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What should I eat before and after a run?

Running is great. It requires minimal equipment; it can be done anywhere in the great outdoors and can improve your fitness levels and overall health. Running can be hard on your muscles and joints though, and it’s important to make sure you are fueling your body properly so you can recover quickly and avoid injuries.

One factor to consider when thinking about fueling your run is the length of time you are running. If you run for less than an hour, a carbohydrate filled meal or snack not long before your run, and a protein and carbohydrate containing meal or snack after your run should provide sufficient nutrition. The focus of your pre-run meal or snack is to provide you with enough energy for your run, so carbohydrates are generally the key focus.

If you’re eating approximately 2-3 hours before your run, you could try:

  • Porridge with fruit and milk

  • Chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread

  • Beef and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice

If you're needing a quick snack around an hour before your run, try:

  • Vegemite/ peanut butter/ honey sandwich on white bread

  • Oat based muesli bar

  • Glass of milk + banana

What you decide to eat after your run is just as important as before, if not even more so. The meal or snack you eat after your run can assist your body with muscle growth and recovery. A well-planned post-run meal can maximise those running gains, as well as promote muscle repair, so you can bounce back before your next run. For this reason, post-run food should contain both a good source of carbohydrate for re-fueling, and protein for muscle growth and recovery. You might be used to hearing that you have to eat within one hour of finishing exercise to get the most benefit, but you will still see these benefits if you’re having this meal a few hours after your run.

Some post-run food ideas include:

  • Fruit smoothie with milk and yoghurt

  • Scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast

  • Tinned tuna and crackers

  • Peanut butter on toast

If you are running for longer than an hour at a time, you might need to start looking at fueling during your run as well as before and afterwards. Fuelling during long runs shouldn’t just be left to the pros, it is just as important to think about nutrition during your race even if you are training for your first half-marathon. Look out for a post with more information about this in the coming weeks.

It’s important to remember that everyone is different. It might take some experimenting to find a meal or snack that works for you for both before and after your run. Some people find they have sensitive stomachs while running, and won’t tolerate large meals before their run or they feel very uncomfortable throughout the run.

Foods that may cause stomach upset during a run include:

  • Very high fibre foods (e.g. legumes, raw vegetables or salads)

  • Caffeine containing foods or drinks

  • Foods high in fat (e.g. anything deep fried – chips, burgers)

An Accredited Practising Dietitian can work with you to make a food plan that best suits your individual needs.

Whether it’s your first-time training for an endurance event, or you are trying to smash a PB on your 5km Parkrun, everyone is different. A good nutrition plan can help you reach your goals – whilst reducing the risk of you nursing a hamstring injury after your race!

If you’re looking to make the most of your training, book in for a sports nutrition consult with us at

- Ellen Payne, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

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