The Basics of Sports Nutrition for Runners


The foundational concepts of sports nutrition for runners to improve performance.

The Basics of Sports Nutrition for Runners
You are a runner and an endurance athlete. As a result, you train hard by following a specific running program, you log and record each workout to track improvement and you buy the best technical running gear money can buy. But are you putting the same amount of focus and discipline to your nutrition. Proper sports nutrition for runners will not only improve your running performance, it will also improve your overall health and wellness.

Think of sports nutrition for runners like comparing a fighter jet to a rusty car. Which one are you, the fighter jet or the rusty car? A fighter jet is setting speed records and winning wars while a rusty car shakes and rattles as smoke pours from under the hood. Fighter jets require premium fuel, routine maintenance and the best parts and equipment. Your body is a fighter jet and your nutrition is the premium fuel that will allow you to set speed records too. Here are the foundational basic concepts of sports nutrition for runners that will help you turn your body into a fighter jet.


Proper hydration sets the tone for proper fueling and nutrition. On average, Americans are dehydrated which is commonly mistaken for hunger. As a result, dehydration can cause overeating. But for a runner, this means more than unnecessary weight gain, it means a dramatic decrease to performance and recovery.

A standard baseline for daily hydration amounts is 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be consuming at least 75 ounces of water every day. This is strictly a baseline and does not account for factors such as humidity, sweat loss, activity level, etc. Consume the majority of fluids during and between meals. On days with hard workouts, long runs or extreme weather such as humidity, add electrolytes to your water or consume sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade.

Proper nutrition will improve your running performance and your overall health and wellness.


Runners need carbohydrates for fuel during workouts and also to promote recovery. There are numerous choices for meeting your carbohydrate needs, and today’s society makes it easy to overdo the wrong types of carbs. Choose complex carbohydrates as they provide a slow and steady fuel that will not produce blood sugar spikes.

As a runner, your first focus should be on consuming primarily vegetables and fruit for your carbohydrate needs. Other complex carbohydrate sources such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, potatoes and whole grains are excellent choices to promote the recovery process.

A standard baseline for daily carbohydrate consumption should be about 40-50% of total calories. As training volume increases, the percentage will be near 50% to promote energy, glycogen replenishment and recovery.


Protein provides the building blocks for building muscle and repair of tendons and muscle while also helping to regulate hormones. Most runners should consume about 20-30% of total daily caloric intake from protein. Choose lean protein sources such as chicken, eggs, turkey, fish or lean beef.

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Fat has gotten a bad wrap in recent years, but it serves an important role for the runner. Proper fat intake provides an efficient energy source and helps to regulate hormones. Daily fat intake extends far beyond cheeseburgers, pizza and bacon. For the athlete turning into a fighter jet, fat sources should consist of nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc), cold-water fish (salmon), avocados and seeds (flaxseed and sunflower seeds). Daily fat intake should provide 20-30% of total calories.

Vitamins & Minerals

While a eating whole foods and a properly balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat from optimal sources will provide an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals, some runners may need additional nutrients. Intense training, long runs, extra energy requirements and other factors can change your body’s needs for nutrients. To meet these additional requirements, supplement your daily nutrition with a multi-vitamin and electrolytes. These supplements will never replace whole foods and a balanced diet, but they serve an important role in your overall performance, recovery and health during training.


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