5 Smart Eating Rules for Runners

Stay healthy with these nutrition tips

Runners need to eat healthy to fuel their workouts properly and help build stronger bodies. Follow these sensible and healthful eating rules to get the most out of your food -- and your runs.


Focus on unprocessed foods.

view of inside of refrigerator with healthy food
Karen Moskowitz/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Try to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with foods that make up a nutritious, heart-healthy diet, such as whole grains, fish, lean meats, vegetables and fruits. They'll provide essential nutrients, help fuel your workouts properly and aid in your post-run recovery. Try to minimize the amount of processed foods you eat.
More: Best Foods for Runners


Eat small meals throughout the day.

fruit and yogurt
Gregor Schuster

Throw the notion of three large meals a day out the window -- it doesn't work for runners. You need more calories during the day than sedentary people, so it's better to spread them out with a small meal every three to four hours. You'll find that eating mini meals will help maintain your energy levels throughout the day and keep you from feeling hungry all the time. You'll also reduce your risk of overeating if you eat before you're feeling very hungry.


Don't deny yourself the foods you love.

Woman with ice cream
Photo by Carlos Davila

We all know what happens if you don't give in to your favorite foods: One day you'll have a monster craving and end up overindulging. It's better if you allow yourself small portions of the foods you love and not force yourself to eat foods you really don't like. In the long run, it will save you calories, because you'll feel more satisfied and you'll be less likely to binge and eat mindlessly. Eating in moderation is the key. Try not to do entire "cheat days," but small amount of high-fat or high-calorie foods are fine in small amounts.


Mix things up.

Quinoa salad
Photo by Thomas Barwick

Try to not get into the habit of eating the same foods day after day. Pasta often becomes a staple of a runner's diet, but there are lots of other healthful and interesting carb choices for runners, such as couscous, rice or quinoa. Different fruits and vegetables supply different nutrients, so it's important that you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables too. A good rule of thumb with fruits and vegetables is to eat a variety of different colors.


Don't forget about protein.

Shrimp salad
Annabelle Breakey

Runners focus so much on consuming their carbs that their protein needs sometimes get forgotten. Protein is used for some energy and to repair tissue damaged during training. Protein should make up about 15% of your daily intake. Runners, especially those training for long distances such as marathons, should consume .5 to .75 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Good sources of protein are fish, lean meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, egg whites, low-fat milk, low-fat cheese and some vegetables.

Also see: Do Runners Need to Take Vitamins or Supplements?
10 Things Runners Should Stop Doing

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