Nutrition for Runners - Guest Blog from GoTimeTraining

Guest Blog from GoTimeTraining

You’re a runner.  Congratulations because you’re one step ahead of most American’s when it comes to being active. 

Did you know most runners are unsure how to eat, what to eat, or when to change what they eat to fuel their body for running, help improve race time and/or shed a few pounds off their waistline?

I know you have probably heard the phrase “You can’t outwork a bad diet.”  Well we’re here to tell you that its true.  Sad, but true because if it were false you probably wouldn’t be reading this, your run time would be the best ever, your energy would be through the roof and your physique, well… you wouldn’t have any complaints with it.

Sure, you may be in your 20’s, eat anything you want, only sleep a few hours at night, party on the weekends, run 20 miles a day and still manage to maintain what most people would see as the “ideal body”.

Or maybe your 40 years old struggling with consistent energy to fuel your runs and carrying an extra 40 lbs of body fat around your waist.  You probably lived the exact same way in your 20’s as the example above.

Truth be told, the 40-year-old is probably still eating from drive thru’s more than he is cooking at home, living off protein bars, GU gels and shakes, and considers a Lean Cuisine to be a balanced meal. He thinks he’s doing his body good by choosing the cheesy buffalo chicken salad at a Twin Peaks rather than the Hangover burger.

Although he is trying harder than the young 20 something is to make healthier choices, he gets easily overwhelmed when he hears the words “diet”.

That’s the problem when it comes to nutrition. There is so much information out there that it can be so overwhelming.  So we’re here to simply things a bit in order to help improve your runs, energy and physique in 2017.

Below we have a few nutrition tips for each level of runner (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) that you can easily implement into your daily routines. These small changes could be what shave a few seconds off your best time or a few pounds off your body.

Tips for Everyone

Before we breakdown the different levels of runners, we want everyone to start here. Before we can improve your eating habits, we need to have a better idea of exactly what your eating habits are.

  • Over the course of the next 3-5 days keep a food journal. You can write it out on paper or log it in a phone app (like MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+). Be completely honest with yourself on what you eat and drink. In other words, try not to change what you would normally eat or drink. This will give you an idea of areas that you can make changes in. Better yet, if you are coming to one of the Fleet Feet Runner’s Kickoff Parties on Jan. 14th or 21st then feel free to bring it with you.  Stefanie, the GoTimeTraining Nutrition Coach, will be there to give you a few recommendations to get your nutrition better aligned with your exercise.
  • Another great thing to track for a couple days is your water intake. Most people don’t drink near enough water to keep them fully hydrated and if you’re a runner water is especially important and can impact your performance. A typical person should drink AT LEAST half their body weight in ounces of water (200lb person needs to consume AT LEAST 100 ounces of water daily). The longer distance you are running, the more water you should be consuming both before, during and after your runs.

For the Beginner Runner

This is for anyone who is just starting to embark on running. Whether you are doing a couch to 5k program or simply just running a little bit further every day then start here.

Since you have logged your food for a few days now we can start making small changes that will produce a huge outcome in your new journey.

As a beginner runner, you are already taking on the stress of a new workout routine so there is no need to get into the nitty gritty of your nutrition too. Just simply make small changes to what you already do will be enough to get you closer to your goals.

  • Spread it out - if you’re only eating 2-3 big meals a day then try spreading those big meals among 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day. This will keep your body feeling satisfied all day long rather than waiting so long that you feel like your “starving” and then shove your face with food (and we’re going to take a gamble and say it’s not nutrient dense food!).
  • Switcheroo – you already know a lot of the foods that serve little to no benefit to us (chips, cookies, pop, most anything from the drive thru, etc.). Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and swap out some of those foods for a healthier alternative. They can easily be subbed out for veggies chips, protein balls (we have an awesome recipe below), and water with frozen fruit in it for added taste.
  • Fail to plan, plan to fail – it’s true! Every successful person has a plan and so should you. We live in a world that is so fast paced that days seem to pass us by and before we know it, Monday turns into Thursday and everyday in between is just a blur. Set a little time aside on the weekend to plan out what you are going to eat this week. It may seem like a tedious task, but I promise you that your week will go so smooth if you have a plan in place. Not to mention, you will achieve your goals in NO TIME.

