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Cardiovascular Health

Fuel Your Run with Healthful Foods

Photo: Courtesy of Erol Ahmed

Alicia Romano, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Fueling your body with the right nutrients can help you make the most of your exercise routine, especially for runners. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating healthful foods and participating in regular physical activity for a healthful lifestyle.

Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day is important. What you eat and drink will depend on the timing, as well as the duration and intensity of the activity. To give your stomach enough time to process your food, meals should be eaten three to four hours in advance. If that is not possible, have a snack one to two hours before. Consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist to find what works best for you.


Gear up your body for a good run with carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, give your body energy. Protein-rich foods, such as chicken, lean meat, eggs, and beans, help your body build and repair muscle.

If you plan to run within an hour of eating, have a healthful snack with low-fiber carbohydrates for energy or consume something easy to digest, such as a fruit smoothie. Add a small portion of protein to help sustain your energy throughout your run.

Drink adequate amounts of fluid — 16 ounces two to three hours before your run — to prevent dehydration. Drink eight ounces of fluid about 10 to 20 minutes before your run and continue drinking fluids during and after your run. Consider including a sports drink if your run will last more than one hour.


Within about 30 minutes after a run, eat a snack of carbohydrates and protein to restore your energy and help rebuild and repair your muscles.

Runners should balance their run schedules with their eating and hydration schedules to avoid stomach upset, stave off hunger, boost energy, and prevent dehydration.

For more information, visit the Academy’s online Find an Expert service to find a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you create a personalized eating and physical activity plan. 

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