As you may already know, a runner’s nutrition can be tricky to master, requiring a sustainable, balanced diet plan that encompasses all your needs.
Whether that be for a competitive run or simply as part of a health and fitness regime, a runner’s diet can ultimately make the difference between a good run and a bad one (we’ve all been there!).
In this article, we will be outlining how runners fit diet plans around their workouts, the food rules to follow, handy nutrition tips, and some meal ideas for those of you looking to really up your running game.
A Runner’s Diet Should Complement Your Training Cycle
Do Runners Have A Training Cycle?
Runners, specifically those training for a competitive run, will cycle through runs of varying lengths and intensities. A run you do at the beginning of the week, for example, most likely won’t be the same as one at the end of the week. In turn, this means your diet won’t be either.
That means it is important to match your calorie intake to the level of intensity or length of your runs.
It is worth noting the training cycle runners abide by, in order to vary their types of runs and exercise throughout the year.
A training cycle, otherwise known as periodisation in your running, is when weeks’ worth of workouts and training is split into different phases, in order to plan which phases will focus on which goal.
Together, these phases typically span a year, otherwise referred to as a macrocycle. When focusing on a particular phase, it is commonly known as a mesocycle.
Some goals could include improving overall health to stay healthy, lose weight, curve negative eating habits or improve running performance.
The training cycle of a professional runner usually includes a period of light training followed by intense training as a build-up to a particular race or sporting event. This is followed by a period when training is at its peak intensity, with a period dedicated to rest before beginning the cycle again.
Why Do Runners Follow A Cycle?
Runners may find following a training cycle beneficial for many reasons. But the most important is perfecting your skills in many areas of exercise, as well as being able to reshape your workouts around revamped meal plans, depending on what your body needs to focus on at the time.
Not every person undertaking a runner’s diet will eat the same meals, or be at the same stage in their training cycle simultaneously. While you may choose to focus on building up your meals to prepare for heavy training ahead, others may be winding down their intake to rest after a long run.
Meals and diets need to be altered to cater to your body during these different periods of time, which also gives runners a good excuse to try many new different foods and meals throughout the year.
Why A Balanced Diet Plan Is Vital For Any Runner…
As we mentioned earlier, a runner’s dietary plan can sometimes be tricky to incorporate into daily life, as it is important to balance a healthy amount of the three macronutrients in sports nutrition: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Each of these nutrients contributes benefits to your body in various different ways, which can either benefit or negatively impact your training and runs.
Protein is more important to a runner’s diet than you may think. The majority of the body’s muscles are made of protein, and so including some in your diet can help build muscle as well as sustain them after workouts.
Protein can also help repair any damage that muscles naturally accumulate during a workout. Exercise recovery is useful if you are attempting to train more than once per day, particularly if the training sessions are at their peak intensity.
A great source of protein is, of course, meat. If you opt for grass fed and free range meats, you will enjoy a higher quality meat, with greater benefits.
For example, grass fed beef is higher is omega 3 fatty acids and lower saturated fatty acids (when compared with grain fed beef), which promote reduced inflammation in the body – ideal for recovery.
Think of carbohydrates as fuel for your body. Carbs commonly found in food can give your body glycogen, a vital component needed for successful exercise and workouts.
Glycogen helps the body to perform at its peak, a perk that is helpful for runners who are looking to improve.
Carbohydrates are also known as starches or fibres. To increase your carbohydrate intake, consider including:
Spaghetti or Pasta
For low-intensity runs and workouts, fat is used up as a fuel source for the body. With the right foods, runners can incorporate several types of dietary fat into their meals.
Incorporating dietary fats into your meals will offer protection for joints and muscles. Muscles and joints in your body can become damaged over time when working out for longer periods, which is why extra protection will mean longer, and more beneficial workouts and runs during training.
A few examples of foods in which you will find healthy fats include:
Full Fat Dairy
Many of these options can be paired with other foods, and are already found in most common meals.
Whilst included in some of the food listed above, you also need to ensure you are mindful of your vitamin and mineral intake, specifically fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) that promote growth, reproduction and health, as well as ensuring you consider sports drinks or other sources to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat.
A Runner’s Diet Plan: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & Even Snacks
Any runner’s diet plan can be split into four categories: breakfast, lunch, evening meals, and snacks. By planning your mealtimes in separate categories, you are able to give yourself more control and customisation over your daily routines.
For example, if you eat a breakfast with sizable calories, then you can plan a dinner and evening meal that won’t conflict with your calorie intake for the day. Or if you wish to have a bigger gap between mealtimes, then you can pick out snacks that won’t hinder your athletic performance.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Making sure to fuel your body enough, with the right amount of calories and healthy properties, can be a big ask from one simple meal.
