Easy meals for runners: what to eat before, during, and after a run

As a runner, staying on top of your nutrition is just as important as buying a decent pair of running shoes. Without a healthy, balanced diet, you’ll struggle to stay energised or hit any new personal bests. 

But let’s face it, when you’re busy concentrating on building your medal collection, it’s pretty much impossible to muster up energy for meal planning. That’s where we come in. Here’s some really easy meals for runners and inspiration on what to eat before, during, and after a run. 

What should a runner eat in a day?

When you first start out as a runner, you’ll likely come across conflicting information on what to eat and when. The best practice is to ignore anything you’ve heard so far and to just remember this: a balanced diet made up of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals is key to living a healthy lifestyle. 

Carbohydrates 

Carbs really are your best friend when it comes to running long distances. Research has shown that for both quick and long-lasting energy, our bodies work more efficiently with carbs. Here’s an idea of which ones to load your plate with:

  • Whole Grain bread
  • Whole Grain pasta
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Fruit
  • Starchy vegetables

Protein

Getting in plenty of protein will help build muscle, repair tissue damaged during runs, and keep you full for longer. Check out some of our favourite high-protein breakfasts here or take some inspiration from this list:

  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Fish 
  • Lean meats
  • Whole grains
  • Low fat dairy products

Fat

Foods such as nuts, oils, and fish contain essential fats called omega-3s. These are important for maintaining good health and preventing certain diseases. 

  • Fish and seafood – cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. 
  • Nuts and seeds – flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Plant oils – flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.
  • Fortified foods – certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages.

Vitamins

Though vitamins aren’t a source of energy, they’re still a really important part of your diet if you want to see progress. 

  • Calcium – low-fat dairy products, beans, and eggs are great sources of calcium which will help prevent stress fractures. 
  • Iron – Lean meats, leafy greens, nuts, shrimp, and scallops 
  • Sodium and other electrolytes – if you’re running for longer than 90 minutes, you’ll likely need to replace some of the electrolytes you’re losing through sweat by grabbing a sports drink or taking in salt during your runs.

What to eat before your run

Running on a full stomach (especially if you ate something stodgy) is never fun; it’s best to stick to meals that are high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fibre, and protein. If you’re not planning on going far, you can run on an empty stomach as you’ll have enough energy stores to last the duration. 

What to eat during your run

If you’re only going for a short 5km blast, you won’t need to bring any food with you. Sports gels, bananas, grapes, gummy bears, and energy bars are great for when you’re running for 90 minutes or longer, helping to restore the glucose you’ve lost during exercise. Runners often opt for sports drinks too, as they provide both hydration and glucose to refuel the body. 

What to eat after your run

Your post-run meal largely depends on your goals. If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s best to go for a low-calorie dish. But if you’re hoping to build muscle, you’ll need a meal packed with protein. Either way, you should be drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Here’s an idea of what meals are good for runners once they’re back home and cosy on the sofa: 

  • Bagel with peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Protein shake

Meal plan for runners to lose weight

Running is great for weight loss, but without a healthy and balanced diet, you probably won’t see a huge deal of progress. At Prep Perfect, we have a wide selection of meal plans for runners to lose weight. Simply choose either our 5 day, 7 day, or 28 day package and we’ll have your healthy meals delivered to your door in no time at all.