The Importance of an Effective Running Diet

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the lovely Deborah Sherlock from Proactive Nutrition.

Proactive Nutrition, Nutrition for Running, Running Nutrition Advice, Diet Advice for Runners, Running Diet, Foods for Runners, Food for Running,

Deborah is the founder of Proactive Nutrition, a nutrition consultation business based in Co. Sligo, Ireland, which provides expert advice on health and well-being.  Deborah holds an Honours Degree in Microbiology from NUI Galway and a Masters in Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster and is a registered member of the Association for Nutrition (afN).

Proactive Nutrition specialises in food intolerance testing, one to one consultations, sports & exercise nutrition, weight management, healthy eating plans and body composition analysis.

Deborah has kindly written below about the importance of an maintaining an effective running diet.

You can find more great advice and recipes from Proactive Nutrition on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Give them a click!

The Importance of an Effective Running Diet

Running, Nutrition, Proactive, Advice

Spring has sprung, and more and more people are now out running and training for upcoming spring/summer events. Did you know that everything you eat and drink has a direct impact on your sports performance and even enjoyment of the sport? As a runner, you have increased energy requirements. The number of calories you need to consume daily depends on the duration and intensity of your workouts. Typically you will burn about 100 calories for every mile you run depending on your size. To make sure you meet your increased energy requirements for running, it necessary to increase calorie intake, eat at the right time and balance extra nutrient intake with your current diet. Here I have compiled my best running nutrition advice and top tips on how to fuel you for your training regime.


  • Glucose after training to refuel glycogen stores

There is a 30 minute window post exercise that allows you to optimally refuel your glycogen stores. This means if you consume a meal within this window you will be refuelled for the next day. Scientific studies have shown that a meal with a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrate and protein is optimum. This ratio of carbohydrates to protein should be 3:1 or 4:1 (carbohydrates: protein). This combination of carbohydrates to protein helps the body re-synthesis muscle glycogen more efficiently than carbohydrates alone. Proper nutrition during the first 30 minute window immediately following exercise is your first step to having a better run tomorrow.


  • Proteins are important

Adequate protein intake is as important as carbohydrate intake. Protein is important to prevent muscle damage and strains and injury. Include lean red meats, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts and legumes as your protein sources.


  • Eat complex carbohydrates

Concentrate on complex carbohydrates in your normal meals. This means swapping white refined carbohydrates for brown ones. Examples of these are whole grain pasta and bread, brown rice and bulgar wheat. Combine carbohydrates with a protein source like lean red meat, fish and pulses. These complex carbohydrates are low G.I and allow a slower release of sustainable energy to fuel your run.


  • Don’t neglect good fats

Many athletes assume fats are the enemy and eliminate or strip them back from their diets. This, however, couldn’t be more wrong. Fats are important to prevent inflammation in the body. We need fats for the synthesis of fat soluble vitamins A, C and E. Lack of fat can affect immunity and slow metabolism of carbohydrates allowing the body to store them as fat rather than allow them to be used to refuel glycogen stores. Include healthy omega fats in your diet such as oily fish. Examples of these are mackerel, herring salmon, fresh tuna, sardines and kippers. Also Omega 3s can be found in flax seeds, avocados and olives.


  • Eating healthy snacks will help training

You will find that once you begin training you will have increased energy requirement. With this increase in metabolism, it is important to fuel your appetite with healthy snacks. Include fruits, fruit smoothies, seeds, cereal bars, yoghurt and sandwiches.


  • Don’t drastically change diet and habits

It is very important that you stick to foods that you enjoy eating. Don’t drastically change your habits and diet for an event. Incorporate healthy eating and good practice into your training schedule. It is important on the day of the event that you follow similar habits to what you do on typical training days to avoid G.I disruption.

  • Fatigue

Fatigue can be a natural consequence of training or an over-committed lifestyle, however, nutritional reasons should not be underestimated.  Low-carbohydrate diets, inadequate iron intake, skipping meals, inadequate fluid replacement and poor food choices can all cause fatigue.  Runners should ensure that they make time to adopt healthy eating patterns and avoid cutting out entire food groups from their diet without appropriate substitutions.  Replacing fluid between training sessions is very important.


  • Timing of meals is very important

It’s not just what you eat that’s crucial; it is also when you eat that’s important. Eating too close to the run or leaving too long of a gap between meals without snacking will impair performance. Large meals should be eaten 2-3 hours before training. A carbohydrate-rich meal or glucose drink post run is very important to refuel glycogen stores.

As a runner, your nutrition requirements vary from a less active person. You need to eat more carbohydrates to refuel, more proteins to repair muscle damage and the correct balance of fats and more nutrients as a whole. Additionally, you need to consider when to consume your snacks and foods, so your fuel tanks don’t run low. Whatever your distance the food you eat will impact your exercise so try to make the right choices.



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