It is also important to leave enough time between breakfast and training to ensure you don’t suffer from an upset stomach. This becomes more and more relevant as training progresses to the day of your run.
As examples, here are a few meals to prepare your body for the day ahead.
Porridge – paired with milk, porridge provides unrefined carbohydrates
Pancakes – with various nuts or fruit toppings, pancakes provide carbs and protein
Yoghurt – paired with fruits, yoghurt can be nutrient-dense and low in calories
Whole Grain Bread – releases carbohydrates gradually, meaning a steady flow of energy throughout the day
Fruit Salad – Full of useful nutrients, salads tend to be a go-to option before a run
Lunch-time meals need to give your body enough energy to train or run during the day. For those that don’t run, lunch is usually only required to keep your body full of fuel and energised for the rest of the day.
Don’t be afraid to fill up on bigger portions during lunch, though in moderation. Especially if you plan to run more than once a day.
Some commonly tried examples include:
Chicken – such as chicken breast, is rich in protein
Sweet Potatoes – A source of dietary fibre and vitamins
Salads – which incorporate fruits or vegetables, offer plenty of nutrients, especially if mixed with pasta or other foods
Salmon – A good source of protein, salmon also provides omega-3 fatty acids which help better muscle function
Try accompanying fruits and vegetables with some of your lunch meals for added variation, as well as mixing up your mealtimes with wraps or sandwiches.
Here at Athleat, we offer some of the best freshly butchered meats to include in your next lunchtime meal.
Why not try our nutritious chicken breast, perfect for those looking to liven up their midday plate.
Evening meals need to help your body wind down for the day and can’t be too unhealthy, as most runners may find it more difficult to burn off the extra calories and unwanted fats this late into the day. The type of evening meal you allow yourself depends on your personal training schedule.
Protein should factor into evening meals, in order to repair any damaged muscle cells that have been strained during the day. This ensures your body is prepared for the next round of training.
Try to factor protein-rich foods into your meals, such as fish or cheese.
Some examples of appropriate evening meals include:
Pasta – paired with a salad or a sauce, such as tomato, as pasta is high in carbs
Brown Rice – a good source of carbohydrates and useful to eat before a run
Contrary to popular belief, snacks are still a viable option, even when on a diet plan.
It is still important to limit snack times during the day, as well as find foods that are full of potassium, carbohydrates, low calories, and vitamins. Though snacks between meals can help your body to stay energised between workouts.
If you find that your body doesn’t receive enough carbs or protein from standalone meals throughout the day, then snacks can also help to boost your carb and protein intake to keep your body primed for workouts and runs.
Snacks are also a productive solution if you tend to feel hungry after meals or if you prefer small meals throughout the day.
A few examples of snacks that can help to benefit your nutrition include:
Bananas – rich in carbohydrates
Chocolate Milk – surprisingly, chocolate milk can offer protein and carbs, as well as a source of vitamins
Energy Bar– including granola bars, a good source of carbs
Yoghurt – paired with fruit, provides needed nutrients and is low in calories
Gummy Bears – an unusual pick for a runner’s diet, our favourite gummy treat holds a big portion of sugar, and can keep energy levels high when running for longer periods of time
How Many Calories Should A Runner Be Consuming?
While you may not need to consume as many daily calories as those in professional sports, which can be upwards of 6000 calories per day, runners do need to consume varying calorie counts depending on what goal they have in mind.
The exact calorie count differs depending on a runner’s age, weight, metabolism, and diet. Though it can be calculated for an individual person.
According to an article written by Polar:
60 – 90 minutes of running requires an average of 20 calories per pound of body weight
90 minutes – 2 hours of running requires an average of 23 calories per pound of body weight
3 hours of running requires 25 – 50 calories per pound of body weight
Match Your Diet Plan To Your Running Goals
Diet and calorie intake can also be influenced by what goals you set yourself. If you choose to run locally for general exercise and wellbeing, you may not need to think about as many calories as a runner who plans to run a marathon or build up muscle.
Setting goals, whether short-term or long-term, can greatly help runners see their training plan through for the year. Decide what goals you want running to achieve, and adapt your diet and training around it.
With the correct diet, the balance of training, and all-important rest, why not set a goal for your own run, and begin your journey to becoming your best self?
Choose High Quality, Delicious Meat To Complement Your Training
Here at Athleat, we want to help you begin your runner’s diet seamlessly – fuel yourself for success with our delicious range of grass fed & free range meats.
All of our animals lead as close to a natural life as possible, and our meat products are freshly butchered to order.
Making Athleat meat some of the best available to support your running goals.
Take a look at our shop to browse our wide selection of meats and begin planning your next meal.