Nutrition for Endurance: Running
General and Daily Nutrition for Running
Nutrition is a key factor in endurance sports and is just as
important as a good training regimen. The number of calories you need
for running depends on a number of factors: your body weight, how fast
you run, how long you run, and your training frequency. A recreational
runner will have very different calorie needs than a competitive runner
who logs 100 miles per week while training. For example, a 150-pound
recreational runner burns 10 calories per minute while running a
12-minute mile, and a 110-pound competitive runner burns 14 calories
per minute while running 6-minute mile.
- Carbohydrate is the most important fuel for runners, so consuming
adequate carbohydrate on a daily basis is necessary to replenish your
energy stores. When you train, eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
at every meal.
- When training hard every day, runners need 3.6 to 4.5 grams of
carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day. For recreational
runners, 2.3 to 2.7 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per
day is enough.
- Runners need 0.55 to 0.64 grams of protein per pound of body
weight per day as well. The typical American diet provides plenty of
protein, so runners usually get enough protein without adding protein
drinks or supplements. Good sources of protein include fish, chicken,
turkey, lean cuts of beef, low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, low fat
cheeses, eggs, nuts, and soy.
- Runners burn more fat than people who don’t exercise. Calories
from fat should make up about 20% to 25% of the calories in a runner’s
diet. Choose heart-healthy fats, such as canola oil, olive oil, and
How to Fuel: Pre/During/Post-Exercise
1. Pre-exercise: Your pre-exercise goal is to be fueled for your
training. The ideal pre-exercise meal should be carbohydrate rich and
well tolerated. The number of carbohydrates you need depends on your
weight and the timing of the meal prior to exercise. Generally, you
should consume 0.5g – 2g per pound of body weight of carbohydrate 1 to
4 hours prior to exercise.
For example a 145 lb person: 1 hour before his run should consume 0.5 g per pound weight (e.g. 145 x 0.5 = 72.5 grams)
- 1 small banana (15g of carbs) + 1 slice toast (15g of
carbs) + 1 Tbsp of jam (15g of carbs) + 16 oz of Gatorade (30g of
carbs) = 75 grams of carbohydrate
- 1 cup of cooked oatmeal (30g of carbs) + 4 Tbsp raisins (30g of
carbs) + 8 oz Gatorade (15g of carbs) = 75 grams of carbohydrate
2. During: Consuming 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate every hour has
proven to improve performance in exercise lasting longer than 90
minutes. Your pre-workout meal will provide enough energy for
exercises lasting less than 90 minutes. Try gels, energy drinks, or
anything that you can tolerate.
3. Post- exercise: If your exercise lasts longer than 90 minutes,
you should consume 0.7 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight
immediately after exercise, followed by 0.7 grams of carbohydrate per
pound of body weight 2 hours later, which will enhance your muscle
recovery rate. Consume carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed into
your bloodstream. You may prefer a high-carbohydrate drink if your
stomach does not tolerate solid food immediately after exercise.
Adding a small amount of protein (about 6-15grams) will also provide
amino acids for building and repairing muscle tissue.
For example a 145 lb person should consume 0.7 grams of
carbohydrate per pound of body weight + 6-15 grams of protein (e.g. 0.7
x 145 = 101grams of carbohydrate + 6-15g of protein)
- 1 bagel (60 grams of carbs) + 8 oz chocolate milk (45 grams of carbs) + 2 oz of low fat cheese (14 grams of protein)
Top Three Nutrition Tips for Improving Performance
- Drink enough fluid. All the training in the world won’t make
you a better runner if you are dehydrated. Develop a fluid plan and
stick with it. Choose a sport drink to replace fluids, provide
carbohydrates, and electrolytes. Find a flavor of sport drink that you
can enjoy during exercise—the drink flavor you like at rest may be
different from what you want when you are hot and sweaty.
- Eat carbohydrates at every meal and snack. Good choices
include whole grain or enriched breads, rolls, low-fat muffins,
waffles, pancakes, and cereals. Vegetables and fruits, vegetable and
fruit juices, brown rice, pasta, and baked white or sweet potatoes are
also good carbohydrate choices.
- Eat well during training. Training should include fuel
training. Just as you plan your training, you should plan to properly
fuel your body. Work with a sports dietitian to learn about nutrition
recommendations and create a meal and snack plan that works with your
training schedule and performance goals.
Better hydration means better performance!
Drink 2 cups of fluids 2 hours before running.
- Drink 5 to 10 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during
exercise to replace the amount of water lost in sweat. One medium
mouthful of fluid equals about 1 oz.
- During a road race, grab cups of water offered to you and
drink at least five swallows before tossing the rest over your head.
Fluids poured on your body, although it may feel good, don’t help
During training runs, carry bottles of fluid in a fanny pack, bottle belt, or stash them along your route.
- Don’t rely on thirst to tell you when to drink because it is a
bad indicator of hydration status. A number of factors can influence
thirst signals, so by the time you are thirsty, you are already
- After running, drink about 24 oz of fluids for every pound lost. This is especially important if you train every day.