Fueling the Run


I'll be honest, up to now, nutrition and thinking about what I eat and drink has not been at the foremost of my thoughts. However, after reading the book, "Eat and Run" by the amazing ultra runner Scott Jurek, and with my own milage increasing, I've had to start thinking about these things.  Susanna Balston, who runs Raw by design, promoting a healthy lifestyle through diet, has very kindly written the following article on the benefits of a plant based diet for runners.


What you eat has a HUGE affect on your health, your body and how you think. What you fuel your body with, will either greatly enhance or undermine your running performance. It is important to get your food right.

So what is best food to eat for enhanced running performance?

You want a diet that will enhance your performance, with fast recovery and to maintain better health.

Intense exercise puts a lot of strain on the body. Training breaks down the muscle and you want a diet that can help you recover better, reduces the acid build up and support your body in the best possible way. The diet needs to be:-

High quality – (organic, from a good source and unrefined)

Nutrient Dense – It needs to packed with nutrition, vitamins and minerals.

Alkaline Forming – It needs to help maintain the pH acid/alkaline balance in the body.

Easily Digestible – You want to conserve energy for your training as much as possible.

Whole Foods – Foods that have been had no or very little processing involved.

Eating a high nutrient whole food plant based diet is one of the best diets that offer performance enhancing energy as well as maintaining health, preventing disease, keep you feeling and looking younger and help feed the mind.

Why a plant based diet?

In recent years our food has changed so much that it would probably make your ancestors toes curl with disbelief. We are eating processed foods more than ever and this is causing a HUGE strain on the body. Many of these foods artificially stimulate the body. They may give a tiny little boost of energy in the short term, but often leave us feeling fatigued or exhausted. It is a state that most of us have become accustomed to living in.

We take ingredients from nature, mess around with them, remove many of the essential nutrients, fibre, water, fat, etc. Mix it up with refined fat, sugar and salt, then, fortify the foods with added vitamins and minerals. Often the vitamins and minerals that were removed in the first place! This is processed food.

We are the only species on this plant that messes with our food in this manner and we now see this as ‘normal’ food! These foods build up acid in our body. When we exercise this increases the acid load even more, making it harder for the body to digest and process, adding further stress to the body, which inevitably affects how we feel, our energy and performance during training. If this build up continues in this way this will cause more harm in the long run.

A high nutrient whole food diet is eating foods that help maintain balance in our body. It is eating a high volume of vegetables, greens, fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains.

The whole food (fruit, vegetables, nuts etc.) is packed with fibre, water, vitamins, minerals, protein, and a natural good source of fat. It is food that is easily digested and absorbed into the body. We instinctively know how to deal with these types of food. We take what we need and eliminate what we don’t need. Most whole foods are alkaline based and this helps to maintain the right balance without pulling resources from other parts of our body. This is important to remember when you are looking for food to support your body, gain health and energy. This is the same for exercise and physical performance.

So what is best for eating for exercise?

Well, this really depends of the amount of stress you intend to put your body under. Competing a marathon is going to be completely difference to a 20 min run on the treadmill. Brendan Brazier (ironman triathlete, and author of the Thrive Diet), is an expert in and knows how to fuel the body for exercise, performance and recovery. These are some of his tips found in his book the Thrive diet.

Nutrition before exercise.

According to Brendan Brazier (ironman triathlete, and author of the Thrive Diet), what you eat directly before exercise is not as important as what you have eaten the day before. If you have food cravings, a couple of hours before the start of exercise, it is a sign that the body is fatigued because the requirements have not been made in the days prior and is now asking for nourishment. That being said it is useful to consume small pre-exercise snacks to top up energy levels, especially before longer bouts of exercise such as long bike ride or a hike. The body’s first choice for fuel during intense exercise is simple carbohydrates. Eating too much protein before intense exercise will likely result in muscle cramping since protein requires fluid to metabolise the carbohydrates of fat the cramping occurs when the body is not properly hydrated. Also protein isn’t what you want you body to be burning as fuel. Protein is for re-building muscle not for fuelling it. When protein is consumed in place of carbohydrates immediately before exercise and therefore burned as fuel, it burns dirty meaning that toxins are created from its combustion causing a decline of performance.

Nutrition during exercise

Most of us already know that keeping hydrated and fuelled during exercise is vital. It will also help to reduce the amount of stress on the body. This will allow your body to work harder and longer, promoting a better recovery time. During exercise you need to learn how to listen to your body, anticipate thirst and hunger and make sure you never become thirsty or hungry. Brendan Brazier states “Knowing that I will feel the first onset of thirst around the 20min mark I will be sure to drink 15min during exercising. During work-outs longer than 90mins but under 2 hours I will have a sip of water every 15mins. I apply the same method to eating whilst training. In exercise Sessions exceeding 2 hours I will ensure to consume easily digestible nutrients as well about every 25 minutes”.

Nutrition immediately after exercise

To speed recovery, the body needs simple carbohydrates to enter the bloodstream. This means that it should contain very little fat and fibre. This needs to be taken within 45min after exercise. For normal everyday activity, add a small amount of alkaline-source protein to your snack. This helps to slow down the release of sugar. This small amount of protein helps speed glycogen synthesis, the rate at which the muscles absorb the carbohydrate. However, too much protein, in excess of 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein ratio, will slow recovery. This can be in the form of a recovery drink, gel or an easily digestible pudding is the best snack. The food needs to be kept simple, as the body often has trouble digesting when it is fatigued (since digestion requires energy, energy the body may not have much of after a hard workout), so liquid and near-liquid-consistency foods are great.

Once an hour has passed since eating your post-exercise snack, you can eat a complete, plant based, nutrient dense meal. Ideally, this meal needs to consist of high-quality ingredients that are ideally organic, fresh, whole and are naturally packed with vitamins and minerals. Avoid processed foods wherever possible. The food needs to be simple and easily digestible, and include protein and fat such from ingredients such as lentils, almonds, sprouts, beans, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds.

This meal with, nourish the body, help with recovery and fatigue, place less strain on the body and will help prepare the body for the next workout.


Energy Recipes


Lemon-Lime Sport Drink

Juice ½ Lemon

Juice ¼ Lime

3 Dates

2 Cups Water

1 tbsp Agave Nectar

1 tsp Coconut Oil

Sea Salt to Taste


Hydrating Lemonade



Electrolyte Drinks for Athletes



Immune Boosting Recovery Smoothie



Honeydew Cucumber Cooler



Protein Meals

Potato and Veggie Curry Hot Pot



Sweet Potato Curry with Tofu, Bok Choy and Carmelised Shallots



High Protein Green Smoothie



Tomato and Lentil Soup




The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier, Published by Da Capo Press 2007



Previous Post Next Post

  • Andrew Gordon