“Eat to run” series -fuel your body

As Kalila’s Kathy starts 2018 with some intensive marathon training ready for Boston 2018,  the focus of this month’s nutrition slot is all about eating to run. And it’s not just marathon training that requires specialist fuel but all forms of running and power walking. We need energy to exercise, and more importantly we need the right foods to recover from exercising. There are one hundred good reasons for running and power walking; strengthening our muscles and bone health (1), keeping our hearts and lungs healthy (2) and supporting metabolism and blood-glucose balance (3) which ultimately helps keep us at a healthy weight. And exercise is just as good for our mental health as well as our physical health with more and more research showing how exercise significantly decreases symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders (4).


So let’s get started on how to eat to run.

Eat to run – everyday tips

One of the first things to establish when starting a running routine is ‘WHEN’ to run, or rather what time of day works best for you. From there you can calculate when it’s best for you to eat. Ideally you want to always leave a couple of hours after eating and before running so….

If you like to run first thing in the morning…eat breakfast when you get back from your run

If you’re a lunchtime runner…eat your lunch after running

If like fancy a mid-afternoon run…ensure you’ve given yourself enough time to digest lunch

If you like running after work…aim to run before your dinner

Now onto the ‘WHAT’ to eat.

Our bodies use glucose as its main fuel and we get glucose from carbohydrate foods such as grains; pasta, rice, quinoa as well as from starchy root vegetables; potatoes, pumpkin, squash, turnips, parsnips.

Our body can break down these glucose molecules quickly and easily giving us instantly accessible energy for exercising. Choosing wholegrain versions of pasta, rice, quinoa, breads can help sustain energy for longer as these carbohydrates break down slower than the white versions.

To use a running analogy… white grains help us sprint whilst wholegrains will carry us on a marathon!

There is much confusion on whether you need to carb load before exercising but for every day running and power walking this is not really necessary. Stick to a normal meal portion and stick to foods you are comfortable eating and know you digest well. You don’t want any unexpected surprises whilst out running!

Finally, we need to think about our recovery after exercise. Running, and all sports, puts our bodies under physiological stress. We need protein to help with muscle repair and a wide variety of anti-oxidant rich nutrients to support our immune system (think colourful fruits and vegetables).

The following meal suggestions combine wholegrain carbohydrates with protein and nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. A balanced intake of nutrients helps to support energy requirements for beginning a program of running or power walking (remember to always consult your doctor before exercising and for specialist advice).


Join us next month for the next part of our eat to run series where we’ll be looking at…“Eat for endurance – marathon training and endurance walking”


  1. Iwamoto, J. (2017). A role of exercise and sports in the prevention of osteoporosis. Clin Calcium. 2017;27(1):17-23. doi: CliCa17011723.
  2. Williams, P. (1997). Relationship of Distance Run per Week to Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors in 8283 Male Runners. The National Runners’ Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 1997;157(2):191-198.Available at http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/622763
  3. Alvarez, C., et al., (2016). Low-Volume High-Intensity Interval Training as a Therapy for Type 2 Diabetes. Int J Sports Med. 2016 Aug;37(9):723-9. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27259099
  4. Stubbs, B., et al., (2017). An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jan 6;249:102-108. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.12.020. [Epub ahead of print]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28088704