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Here are 7 strategies to make sure that you get the most out of your run by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Eat Real Food – If you are a distance runner, chances are you will be relying on quick and easy to ingest and digest forms of nutrients during your long training runs and on race day. Do your best to save the bars, gels and shakes for when they are most necessary and get most of your nutrients from real food. Eat a mixed diet of wild fish, grass fed beef and chicken, colorful vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits.

Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates are very important to a runner’s diet. They help you sustain your energy and fuel your muscles during the duration of your runs. To get the most benefit out of carbohydrates, select complex carbohydrates which are more nutrient dense than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates break down in your body much more slowly to help sustain energy levels over a longer period of time. Include starchy vegetables, root vegetables, as well as sprouted grains, beans and vegetables in your diet.

Pre-race, make sure that you stick with the carbohydrates that digest most easily. Some vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel’s sprouts) while nutritious, can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable on race day!

Around 40-50% of your daily nutrient intake should come from carbohydrates.

Pre-Run Meals and Snacks – Each person is different when it comes to eating before a training run or pre-race. What ever you choose to do during your training, keep this the same pre-race.

  • Allow 3-4 hours to digest a full meal
  • Allow 1-2 hours to digest a snack
  • Do what is best for YOUR body and test this out pre-race!

Hydration – A great guideline is to hydrate with 20 ounces of fluid 2 hours before exercise. Not only is it important to make sure that you rehydrate post exercise, but that you go into your run or race already hydrated.

To figure out how much you need to rehydrate post workout, complete the sweat test. Weigh yourself sans clothing before your run, when you return, weigh in again. For every pound that you lost in sweat during your run, rehydrate with 20-24oz of water.

Also – a good reminder is if you are thirsty, it is likely that you are already slightly dehydrated so drink water in smaller amounts throughout your day. Aim for half your body weight in fluid ounces of water each day.

Protein Fat & Carbs – For runners, most of the macro-nutrient attention goes to carbohydrates. While we can all agree that carbohydrates are important for sustaining energy for running, protein and fat play an important role in the diet of a runner.

Proteins are the building blocks for our muscles and help repair the body after an especially intense workout. Fat helps to lubricate our joints and satisfy our hunger.

Make sure that your meals and snacks throughout the day include carbohydrates, protein and fat. A good rule of thumb for these 3 macro nutrients is 40-50(C)/30-40(P)/20(F)%

Lastly – You cannot out run a poor diet – While it is true that your running will burn calories and help you stay in good physical condition, what you eat is essential to maintaining a healthy physique.

It doesn’t just matter how many calories you eat vs. how many your burn. It matters much more the quality of the calories you eat.

If you are killing yourself training and not seeing the results you would like, take a closer look at your diet and compare it with the tips above. Many times one or two simple changes can go a long way.

Article written by: Natalie Peterson MS, CSCS, RYT