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Your healthy running diet

April 06 2022 6 min read

To make sure 2019 is your fittest and healthiest year yet, we’re keen to get you off on the right foot and ready for a great running year.

Obviously, diet plays a massive role in that and while we agree it is a hugely complex and personal area (we don’t all like the same thing after all), understanding the basics will help.

Sports like running can place additional demands on the body in terms of energy and nutrients and so a healthy, balanced diet is particularly important for providing everything the body needs to be active, to support bone health and to build and repair muscle. Experts at the British Nutrition Foundation tell us it’s a good idea to think about the quality of protein and carbohydrate in our diet.

When it comes to protein, think about including some plant-based sources like beans and pulses and also fish, ideally two portions a week, one of which should be an oily type.

Carbohydrates are important to provide fuel - going for wholegrains like wholemeal bread, pasta and bulgur wheat provides extra fibre and nutrients compared to non-wholegrain varieties.

After all, the right diet will:

- Help you feel healthy

- Provide more energy

- Help you recover from training more effectively

- Help you think more clearly both in sport and work

- And best of all, it’ll taste good

We’ve been in touch with the British Nutrition Foundation who have recommended the following.


Ideally, your pre-run meal should be low in fat and contain a portion of starchy foods, such as porridge, pasta or potatoes, and should be eaten around 2-3 hours before exercising. For example, if you have an exercise class at 5pm, have your pre-exercise meal at around 2pm. Making sure you are well hydrated before you start an exercise session is important, so try to drink regularly throughout the day and with your pre-exercise meal.


Consuming some carbohydrates during exercise can enhance performance but this generally only applies runs that last more than 60 minutes, as this is when carbohydrate stores may substantially decrease. It is important to consume plenty of fluids during exercise, especially if you are sweating heavily (also to replace electrolytes lost from sweating).


After a long run your carbohydrate stores will be lower, so it is important to replenish them, especially if you are doing more exercise later on that day or the following day.

Your post-exercise meal should be based on starchy foods (preferably wholegrain) and include some high quality, lean protein. Consuming this as soon as possible after exercise will be most beneficial for recovery, restoring glycogen levels and muscle protein. If you are unable to have a meal soon after exercise, try to have a small snack that contains carbohydrate and protein, such as a banana and a glass of low-fat milk, within the first 30-60 minutes following exercise to begin the recovery process, especially if you are exercising within the next eight hours.

Don’t forget your meals should always be balanced so make sure you include fruit and vegetables to provide other important nutrients. To replace the fluid lost from sweating, it is vital to restore hydration levels as part of recovery, so remember to drink plenty of fluids after exercising.


You don’t need to starve yourself to achieve your healthy weight goals – there are actually many foods we could and should all be eating more of. Here are the best types of foods to eat more of this year to help you ditch the detox and add some oomph to your New Year’s resolutions, all year round.  

  1. Wholegrains – brown rice, wholemeal breads, brown pasta, whole rye and other grains like
    bulgur wheat and spelt.

Fibre doesn’t tend to get much attention, often only associated with ‘keeping you regular’, but it’s actually important for many health outcomes including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Whilst we are frequently being encouraged to reduce our portion sizes, the daily fibre recommendation has actually recently been increased to 30g per adult per day. But on average UK adults are only getting about 18g per day meaning we’re well below our recommendations.

  1. Fish

Swimming with nutrients and high in protein, we should all look to increase our intake of fish, especially oily fish that contain long chain omega 3s. The current UK recommendation for adults is to consume at least two portions (280g) of sustainably sourced fish per week, including one portion of oily fish. However, the average adult consumes less than a fifth of this (just 54g).

  1. Pulses – beans, lentils, peas

If fish isn’t your dish and you prefer a vegetarian /vegan option, pulses are a great plant-based

source of nutrients.  Pulses can be cheap and easy to prepare, making them perfect for the January money-spending detox too. Most pulses have a low-calorie density, so great for bulking up your meals! Try mixing extra beans into a chilli, soup or salad.

4. Fruit and vegetables – go green!

We should all aim to eat a wider variety of fruit and vegetables. All types are great to include, but green vegetables are especially good for providing us with important micronutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin A, folate and vitamin C.

Rocket, watercress, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, okra and broccoli are all examples of nutrient-rich green vegetables so make sure they’re part of your 5 a day. For those of us who enjoy the sweeter side of life, eating more fruit is a healthy (and delicious) way to kick the sugar cravings.

Visit the England Athletics website for more help and advice on running and keeping fit.