For the Intermediate Runner  

If you are an intermediate runner but have never worked on your eating habits, then we strongly suggest you start with the tasks that are listed for the beginner runner. Nothing else will matter if you don’t have some good basic eating patterns down. However, if you do have those things already in play then proceed onward.

  • Carb Loading - if you are running less than 60-90 minutes then “carb loading”, isn’t necessary. What is necessary is learning more about the foods you eat and the ingredients that are in them. Start reading food labels and be weary of anything that comes in a box or package that has some kind of health claim benefit on them. (Have you ever noticed how fruits and vegetables don’t come in a box that says how good they are for you? You already know what foods are good for you, the package shouldn’t have to convince you.)
  • Dig deeper – If you don’t know by now, then it’s time for you to learn about the 3 macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats); learn what they are and how they can help fuel you during your runs.
  • Protein – commonly found in leans meats, eggs, yogurt, fish etc. They are the building blocks of muscle and work in your benefit. Why? Because the more lean body mass you build (aka muscle) the more calories your body burns at rest.  Proteins build, maintain and replace the tissues in your body.
  • Carbohydrate – are made up for sugars, starches, and fiber and they play an important role when it comes to your runs as well as your overall health. When you eat carbs, they are stored as glycogen in your muscles and then are used as energy. This is where reading a food label comes into play because not all carbs are created equal. The more processed the food is, the more likely the carbs in the food are stripped of the nutritional value. Choose good nutrient dense carb sources (especially around your runs) from things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Fats – they are the most energy dense macronutrient (1 gram of fat = 9 calories, where 1 gram of protein or carbs = 4 calories) and slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. Fats are also essentials for overall health however, there is a difference in the kinds of fats that you should eat. The fats that you eat should come from sources like nuts, oils, and avocados in order to get the most nutritional value.
  • Set Your Macros - have a nutrition coach teach help you count your macros from the few days of food journaling you did above and then set macros for you (this is something GoTimeTraining can help you with). A Nutrition Coach can give you a set daily caloric intake as well as a set amount of proteins, carbs, and fats that you should try to consume daily in order to reach your health and fitness goals and fuel your runs.

For the Experienced/Marathon Runner

If you are a more experienced runner or one that is either training for, or runs marathons (or even longer) then this section is for you. Keep in mind, hopefully you have worked through the other sections when it comes to your eating habits, and if not then go back to the Beginner Stage to set your foundation. 

It may surprise you, or it may not, that a lot of runners in this category often times have even worse eating habits then the average American.


Because a lot of them tend to fall into the mindset that they run so far/long and burn X number of calories that they can literately eat anything they want to however most still struggle to maintain their weight, have little energy to get through their runs and wonder why they work so hard yet never see any changes.  It’s not until we get these runners to clean up their food that they begin to feel free on their runs.

If this is you, all you need are the two simple steps below.

  • Track your Macros – it would be most beneficial to work with a Nutrition Coach during your next training. Allow them to set macronutrient goals and educate you on the best foods to fuel your body. Keep in mind, after your race you will need to slowly decrease your macros as you decrease the amount that you run. A Nutrition Coach can help you here as well.
  • Carb Loading – this is when carb loading comes into play. Carb loading is beneficial on any runs that are longer than 90 minutes, as your glycogen stores will become depleted. Consume a high carb meal 2-3 hours before a long run. And ideally for extremely long runs, you should increase your carb intake in the days leading up to your race.
  • During your race we would recommend that you consume 20-40 oz of a sports drink containing between 4 and 8% carbohydrates every hour (30-60 grams of carbs/hour)
  • Within 30 minutes of completing the race, you should consume 1.5 grams/kg of body weigh in carbohydrates and keep consuming that many carbs every 2-3 hours to completely replenish your glycogen stores.

As you can see, you don’t have to completely overhaul your diet right away. Small changes can easily help you progress towards your goals and we hope these guidelines give you a great starting point to building up your best runs. 

Remember, Stefanie the Nutrition Coach from GoTimeTraining will be in attendance at both Fleet Feet Sports Kick Off Parties this month.  Come prepared with any nutrition questions you may have for her, she is delighted to answer them and help you out run your goals.



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