5 foods and drinks runners should avoid

Nutrition and diet advice every runner needs

This week I have decided to write about the 5 foods and drinks that every runner should avoid. So this is my list...

Written by Scott Overall

Scott is a British long distance athlete who represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics. His marathon PB is currently 2:10:55.

Chips or fries

Ask yourself what are you eating these for? There are plenty of other (much better) forms of carbohydrates that you can eat. Not to mention the fact they are going to be fried and full of fat. The better options would be potatoes (in non-chip form), pasta, bread, and if you want that chip feeling, then go with sweet potato fries, which are baked! They are much healthier.


Fizzy drinks

These are just not going to hydrate you (although they might taste nice). It is just a rapid sugar boost that isn't going to help your running and will inevitably lead to a sugar crash. The amount of sugar in just one of these drinks can equal the amount of sugar in a whole meal. So it is best to steer clear of them and get on the Gatorade instead.


Limiting your caffeine intake can be a good idea, even if it is just by one less cup per day. This is mainly due to the dehydrating effects that caffeine can have. There is some research to suggest that caffeine can improve performance and recovery, so that is why I would suggest that you limit your intake and not cut it out completely. But do make sure you hydrate during the day too!


I think this one is self-explanatory. The effects of alcohol will last in the body for up to 72 hours, and I'm sure you are going to run at least once during that time! You might also decide to have a kebab or a cheeky cheeseburger after a few beers as well, and you just don't need that in your diet!  

Full fat milk or yogurt

When there are lower fat products available on the market that taste (almost) the same, there really is no reason to have the full fat versions. Skimmed or even semi-skimmed milk are much better for you because they contain less sugar and less fat. You could even try almond milk, or if you're feeling really brave, try out soya milk. Speaking of almond milk, I recently tried avocado oil. The avocado oil tastes really good when you dip bread into it, and it sounds like it should be healthier than olive oil. I’m not sure if you can buy it in the UK, but if you can and anyone has seen it, please do let me know.

Comments (10)

  • chiacharge 'to paraphrase your advice avoid sugary drinks and get on the gatorade, avoid stuff with loads of sugar and instead take stuff with loads of sugar, hmmm'

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  • RDR 'Fat is good for you so full fat milk (which is also less processed) is better for you than skimmed or semi'

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  • ronniehaydon 'I think the idea that caffeine dehydrates has been disproved. I agree about the Gatorade, full of sugar! Also, naughty me, but I was flagging on mile 15 of a 21 miler last Sun and had a couple of bites of Mars bar and a can of Coca Cola. I felt miles better and finished the long run on pace, I did not feel any sugar slump afterward, apart from the obvious fatigue that results from running 21 miles. I think banning foods is a bit joyless and imagining that enjoying the odd treat is bad for your running quite bogus. '

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  • sacha_f 'And full fat yoghurt has a lot less sugar in than the low fat versions'

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  • MissMonkeyMoo 'Really surprised by this article, grossly inaccurate and out if date. Low fat foods often contain more sugar than 'full' fat and are not necessarily healthier. Gatorade is full of sugar so not really a better option. The body also needs some sugar to function - if we cut out all sugar and use artificial sweeteners, the body craves sugar even more. Much better to regulate sugar intake than stop having it altogether. As for alcohol, it has been shown that a half or pint of lager after a long run can help with post recovery! (just the one mind!) studies have also shown that having caffeine before a run can increase performance, and lastly saying that we should NEVER eat these foods is not helpful in the slightest. There's nothing wrong with having a bag of chips once in a while, the key is not to eat them everyday but then that is not unique to runners alone! So all in all, this article gets a big thumbs down from me. Very disappointing.'

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  • ronniehaydon 'Of course I meant I agree with chiacharge about the Gatorade, not the writer of this article. '

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  • swoosie 'Great article, a nice reminder of the few naughties you shouldn't indulge in too often. Yes you can buy Avocado oil in the UK, Waitrose stocks it :0) '

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  • emmabates 'Low fat is good for you and has less sugar??!! What a joke.'

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  • Kirstie_McIntosh 'Many thanks for all of your comments and feedback regarding this article. I just wanted to confirm that these are foods/drinks that Scott Overall suggests and are, in his opinion, the ones he avoids based on personal experience. Agreed there is growing evidence that full fat maybe better for you due to sugar quantities in lower fat versions – so that may be misleading. All feedback happily received and will be passed on.'

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  • Scott_Overall 'Hello people! Thanks for the input.. Like Kirstie said above the article are my thoughts and what I do. They are just suggestions, you can drink as much Pepsi as you like Regards the Gatorade, its the type of carbohydrate you get in the drink. Your body can use the carbs better if it comes from multiple sources. For example maltodextrin and fructose. So yes, it has sugar but from different sources. '

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