Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Workouts Part Two


Before we get started with part two of finding balance between our diets and our workouts, I realize that this post may contain information that many of you already know.

But sometimes, just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.

It can often take repeated exposure to hearing the same information over and over to make us finally wake up and do something with it.

You may know you need to eat more, you may know it’s important to refuel after a workout, you may know you still need to eat on a rest day yet your brain fights it in a quest to not gain weight.

I understand, really I do, but denying your body food especially when it needs it the most, is not the way to lose weight! In fact, eating too little can and will, eventually, slow your metabolism and cause you to gain weight, along with bring you a whole other host of problems.

So, just like last week’s post, I spoke with Laura (thanks Laura!) about some of the questions I often receive regarding balancing our food with our running and workouts.

I have interjected some of my own thoughts in conjunction with her advice along with a few links of interest as they relate to each topic.


The first question today discusses what we should eat before and after our workouts. I know that not everyone likes to eat before a run. Please make sure you aren’t lying to yourself about this. Are you skipping the fuel in favor of consuming fewer calories or does the food really not sit well in your stomach?

Do you really want to test out glycogen depletion training or are you trying to run off last night’s dinner instead of eating additional calories?

Pre and Post Run Fuel – Why and What?

It’s important to eat a source of easily digestible carbohydrates before your workout. You want to select a carbohydrate that will give you a sustained source of energy rather than a carbohydrate crash, but you also want to avoid anything that will have you running for the bathroom.

You don’t need to eat a huge meal before a run; a small 100-300 calorie snack will work well.

Popular pre-run options:

  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes
  • Dates
  • Applesauce
  • Toast
  • Whole-Grain Waffles
  • Cereal

The amount of time needed between what you eat and when you run varies by person. Some need more than an hour to digest, others can run within 20 minutes.

After a run, you want to eat a balanced combination of complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. To replenish your glycogen stores and start the recovery process for your muscles, be sure to eat within 60 minutes of finishing your run.

-> Although the 6o minute time frame is the benchmark, I do much better when I eat my post run meal within 30 minutes following my run, especially my long run. The sooner I eat, the better I recover and the less hungry I am for the rest of the day. If I miss the window, especially if I go longer than an hour, I get headaches, stiff muscles and remain ravenous all day long!

I shared this post-run meal ideas post a little while ago and Laura recently posted this post-run breakfast recipe round-up too. It’s great to see the variety of options! 

How much more should we eat if we are training for a race?

The harder you train, the more calories your body needs! Listen to your body’s hunger cues and respond accordingly.

-> Check out this post Michele recently shared which shows her day of food as she trains for the Boston Marathon. Even if you don’t follow a Paleo diet (which I don’t), it will demonstrate for you that all you need to do is eat when you are hungry and have your meals include extra of what you normally eat in order to fuel your workouts. 

How much more should we be eating on the days we exercise versus the days we rest?

You may be tempted to cut your calories on rest days, but eating enough is vital on those days to support recovery.

Listen to your hunger. Your body doesn’t lie to you and food plays a vital role in the recovery process. Your running is more likely to suffer if you restrict foods than if you eat according to hunger and athletic needs.

-> My rest days typically fall after hard workout days which usually means I wake up super hungry. Just because I am not running does not mean I don’t eat a lot. If I am hungry, I keep eating until satisfied. If I am not as hungry, I don’t keep eating. It’s fairly simple.

How do we know we are fueling enough to maintain a healthy weight while running and increasing mileage/intensity?

Signs you are not eating enough for your body and your workouts:

  • Your weight is dropping (when you are trying to maintain)
  • Absence of period/suddenly irregular cycles
  • Increased fatigue
  • Performance suffering
  • Cravings increasing, especially for sweets

We have talked A TON about amenorrhea and what it means when you aren’t getting your period. For most females, it’s a true sign of a lack of energy flowing throughout the body which is often a direct result of not eating enough to support our daily functions and workouts.

Your body is real good at letting you know what’s up – appetite, cravings, performance, strength – all indicators of your balance. If you pay attention, you will notice that things can change from one week to the next. It’s totally normal! We are not machines. The trick here though is to listen and make the adjustments necessary as you notice certain symptoms. If you ignore the cues, your workouts will suffer, you run the risk for injury, medical issues (including Female Athlete Triad) and, well, you will be a really cranky person because you are tired and hungry.

Posts of interest:

Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Workouts < – In case you missed last week!

Healthy Carb Loading Recipe Round Up

Amenorrhea Talk

I Do Not Run So That I Can Eat

Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Workouts @thisrunnersrecipes #diet #balance #running #workouts #fitfluential Click To Tweet


Any questions you want us to address specifically in another post?

Do you find your appetite is more intense the day of a long run/race or the day after? 

