Eating the right fuel for running

Running is a great way to burn calories but sometimes we can get caught up in a bit of a trap, we may start thinking that because we have run we can eat what we want (which we can't) or we may be so keen to loose weight that we don't eat enough.  Running one mile roughly burns 100 calories. So it is a very fine balance between needing to eat more as you are using up more energy and therefore more hungry and making sure you eat heathily.  My advice is to throw the bathrrom scales away along with the diets and start to eat as though you are fuelling your body to meet the demands that you are now putting on it by running. Try not to reward yourself too much when you come in from a run, I run over 40 miles a week and I still have to watch what I eat, I really can't eat what I want.  I put a large amount of weight on when I was training for my first marathon as I thought I could eat what I wanted. I saw my long runs were burning 2,000 calories on top of normal walking around day to day activites and trust me I made sure I re-fuelled with snickers bars, cakes, take aways, you name it and I found to my cost that I couldn’t.

We are led to believe that skinny equates with not only faster, but better; I don't agree with this belief, I haven't weighed myself since I started running 18 years ago.  I've never been a skinny minny, I've got boobs and hips, I am now happy with my size but it has taken a long time to get to this point. My weight has fluctuated over the years and in the "running" world I was always put down by how "big" I was in comparison to the fast, skinny runners. I was once compared to a Russion Shotputter!  Trying to drop too much weight in an unhealthy shortcut way can make you miserable, physcially and emotionall as well as leading to injury, try and remember our accomplishments are about so much more than a number on the scale.

So how do you make sure you are eating all the right things as well as loose weight and not eat rubbish? If I had the answer I'd be a millionaire, I don't have all of the answers, but I can share what works for me which is having as many nutrients on my plate as possible.  This way I can eat healthily and that doesn't mean boring, it means fruit, nuts, egss, bread, pasta, sweet potatoe, stewed fruit, black pudding, fish, pitta bread, hummus, feta cheese, the list is endless. This also means that the odd burger or a cake after a run really won't do any damage.

As a runner the reality is if you don’t have enough fuel or water prior to running it can cause mental tiredness as well as making you feel like you are running through treacle which can result in you having a rubbish run. And if you've just started out on your running journey the runs need to feel good, otherwise we can loose motivation.  

Your body needs carbs and these are stored as energy in the muscles and liver as glycogen, they are then quickly and efficiently released when you are active or exercising.  Low carb diets are not good for active people but it's about choosing the right carbs, wholemeal bread, pasta, pitta bread, wholemeal wraps are good choices. You also need good fats as these are an essential source of fuel and energy as they are released more slowly. Protein is essential in running as you need protein after a run to help repair the muscles.  And to make your body works more efficiently you need water for effective storage of the carbs, basically the water keeps the carbs in your muscles until you need it.


The following foods are nutrient-dense carbs that should form the base of your diet.

Breads, cereals and wholegrains (eg oats, pasta and rice), fruit, starchy vegetables (eg potato, butternut squash) legumes (eg lentils, beans, peas and peanuts) dairy products (eg skimmed milk, full fat Greek yoghurt).

Nutrient poor carbohydrate

Foods and fluids that contain carbohydrate but minimal or no other nutrients

All sugars (eg dextrose, sucrose, honey, molasses) soft drinks, energy drinks, lollies, carb gels, sports drinks and cordials and any type of white bread.

This shouldn’t be a major part of your everyday diet.

High-fat carbohydrate

Foods that contain carbohydrate but are also high in fat

Pastries, cakes, chips, crisps and chocolate.

Occasional foods that are best not consumed when training/biking to work/running

Getting your food right can be quite tricky , basically food has a GI (Glycemic Index) number which measures how quickly foods containing Carbs can boost your blood glucose levels after eating, ie give us energy.  High GI foods- 0ver 70 fill you quickly and give a fast burst of energy however they leave you hungry again a short time later, for example you may have cereal for breakfast, Special K or Bran Flakes but actually the sugar and GI score are so high that by 11am you are starving hungry. This is an example of a food that fills you up but not for long. Low GI foods that fall below 50 fill you up but they raise blood glucose slowly giving a more continuous energy release which means that you don't get that hungry feeling so quickly after eating.

The majority of fruits and vegetables fall in low to medium GI foods whilst some processed foods eg cornflakes, white bread are high in GI.  Look at improving your quality of food and eat small and oftern so that  you can maximise storage.

I suggest that you optimise how much nutrition you have in one day, make sure you have foods that are high in nutrients, so fruit, nuts, porridge, wholemeal pitta, hummous, cooked meats etc and vary what you eat day by day. You could have stewed fruit for breakfast with some Greek yoghurt and a bit of honey or black pudding or ham and eggs.  Try to have porridge or a smoothie for breakfast this will release energy slowly.  Snack on fruit and nuts, banana nut butter sandwich and try to cut down on your sugar content in your food.  My rule of thumb is to aim for food that has no more sugar content than 6/7g per 100g.  You will find that low fat foods have more sugar so go for full fat and have Greek yoghurt (Total 0% fat is best for low sugar and then throw in some blueberries or raspberries, add a bit of honey or maple syrup).

Try different things and see what works for you, eat at least 2 hours before you run and if you are really hungry before your run you can have a banana to keep you going.

Week 3 Session and Homework

Warm up followed by the running drills.  The session was warm up running for 1 min followed by 4 mins with recovery, then 6 mins with recovery followed by 4 mins segments with recovery.

If you can get out during the holidays that would be great, do the usual warm up then run for 1 min with 1 min recovery, build up to 2 mins with 1 min recovery, slow the pace down and then aim for 5 mins, with 1 min recovery inbetween.  It's important to keep a steady pace and see how it feels with the aim being of making sure you do not get too much out of breath.  Try not to get too focused on time though and I know this can be hard, just see how it feels to run remembering everything that you can be shown over the last few weeks.  Aim to be out running for 30 mins and if you have any questions then please just ask.