A Time And A Plate: Runner’s Nutrition

Fiona Bugler
5 min readAug 15, 2019

There was a time when all a runner had to think about was eating carbs — as many as possible. And in recent years more attention has been paid to timing when you eat and getting the right type of food on board. Now timing and the balance of power between carbs and protein are under examination.

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Over the last decade researchers have been clock-watching, with a number of studies examining ‘nutrient-timing’ and working out when the window for optimum fuelling is open, particularly around the time of exercise. Some believe we should limit eating carbs so we can become more efficient at burning fat as fuel when we run, and consume them post exercise when our metabolic fire is burning. It’s rather like putting logs on a fire that’s still burning, they’ll break down to ashes. When and even if, we should consume carbs has been a focal point of the discussion, whether it’s about improving performance or body composition. Should we eat them in the morning, in the evening — or not at all?

When it comes to weightloss thereis evidence to show that eating earlier makes sense: “It’s important to get energy intake in earlier in the day to allow time for the body to digest and absorb nutrients,” says Dr Justin Roberts from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. “More importantly, taking carbs in the morning is linked to insulin and glucagon function. By maintaining a sensible energy intake over the day with a minor calorie deficit, but lowering carbs towards the evening there is likely to be less influence on insulin action leading to fat storage,” he adds. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone as, Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS, and director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition (www.precisionnutrition.com)points out there is also evidence to back the opposite theory, “there are several long-term studies that have show eating the majority of calories and carbs at night to be superior to the morning. It’s very much down to the individual,” he adds.

Efficient eating: little and often?

For runners, on a day-to-day basis, it’s good to eat little and often (every 2.5 to three hours) as this will help to keep hunger pangs at bay. But contrary to popular belief eating little and often doesn’t have a role in stablisingblood sugar levels. “To regulate blood sugar you…

Fiona Bugler

Writer and editor, specialising in health, fitness, and wellbeing. Runner & Ironman triathlete. Publisher of the Zone mag, i-wellbeing.com linktr.ee/fionabugler