Basics of nutrition in runner training, part 2

When, how much and what? That is, what to focus on in terms of nutrition during the starting period.

The starting season is in full swing. We runners can now choose from a variety of running events, which is great. The organizers have it worse as they have to compete for every pair of legs at the start. However, it is up to us to prepare thoroughly for the competition. In addition to the training itself, it is worth mentioning proper nutrition, which is a very important element of the body’s regeneration. We won’t get far with an empty fuel tank, and our new, planned personal bests may only remain a dream.

Let’s not let this happen and let’s check out the tips and advice I will mention below.

Remember, however, that theory does not always work in practice, so I encourage you to check everything during training and verify whether something works for you or not. Each body is different and may react very differently to all kinds of news and changes. Therefore, the topic cannot be approached 0-1.

Some general tips on nutrition for an endurance athlete:

1. Remember to maintain an appropriate calorie balance, which will translate into proper regeneration, reconstruction of damaged tissues and development (especially important in young athletes).

2. Pay attention to the appropriate supply of carbohydrates in your diet (periodization depending on the training period). It is crucial when loading with carbohydrates before a long distance race (marathon, ultra).

3. Try to match your meals to your lifestyle (training, work) as much as possible. Thanks to this, we will improve the effectiveness of the body’s regeneration, as well as the reconstruction and protection of muscle glycogen.

4. Adjust the amount of protein consumed to the number of training sessions performed and their intensity. Adequate supply will improve the process of regeneration and reconstruction of muscle tissue, thus reducing the risk of injuries. In addition, we will improve the functioning of the immune system. However, too much protein may negatively affect the functioning of the liver and kidneys (additional burden). That is why it is so important to adjust the protein supply to the needs of the body (work, training, daily duties).

5. Consume healthy fats:

  • add linseed oil or olive oil to vegetable salads,
  • include more fish in your diet, including: due to omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
  • don’t forget about the product, which is avocado,
  • also remember about nuts, which can be an addition to salads, cocktails, or as a snack.

6. Adequate hydration – before, after and during training (more information about hydration is in part 1).

Strategies for a week (or a few days) before the start

1. Gradually reduce the volume (up to 50%) of training intensity and increase the amount of carbohydrates consumed up to 10-12g/kg body weight.

Loading carbohydrates is a very individual matter and you should check on your own body how many days before the competition you should start it to achieve the best results.

For shorter distances, we can charge it 24-48 hours before the start, and for longer distances, 4-7 days before the start.

What will we gain by properly charging the muscles with glycogen?

We will maintain the expected pace for a longer time, and this is what runners are most interested in.

2. We reduce the amount of dietary fiber consumed for 3-4 days to prevent possible gastrointestinal disorders.

3. We reduce the consumption of proteins and fats (we focus mainly on low-fiber, concentrated, high-carbohydrate products).

4. If the exercise is to last 5 hours or longer, we do not skimp on products with sodium (pretzels, tomato juice, salty soups). You can also add more salt than usual to your meals.

5. What to eat 48 hours before the start? White rice, bread, pasta, low-fiber breakfast cereals, fruit, fruit juices, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, energy gels and drinks, low fat in meals, easily digestible meals, skip or limit salads and salads.

6. The day before the start:
a) appropriate amount of carbohydrates, simple and easily digestible products, minimization of proteins and fats,

b) the largest meal no later than around 5-6 p.m. (if the start is in the morning),

c) dinner not very plentiful,

d) limit products rich in fiber (excess may result in flatulence and gastric problems),

e) consume drinks containing carbohydrates,

f) stay adequately hydrated (see the previous article in part 1 for more information).

7. On the day of the start, a large or moderate meal is allowed, as long as we eat it 3-4 hours before the race (longer time for digestion, although this is a very individual issue).

The advantages of such a meal are:

  1. restoring the appropriate level of liver glycogen (especially important in the morning, because its reserves are depleted at night),
  2. preventing the feeling of hunger during physical exercise.

Meal for 3-4 hours should be easily digestible for the stomach, consist mainly of concentrated, low-fiber products + the addition of liquid sources of carbohydrates (e.g. a large croissant with two tablespoons of jam, washed down with fruit yogurt + about a liter of sports drink, banana, 0.5 l of fruit juice, two pieces of toast with two tablespoons of jam). The combination of meals may vary, but the key here seems to be individual tolerance to specific food products, as well as the size of the meal.

If we consume meal for 2 hours before the start, liquid carbohydrate products are preferred (faster and easier to digest), e.g. shake breakfast drinks, liquid meals, smoothies, sports supplements, energy bars. This is a good approach for sports events that need to be done in the morning or early afternoon.

