Nutrition and Fitness Lindsay Guinaugh | 7 years ago

Nutrition for Runners: Fuel Up for Optimal Performance

Every athlete knows that what you put in your body has a strong correlation with the results your body can put out.

By: Catherine Rainbow, MD Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sports Medicine & Injury Care Proper nutrition protects the immune system, maintains lean body mass and optimizes a runner’s energy and mental and physical stamina. When energy demands far exceed energy intake, energy drain can occur. When you up your mileage, don’t forget to up your calorie intake as well. Just make sure your added calories are coming from the right place. Choose healthy fats for prolonged, low-intensity exercise. Add in extra carbohydrates — like those found in sports drinks and recovery beverages — as the intensity and time of your workout increases. And choose lean meats — such as chicken and fish — for protein.  If you don’t eat meat, get your extra protein from naturally lean plant sources like beans, lentils and quinoa.

Proper nutrition is always important, but around race time, fueling your body with the right foods is especially crucial.

Fueling Up for an Event:


  • If you can, eat a larger meal three to four hours prior to the event or slowly graze prior to event
  • Because fats and proteins slow down gastric emptying, focus on carbohydrates before your event
  • Make sure the final snacks and fluids you use to “topoff” before the event are primarily made of carbohydrates
  • Liquid meals can replace conventional foods, if need be, to ensure gastric emptying
  • Stick to what you know; don't try new foods and fluids prior to competition


  • Pack for performance — consume 30 to 60 grams an hour of carbohydrates and four ounces of fluid every 15 minutes to keep your body properly fueled


  • Keep the glycogen stores in your muscles replete by consuming carbohydrates immediately following exercise
  • Stimulate protein synthesis after a muscle-damaging workout by incorporating protein into your recovery snack or beverage

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