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By Pippa Groves

We’ve all had those days where our run feels effortless and we’re flying along as if battery-charged… then we’ve all had those days where early fatigue sets in and our legs feel like heavy weights. This can be extremely frustrating but it’s important to be self-compassionate in those moments and understand why this might be happening.

Whilst a number of factors can contribute to this (such as sleep, stress or a women’s menstrual cycle), food and hydration both play a crucial role and it’s important to understand how to appropriately fuel our body before and after a run.

Below, we’ll show you exactly what to eat before running, how to re-fuel after your run and discuss how, and if, it’s necessary to eat during your run.

Before You Run

Why should you eat before a run?

  • Provides the fuel to run at a higher intensity for longer
  • Helps to maintain blood glucose
  • Avoids early fatigue making your run more enjoyable
  • Improves performance 

What to eat before a run:

This depends on a number of factors: 

  1. How soon before your run you're eating
  2. Intensity and duration of your run
  3. Goal of your running session
  4. What/how much you have eaten the previous 24 hours


As a general rule, your pre-workout meal or snack should predominantly consist of carbohydrates as this is the preferred (and quickest) fuel source for your muscles. Your body also taps into stored glucose (glycogen) for energy, especially during those longer runs, so it’s important that you consume sources of carbohydrates in the 24 hours prior - good options include potatoes, oats, rice, noodles or pasta as part of a balanced meal with a protein source and healthy fats. 

Protein and Healthy fats

Much smaller amounts of protein and healthy fats should be eaten just before a run as these take longer to digest and break down as fuel and can also slow down carbohydrate digestion. 

What is best to eat at different time points before your run:

Tip: if you are prone to gut problems, you may want to avoid eating too much fibre just before your run as these can lead to undesirable symptoms.

What about running on an empty stomach?

If you don’t eat in the 10-14 hours before a run, this is what we call a fasted run. People who run first thing in the morning often do this because they are not hungry or just want to get up and out. ensure your meal the night before is rich in carbohydrates to top up those glycogen stores ready to be mobilised. If you have a tendency to do fasted runs for fat burning and weight loss reasons, it’s worth bearing in mind that evidence is inconclusive and this type of training is not encouraged in the long run as it may lead to increased protein breakdown (not ideal for muscle building!).


It goes without saying that you must also be properly hydrated before going on a run, with sufficient electrolyte balance. Drink plenty of water and add electrolytes (in tablet, drop or sachet form) to this before long runs.

Pre-Run Recipes

Try out some of these recipes to help fuel your body and perform optimally (1-2 hours before a run):

Baked Banana, Oat & Peanut Butter Bars
Probiotic Breakfast Smoothie
Raspberry & Lemon Muffins
Carrot Cake Overnight Oats
Dark Chocolate Dipped Granola Bars

During Your Run:

During runs under 1 hour, you shouldn’t need to refuel as your optimal pre-workout fuel and glycogen stores should power you through. However for longer runs over 60 minutes, you will want to refuel before your glycogen stores become fully depleted and you crash. This will also help your body to recover more quickly from the long runs so you can train safely and effectively in the following days. You want to focus on easily digestible simple carbohydrates that are low in fibre, fat, and protein, such as energy gels, chews/gummies, sports drinks. These can cause stomach upset in some people who are not used to them so always test these out in training first before a race.

Replenishing fluids and electrolytes is also vital on long runs over an hour as even minor electrolyte imbalances can cause muscle cramping, dehydration and nausea. Opt for a hydration mix, salt tablet, or electrolyte sachet that you can take easily.

After Your Run

No matter how long or intense your run is, it’s always important to focus on the ‘3 R’s’ of recovery:

  • Rehydrate
  • Repair
  • Refuel


Rehydrating the body is absolutely essential after a run. For shorter, less intense runs under 1 hour, drinking water on its own should suffice to top up those stores. For longer runs When more fluid and minerals are lost, it is worth adding some electrolytes to help support mineral balance and promote fluid retention (just watch out for brands with hidden sweeteners in the electrolyte mix. The purer the better!).


Repairing and rebuilding with protein is another key piece of the post-run nutrition checklist. Consuming high quality, complete proteins that contain all 8 essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) is best for muscle repair and rebuilding new tissue.

Effective and popular complete protein sources include:

  • Protein shake (unsweetened protein powder if possible)
  • Full-fat greek yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Nut butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Soya
  • Tuna
  • Lean meats

Whilst the exact quantity of protein required depends on the duration and intensity of your run, evidence suggests anything from 20-40g protein is a sensible figure to aim for in your post-run meal or snack. If you’re eating a balanced meal or snack you should be getting enough.


Refuelling the body with carbohydrates helps to replenish glycogen stores that have been drained during a run. For these meals, it’s a good idea to focus on nature’s carbohydrates rather than reaching straight for a pack of biscuits which can lead to blood sugar spikes and drive inflammation. Opt for whole food complex carbohydrates such as beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, fruit, wholegrain, sourdough bread, dates etc.

Post-Run Recipes

Try out some of these recipes after your workout to rebuild and refuel:

Green Omelette Wrap
Turkish Eggs with Live Greek Yoghurt
Berry & Almond Superfood Smoothie Bowl
Berry & Cashew Protein Smoothie
Protein-Packed Fritters with Greek Yoghurt
Turkey Chilli with Brown Rice, Avocado, Live Yoghurt & Coriander

Fuelling Your Runs

As with everything nutrition-focused, it is always best to be mindful of what and how much you consumed and how your body responded during each run. It will differ for each person and you will probably find that it differs for you depending on the time of day, week and month. A simple way of keeping track is to jot this down in your notepad or phone notes so you can go back and remind yourself which meals and snacks work for you.

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