels and remember to drink past the feeling of thirst to adequately replenish lost fluid.


Concerned that your running nutrition needs are not being met? Looking for the latest pill, shake, vitamin, mineral, or supplement to help you gain a leg up on the competition (or your running buddy next door)?

In most cases, all you have to do is follow the advice your Mom gave you: Eat a varied, well-balanced diet.

A varied, well-balanced diet will include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and non-processed foods. One way to ensure that you are getting all the fruit and vegetables you need is to eat them as healthy snacks throughout the day. While fruits are an obvious snack, crispy handfuls of carrots, celery, cucumbers or other favorite vegetables make great desk foods. Juices are also a great way to consume your daily allotment of fruits and vegetables. The advantages of juices include helping to keep you hydrated, contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and they provide a source of energy all day long.

In recent years, several major studies have shown that it makes sense for runners to supplement their normal dietary intake with the antioxidants vitamins C and E and betacarotene. Vitamin C can be obtained easily through either fruit juices or supplements. Vitamin E, on the other hand, is not so easily obtained within the diet. Sports nutrition supplementation is an answer. Shoot for 30 to 200 international units per day.

If your diet is somewhat unbalanced and/or you feel you need some sports nutrition insurance, daily multi-vitamins with minerals are the answer.

I highly recommend: Xtend-Life Total Balance Vitamins (Men/Women).

Personal Testimonial

I began taking a half-dose (3 tablets/day) of Xtend-Life Total Balance(Men/Women) vitamin supplements in early November 2004. It's early January 2005 and with NO other changes in eating or training, here are my running results from November thru December 2004 : set personal records in 10K and marathon road races, equaled my best time of year for a 5K even after getting in a pre-race 5 mile run, have dropped approximately 10 seconds off my 800 meter speed workout time, lost 1 inch in waist, lost 6 pounds overall and have greater endurance and energy.

What do I truly believe is the difference? Xtend-Life Total Balance(Men/Women) vitamin supplements!

Just think what might have happened if I had taken the entire daily dose! Will your results be the same or better than mine? It's impossible to predict but what I can say is that I whole-heartedly recommend Xtend-Life Total Balance(Men/Women) vitamin supplements.

It's December 2010 and I still take and strongly recommend Xtend-Life Total Balance (Men|Women) vitamin supplements. I have since switched to a full dose (reformulated & 4 tablets/day) and continue to run strong and feel great.

Accomplishments since my last update: completed two Half Ironman competitions, qualified for Boston with a new PR and met a long time goal by running the Boston Marathon in April 2010.

I attribute a lot of my success to solid training habits and supplementing my nutrition with Xtend-Life Total Balance (Men|Women) vitamin supplements!

Jeff Ray
Webmaster - The Running Advisor

Click Here to Get Started on Total Balance Today!(Men/Women)

Total Balance - MensTotal Balance - Womens

Eating and Hydrating Before, During, and After a Run

Consume 25-50g of carbs 1-2 hours before exercise. Try an energy bar, toast, bowl of cereal, bagel, or a banana. Avoid foods that are likely to upset your stomach and bowel such as: greasy foods, high-fiber foods, high protein foods, and caffinated drinks. Drink 8-16 oz. of water or combine with the above in a carbohydrate drink.

During run
Consume 25g of carbs for every 45 minutes of exercise. Go for a gel pack or sports bar and remember to wash them down with water. Gel packs typically contain 25-30 grams and are easy to digest. Drink 4-8 oz. water or diluted sports drink for every 15 minutes of exercise. The consumption of sports drinks and carbohydrates during most runs reduces the stress on your body and improves your post-run recovery.

Consume 25-50g carbs immediately after exercising. This can be a combination of food and drink. You will need to re-hydrate with water while eating an energy bar, bagel, or some form of carbohydrate. An alternative to combining food and drink is to drink 25-50 grams of carbohydrates in a sports drink if you have a hard time eating right after a workout.

Drink 16 oz. of water for every pound lost during exercise and continue to drink water throughout the day. Consume another 25-50g carbs 30 minutes after exercise. One hour after running consume 50-100g of carbs and 20-40g of protein. This is a great time to eat a well balanced, sit-down meal. Soup and a sandwich, salads, whatever suits your tastes. Chicken and tuna are great sources of protein. Consume 50-100g of carbs per hour and 20-40g of protein every 2 hours. Continue to do this for 6 hours after your run. You will find that by following this sports nutrition routine, especially on your long run days, you'll feel refreshed rather than exhausted after your workout.

General Sports Nutrition Tips for Runners

Listed below are some general nutrition tips for runners:

  1. A good diet will help you to stay healthy enough to run your best.
  2. Drink lots of water.
  3. Replenish your carbohydrates within two hours of exercise.
  4. You should get 60-65% of your calories from carbohydrates, 15% of your calories from protein, and 20-25% of your calories from fat.
  5. Keep a food diary and track what you eat.
  6. Besides eating a good, well-balanced diet, the following vitamins/minerals are helpful to many runners: Vitamins C and E, betacarotene, and one-a-day multivitamins.

Top Running Nutrition Recommendations

You may already eat a nutritionally balanced diet and have no need for any additional help. If so, great! But, if you are like most of us, you may need some help in optimizing your health and eating habits. I truly believe I have just what you need to give you that running edge.

Listed below are my Top Recommendations:

  1. Xtend-Life Total Balance Vitamin Supplements(Men/Women)
    THE Best Multi-Vitamin Supplement on the Market! Need more information on Total Balance? Check out my review: Xtend-Life Total Balance Review

  2. Total Balance - MensTotal Balance - Womens

  3. The Athlete's Cookbook
    A Great Formula for Eating Right and Eating Well!

  4. Additional Running Nutrition Articles/Resources:

    A Runner's Diet
    Running Weight Loss