Runners: Eat, Drink and Be Healthy

jogger with water bottle

Whether you’re a casual runner or training to run a marathon, you need a diet that’s high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat, says Cleveland Clinic Sports Health dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD. And you need to drink plenty of fluids.

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About 60 to 70 percent of your diet should be carbohydrates. Carbs fuel the body. This fuel – glycogen – is stored in the muscles. So cutting carbs out of your diet will make you feel fatigued and sluggish.

Tips on carbs

If you run one to two hours per day, aim to eat 6 to 7 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of your body weight. To see how many carbs you need, first convert your weight from pounds to kilograms by dividing your weight by 2.2.  Then, multiply that number by 7.

Here is how you’d calculate carbs for a 150-pound person running one hour a day:

150 ÷ 2.2 = 68 kilograms; 68 x 7 = 476 grams of carbs daily.

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Good sources of carbohydrates

To ensure that you’ll have energy for running, stock up on these healthy sources of carbohydrate:

  • Bread (whole-wheat is best)
  • Rice (use brown rice to get maximum nutrition)
  • Cereals and pastas (again, go for whole-grain)
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Yogurt

Remember, if you run more than two hours per day, adjust your carb intake upward.

Tips on protein

Protein helps build and repair muscles. Regular runners should eat 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, the 150-pound (68-kilogram) jogger needs 81 to 95 grams of protein.

Good sources of protein

To maintain your muscle strength for running, stock up on:

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  • Meat (the healthiest options are lean, uncured meats)
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Tofu
  • Beans, including soybeans
  • Nuts and seeds

Tips on liquids

Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. Losing just 2 percent of your weight from sweat severely lowers endurance. For each pound you lose during a workout, drink 16 ounces of fluid.

Good sources of fluid

Two hours before your workout, drink two to three large glasses of fluids. Your best options are:

  • Water
  • Sports drinks
  • Juices

Remember, when you go running, bring a water bottle or two — you’ll need 8 to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes of strenuous exercise.

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