Dietary basics for runners

Fuel your running correctly

Fuelling your body well is vitally important if you want to perform well. Here's the guide as to what energy-rich foods you should be targeting to make your running all the more effective.

Learning to fuel your body with the right foods and drinks can make a massive difference to your running performance. Eating the right dietary requirements can help you to compete for longer, and can also help you to focus and concentrate.

The fuel that you put into your body helps give you the energy you require to compete at your best and helps the body recover from the hard training sessions. Choosing foods from the five food groups — carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals — in the right proportions will give you all the essential nutrients you need. So what you eat is not just about fuelling your run but also aiding your recovery.

Carbohydrate is the most important fuel for a runner and is stored in the muscles as glycogen. These stores are used during activity when energy is needed quickly. The larger the glycogen stores are in your muscles the longer you can exercise.

Good sources of carbohydrate are starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, noodles, all types of bread, rolls, pitta bread and chapattis, breakfast cereals, oats (porridge), pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans (baked beans, kidney beans).

But don't think that you just need to eat carbs, because the other elements of a healthy diet are still important too. So what do you get from some of these other elements?

  • Fruit and vegetables — These provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
  • Meat, fish and alternatives — These provide protein, iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins.
  • Milk and dairy foods — These provide calcium, protein, vitamins B12, A and D.

Top-up your running energy

When training, we do suggest suggest that the runner reduce the amount of sugar and fat eaten, as we would generally to any individual. However, sugary foods can be a useful addition when the runner needs a top-up of energy, since they contain carbohydrate in a form that is easily absorbed by the body.

The best advice is to use starchy foods as your main source of carbohydrate, but use these sugary foods as a top-up when you need that extra boost of running energy. Good examples of sugary foods that can be used in this way include jelly babies and other sugary sweets, biscuits such as ginger cookies, jaffa cakes, fig rolls and garibaldis. Enjoy your training and eating.

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