Consumption meal for 1 hour before takeoff:

– eating a meal an hour before is taken into account when you have not eaten about 4 hours before the planned exercise or in the morning, when liver glycogen resources are low,

– a meal an hour before intense physical exercise can prevent the feeling of hunger and provide the necessary extra calories,

– this strategy may cause a significant drop in blood glucose and insulin during the competition, which may contribute to hypoglycemia (however, these are individual issues, there have been changes in the perception of these issues, but it is worth keeping it in mind).

It is important not to test new and spicy products the day before the competition!

If we follow these few simple tips, I believe that we will be able to take part in heavy physical exertion, such as competitions, full of energy, properly hydrated and without fear of unpleasant events related to digestive system problems that may occur after consuming unhealthy food. composed meals.

Nutrition after training/competition


  • replenishing fluids and electrolytes,
  • supplementing muscle glycogen,
  • strengthening the immune system,
  • regeneration of muscle tissue damage.

1. The first 4-6 hours after the end of physical exercise are the most important (however, the reconstruction of muscle glycogen may take up to 24 hours).

2. Carbohydrates = priority (rebuilding muscle glycogen – 5% per hour).

3. After difficult training/competition, it is worth taking about 1-1.5 g of carbohydrates per kg/mth within 30 minutes after finishing.

4. Glycogen synthesis is favored by products with a high glycemic index (GI) – a stronger insulin response.

5. Damage to muscle tissue occurs mainly during eccentric exercises, which often result in symptoms the next day and may slow down the regeneration of muscle glycogen stores.

6. Consuming a certain amount of protein (10-20g) immediately after physical exercise can accelerate the reconstruction of muscle tissue and provides important nutrients essential for the proper functioning of the immune system (soy milk, yogurts, lean meats, protein supplements, shakes or milk-based cocktails and fruit).

7. About 2 hours after training/competition, plan another meal (in addition to what you ate immediately after the end of the exercise).

8. After exercise/competition, it is worth avoiding products with low GI and high dietary fiber content (poor tolerance and/or poor regeneration).

9. Replenishing fluid losses. It is worth checking your body weight before and after a competition/training, so you can see how much fluid you have sweated out and then replace these losses with the appropriate amount. Strategize to make up 125-150% of your body weight difference. For example, if the weight loss is 1 kg, we additionally consume about 1.25-1.5 liters of fluids (not including standard hydration).

10. After participating in long distances (marathon, ultra), we consume food and drinks containing sodium for the next few hours.

11. Of course, we avoid alcohol, which will promote dehydration, and we must remember that we can be dehydrated to some extent after a major effort, such as sports competitions (especially marathons and ultras).

12. If we know that we will not be able to eat an appropriate meal after the competition that would promote better regeneration, it is worth preparing various types of nutrients/supplements containing the appropriate amount of protein and carbohydrates in advance. Alternatively, prepare a ready-made meal such as a fruit cocktail or smoothie, or a dish with pasta or rice.

Despite everything, the best option will always be a quick regenerative snack immediately after physical exercise, and about two hours later it would be best to have a full-fledged, balanced meal.

13. Some examples of products and meals that can be consumed immediately after training/competition:

– breakfast cereals, dairy products, soy milk, fruit,

– croissant with peanut butter, jam and orange juice,

– smoothie (yogurt, milk + fruit),

– yogurt, granola, fruit,

– energy bar, fruit,

– pancakes with syrup and fruit,

– salad with pasta and low-fat cheese,

– easily digestible meals with pasta and rice,

– poultry sandwich.

It is worth remembering that if we neglect regenerative nutrition after competitions or demanding training, it will be difficult to train at a high level. It is possible that over time, caloric deficiencies as well as mineral and vitamin deficiencies will deepen. The consequences will be that we will either be dehydrated or weak. All this, in turn, will affect the quality of training and a decline in sports performance.

Running and digestive system disorders

Runners are more susceptible to stomach and intestinal disorders than other athletes. The reasons may be constant shocks resulting from the specific nature of this sport, intensity, reduced blood supply to the digestive system, dehydration, and inappropriate food products consumed before and during the competition.

How to prevent this?

  • drink an appropriate amount of fluids before and during exercise to avoid dehydration and maintain proper blood supply to the digestive system,
  • limit dietary fiber intake before planned exercise (about 2-3 days before the competition),
  • be careful with caffeine, which may affect the occurrence of gastrointestinal problems,
  • be careful with products with sweeteners, such as sorbitol or aspartame (they may worsen unfavorable digestive system symptoms),
  • it is also worth limiting the consumption of products such as lactose from milk, ice cream or other dairy products (this mainly applies to people who have problems with lactose intolerance),
  • it is also worth experimenting with the timing of the pre-start meal and the selection of products included in the immediate meal before the competition (of course, everything is best tested during training, not on the day of the start (!)).

To sum up, a runner does not live by training alone. Dear runner, remember about nutritional regeneration and write to me if you have additional questions or want to discuss your nutritional tactics.

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