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What To Eat Before And After A Long Run

Eating Before A Long Run | Eating After A Long Run | 5 Tips For Effective Run Fuelling

Page last updated: 2nd May 2024

You've signed up for a long distance running event and now you're thinking about how you're going to go about your training and nutrition so that when it comes race day, you can ace the event. Or maybe you're just hoping to stay fuelled ahead of your next long run. 

Watch the video below to check out nutrition tips from fitness influencer @nuttyfoodiefitness who did a 10k challenge everyday for 7 days. Or,  If you're specifically training for a marathon, you can check out our 'what to eat when marathon training' guide, which has plenty of useful info.

What To Eat Before A Long Distance Run

A long distance run is energy intensive, and what you eat before can make or break it. Everyone is different so it's worth experimenting to find what works best for you, but a good starting point is eating a small but carb dense snack 1-2 hours before your run. Carbs are the quickest and easiest energy source for the body and having a carbohydrate rich snack will ensure you have the energy needed to run. 

If it will be longer than 2 hours, add a little protein or fat to your meal - this slows down the absorption of your food and will help to ensure you still have energy available a few hours later.

Here are some examples of what to eat 1-2 hours before a long run:

  1. Banana with yoghurt
  2. Cinnamon apple oats
  3. Toast with honey
  4. Fruity frozen yoghurt cups
  5. Bake banana and dark chocolate porridge

You can find more pre-workout meal ideas here.

What To Eat After A Long Run

Long distance running depletes your glycogen stores and plays a toll on your muscles and tendons, so your post run meal should contain a generous helping of protein and carbohydrates to promote recovery. 

Some post-run meal examples include:

  1. Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts
  2. Eggs on toast
  3. Peanut chicken powerbowl
  4. Green protein smoothie
  5. Chicken tikka naan wraps

Find more post-workout meal ideas here.

5 Top Tips For Effectively Fuelling A Long Run

1. Consider every meal, not just pre- and post-run meals

It can be easy to focus on what you eat before and after a long distance run, and neglect what you eat the rest of the time. Prioritising nutritious foods and a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fats every day is the best way to ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to fuel your runs and the recovery, while having enough energy left to function normally. 

2. Make sure you're eating enough food

Running requires a lot of energy, particularly if running long distances like a half marathon or full marathon, and it's important to make sure you're eating enough food day to day to fuel your body with the energy needed. If your energy levels are lower than normal or you're losing weight, that's a sign that you're not eating enough to fuel your runs in addition to your everyday activities. 

3. But don't overeat

While getting enough food is crucial for long distance running, it can be common to overestimate how many calories are burned running and some people may find they go the opposite way and end up gaining weight while running due to eating excess calories. While there is nothing wrong with this, some people can find overeating has an adverse affect on their runs. 

The best way to prevent weight gain while running is to avoid rapidly changing your calorie intake when starting training, and monitoring your appetite and energy levels. If you find your energy levels are low and appetite is high, add a few hundred calories extra on the days you run (your pre-run snack should work great for this) and continue to monitor and adjust from there. You can always experiment with tracking your calories for a few weeks to make sure you're on the right track. 

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Running causes the body temperature to increase, which leads to sweating as a means to cool down. When we are dehydrated we are unable to produce enough sweat, which means we cannot cool ourselves down properly. At best, this leads to poor performance; at worst, it can be dangerous. 

Keeping hydrated throughout the day, every day, is the best way to avoid dehydration during training. You can then keep this topped up with small sips during your run. 

5. Use running nutrition for longer runs

We don't just lose water through sweat. Electrolytes, water-soluble nutrients like sodium, also leave the body through sweating. While this isn't an issue for shorter runs, for runs over an hour you may want to consider sports drinks and running gels. These contain electrolytes to help keep you hydrated, as well as some sugars. Glucose reserves tend to be depleted, or close to depleted, after an hour of running so the benefits of gels and sports drinks are two-fold as they top up energy stores too.

For more running advice, check out our running exercises hub. You can also have a look at our exercise guides for more running and workout inspiration. Whether you're training for an event or just looking to boost your fitness, you can find a PureGym near you and make the most of our varied equipment and expert personal trainers.

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