Nutrition strategis

Before - During - After

It is a golden standard that, before run warm up and post run cool down, is a must, for obvious reasons. Similarly, it is important to eat Before (pre) - During - After (post) run. These three meals, have huge impact on running speed as well as on recovery. If not more, it is equally crucial to note that ‘when you eat’ is more important than ‘what’, ‘how much’ you eat. ‘Time’ is the key of successful nutritional strategy.


It is important to understand that, car runs on fuel and body runs on food. So nothing can replace food. Resultantly, eating before run is mandatory. Liver glycogen plays a crucial role of maintaining normal levels of blood glucose, which is necessary for optimal functioning of brain and heart. Early morning, after overnight fast, liver glycogen stores are substantially depleted. Working muscles as and when required rely on blood glucose as energy substrate during prolong physical activity. Thus, eating before run will top up liver glycogen stores for energetic start of run


  • Keeps athletes from feeling hungry before and during the exercise
  • Maintains normal blood glucose level
  • Provides adequate energy and carbohydrate for exercising muscles
  • Ensures optimal hydration
  • Refuels body’s energy stores

Based on scientific evidence, high carbohydrate-moderate protein- low fat and low fibre meal is recommended, before marathon running. General rule is to eliminate foods, which are high in protein and fat because their digestion is slower than carbohydrate. Similarly, high fibre foods cause gastric distress, which are slowly digested and absorb.Choice of carbohydrate rich foods and quantity largely depends on time of the meal and gastric tolerance of an individual. Well trained athletes prefer to eat 3-4 hours before run, giving food sufficient time to digest and absorb, results in emptying stomach at the beginning of run. Some athletes prefer to consume just banana or carbohydrate bar before and eat again during the run. Well every individual have their own preference, thus pre run food options very from person to person.

Pre - Run -Meal Suggestion

Dinner at night before marathon event is also considered as pre run meal and it has to be high in carbohydrate to replenish muscle glycogen stores. Include combination of complex and simple carbohydrates foods eg. roti, rice, sweet potato, carrots, beetroot, curd, dal and some vegetable etc in the dinner at night, just before the event is recommended. Do not forget to diligently drink fluids for optimal hydration.

During- Run- Meal

In an endurance event like marathon running, as event progresses, muscle glycogen stores approximately 120- 240 calories, to significantly increase stamina.

During- Run- Meal Suggestion

It is important to note that, too much of anything is not too good. In fact, carbohydrate consumed above recommended amounts lowers the absorption of fluids, contributing to gastric distress, resulting in impaired performance. Similarly, over drinking only plain water will dilute body fluids and create sodium imbalance. As a result of excess amount of water accumulate sodium levels are reduced creating a condition called as ‘hyponatremia’. Certainly, it will reduce endurance capacity by causing undue fatigue, disorientation, headache etc. Therefore, maintaining over-all balance is a must.

Post- Run- Meal

No doubt that, post run is time for celebration. But hold on, that is not the end of your nutrition strategy. Understand that, post run your body is exhausted and needs immediate care and attention. Sound nutritional practices will ensure better recovery and exercise adaptations.


  • Replenish Muscle Glycogen - high carbohydrate
  • Re- synthesis of Muscle - good quality protein
  • Rehydration - water and electrolytes
  • Restore immune system - colourful fruits and vegetables

Post run, body is in muscle break down (catabolism) mode and by eating within 30-45 minute

after run, you can switch on restoration (anabolic) mode.

However, it is very challenging to eat immediately post run, because due to exhaustion, the appetite is suppressed.

Some people have aversion to solid food. In that case, start with liquid meal e.g. fruit smoothie, cerealshake, beetroot juice, as first snack and then switch to solid food. Combination of high carbohydrate and good quality protein (complete protein) is recommended for optimal muscle recovery.

Post- Run -Meal Suggestions

Recovery is very long process. Depending up on individual fitness level, it may take 24 to 48 hours to recover. Hence, it is important to make wise food choices post run, for almost next 24 hours. Apart from carbohydrate and protein another must have nutrients are vitamins and minerals, which perform antioxidant role. Post endurance activity, free radicals by product of biochemical processes increases, which causes damage to cell membrane and lowers the activity of immune system. Antioxidants coming from colourful fruits and vegetables quenches free radical there by contribute in optimal recovery. Similarly, the essential fatty acid, omega-3, helps to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. Therefore, including fish, flaxseed, walnut, avocado in post run meal is a good strategy.

How to design Pre-During-Post run meals

Your nutrition strategy should be flexible and practical. Do not adhere to a plan if it is not working. Do not try anything new on an event day. While you are running, it is important to listen to your body, observe sign and symptoms and take action accordingly. Though it is important to maintain your pace and stay with your clan, your health is more important.

Initially it may sound very complicated to monitor your speed and food intake simultaneously. But if you practice it during trial run then you can easily execute it. Most important - do forget to enjoy your run!!!

Sports Nutritionist

This fact sheet contains general information. Please consult qualified sports nutritionist for personal requirements. Not meant for being used by persons with any adverse medical condition/history. © Apurva Kumbhakoni.

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