How to Structure Your Run Days

April 25, 2022 /  No Replies

By: Nicole Hinckley, RD, LD

How you decide to fuel your body for a run can dramatically impact your energy, GI comfort and performance!


Before Your Run

The night before a long run, make sure to incorporate carbohydrates. You don’t want to feel overly stuffed, but you want to make sure you are preparing your body with the proper nutrients it needs for the next day. 

Example of carbohydrates to incorporate at dinner:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Potatoes


3-4 hours before your run we recommend fueling your body with a balanced meal including complex carbohydrates, healthy dietary fats, and lean proteins. This combination will help your blood sugar stay regulated, providing you with long lasting energy for your run. You also want to make sure you are hydrating. We recommend receiving at least 3.7 liters of water for male athletes and 2.7 liters a day for female athletes. 

Examples of healthy meal ideas include:

  • Protein Oats (Oatmeal + Milk + Protein Powder + Berries + Nut Butter)
  • Smoothie (Spinach + Nut butter + Mixed berries + Protein Powder + Milk)
  • Homemade Cobb Salad (Greens & Veggies + Chopped Apple + Turkey Bacon + Chicken + Hard Boiled Egg + Light Ranch Dressing)
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (Spaghetti Noodles + Spaghetti Squash + Lean Ground turkey or Beef + Marinara + Cheese)


2 Hours before your run, aim to eat a small snack with some carbs, protein and maybe  fats. It is also crucial to ensure you are properly hydrated before your run. Within 2 hours before your run if you expect to sweat, drink about 1-1.5 cups of fluids.

Examples of healthy snack ideas include:

  • Peanut Butter Toast (Bread + Peanut Butter + Banana)
  • Granola Bar & Protein Water (Granola Bar + Protein2o)
  • Rice Cakes + Turkey Stick


30-60 minutes before your run, grab a simple carb, simple carbs are lower in fiber and take less time to process, which is great for a pre-run source of energy. You can also consume a salty snack, such as pretzels, to get in some electrolytes. It is crucial to hydrate before, during, and after your run. 10 minutes before your run aim for .5-1.25 c. of water.  

Some examples of simple carbs include:

  • Sports Drink (sugar + water) 
  • Banana
  • Crackers
  • Dry Cereal


During Your Run

If you are going on a run for less than one hour, you may not need to pack a carb-rich snack. You may feel energized enough from your pre-run nutrition. It is still important to pack a water bottle and stay hydrated! Even a 2% level of dehydration can result in a 10% decrease in performance. 


If you are planning on running longer than 60-90 minutes, hydrating and consuming carbohydrates before, during, and after your run are very important. After about 90 minutes of running, it is important to consume simple carbohydrates like chews or a sweetened sports drink. These simple carbs will help bring your energy back up and fuel the remainder of your run. You should aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates for every hour of running to optimize performance. You may need to consume carbs earlier if you experience any signs of low blood sugar.

Signs of low blood sugar include:

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Sugar Cravings
  • Headache
  • Fatigue 
  • Weakness


During your run aim to get 5-10 oz. of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise and replace electrolytes. Your water and electrolyte needs may increase if you are running in the heat or humidity or if you are sweating more than normal!

Signs of dehydration

  • Increased thirst
  • Dark Urine
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Dry Mouth


After your run

Calculate your sweat rate to determine how much liquid you should consume during exercise. Consume 1.25- 1.5 L of water or sports drink for every kilogram lost.

  • Measure your body weight prior to your run
  • Measure the volume of water you consumed during exercise.
  • Measure your body weight after your run without sweaty clothes and subtract initial weight and volume of water consumed during exercise. 


After your run, you will want to make sure you are receiving a balanced meal or snack with carbs, proteins and fats. If you are quickly heading to another high intensity activity, ensure you have a rehydration plan before you begin exercise. Remember, consuming electrolytes after your run can help you retain fluids and stimulate thirst. Protein 2o is a great option to get in fluid, protein, and electrolytes post workout. Protein 2o contains whey protein which has been shown to re-synthesize muscle the fastest after exercise. For more information on getting the most out of your workout, click here.  


Avoiding an Upset Stomach on Your Run

  • Avoid consuming excess fructose before your run 
    • Examples:
      • Dried or fresh fruit
      • Honey
      • Table sugar
      • Fruit juice
  • Avoid Complex Carbs within a few hours of your run
    • Examples:
      • Whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice)
      • Legumes (lentils, beans)
      • Veggies (sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots)
      • Fruits (apples, berries, oranges)
  • Avoid Carbonated Drinks
  • Go to the Bathroom Before
  • Eat and Drink Slowly
  • Avoid Caffeine Immediately Before Running


*** These are suggestions, but make sure to consult with your physician or dietitian for more specific recommendations.

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