What do you like to eat before you run? What doesn’t work for you that you know of? I get hungry during my run if I eat toast with peanut butter so I really stick to oatmeal and/or banana. Oh, and apples do not work for me. I cannot dice apples into my oatmeal before I run!




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  1. says

    I learned on Saturday that I cannot eat PB pretzels before a run! Usually a banana works well for me. When I was training for my last marathon I tried eating oatmeal, which was good as long as I had a little time to digest. I also like honey stinger waffles if I need a little more than a banana but am heading out to run early.
    When Im running alot of miles I definitely feel hungrier on rest days. Lately I feel like my appetite has balanced out without the high mileage and intense workouts.
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Weekly Workout Recap and My Worst Run in AwhileMy Profile

    • says

      I always appreciate the lower mileage days when my appetite feels normal! Sometimes the ravenous endless appetite from harder workouts is exhausting in itself! Ha, I am sure you wont ever again eat those pretzels before a run.

  2. says

    Oddly I find my appetite sometimes has a 2 day delay after a long run, who knows! I say we all just go with it and do what makes us feel our best. But especially when training and adding on miles, it’s never a good idea to limit yourself, especially if it’s a rest day since that’s when we rebuild and restore.
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Single Serve Paleo Breakfast Skillet – Crispy & Savory Bacon, Plantain & KaleMy Profile

  3. says

    I generally wake up hungry, so I eat just as much on rest days in the mornings at least, and I’ve found it makes a huge difference in my energy levels. And never again, after running my first half on no fuel and crashing an hour after while I was starving and we had to wait to be seated at the diner, will I run more than 7 miles on an empty stomach.
    Alyssa @ renaissancerunnergirl recently posted…Weekly Workouts + Gridiron 4M Race RecapMy Profile

  4. says

    I don’t eat before I run because it generally sucks for my stomach. I am learning to eat on the run though and my coach believes that will make me go even faster. The only time I feel fatigued during runs is if I didn’t drink enough the day/night before. Then I know I need to get some H2O fast. I also find hunger/thirst depends on my sweat rate. This time of year I don’t sweat as much so I find I don’t drink as much either.
    Thanks for the post! Super informative. You’re right, I do know all this stuff, but a reminder is always appreciated.
    Ellie recently posted…Week In Review: Keep SmilingMy Profile

  5. says

    Thank you so much again for featuring me! I find my appetite has a delay, but if I eat enough in the hours after the next day doesn’t leave me as hungry. A banana works well for me most days, but when I need more I have toast with honey. I can’t do PB before a run – I did that for a while in college and found it gave me energy but wasn’t easy on my stomach.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Fartlek Workouts for the 5K through MarathonMy Profile

    • says

      My stomach is pretty tough and does ok with peanut butter, I just try not to have too much before a run if I have it at all. I try to save it for after, all depends how hungry I am! I can’t run hungry! lol

  6. says

    I am almost always hungriest the day after a long run. I’ve found I don’t need to eat anything on runs less than 7 miles, but anything 7+ I do. I usually go with a piece of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread with almond butter, and I may add 1/2 banana to that as my long runs start increasing. When I tried for my first half marathon, I was obsessive about making sure I wasn’t eating too many carbs so I wouldn’t gain weight, and that totally backfired on me. I was so tired all the time, and ravenous. Now I’m fueling properly and not worried about carbs during this training cycle, and I already notice a positive difference! recently posted…Weekend Wrap-Up+An Awesome 10KMy Profile

  7. says

    I’m always the most hungry on rest days. Running tends to suppress my appetite after a long/hard run/race so I will just try to eat enough to get through the day but then the next day I eat everything that’s not chained down. I don’t tend to think much about what I’m eating, when because of my background. I just eat as intuitively as possible and it seems like it balances out!
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…When Mom Comes to TownMy Profile

  8. says

    I try not to eat much the day before a marathon. Just simple carbohydrates here and there throughout the day. The day of the race I’m usually too nauseous after to eat much but the days following race day are FILLED with food. I even wake up in the middle of the night to eat a bowl of cereal. I guess my body just needs the fuel to recover.
    Suzy recently posted…Week In Review: Goat Get ItMy Profile

  9. says

    I have found that any food in my system before a workout means heartburn or a nausea feeling during the workout. I workout from 5-6 though so I normally eat right after I am done. A question I have is how to incorporate food into a long run…this sounds crazy but I have ran 4 half marathons and a full marathon with only 1 bottle of water throughout..everything else sloshes in my stomach or tries to come back up. I have tried gel shots and Gu’s and nothing sits right!!

    • says

      hmm, there has to be something to test out during your long runs — have you tried jelly beans? taking a few at a time? I also really like hammer gel – I start it after 5 miles, taking in a little bit at a time and have never had a problem. Michele uses the squeeze pouches of applesauce type squeeze fruits which work well for her. Let me know what you think of these options and maybe start testing them out to see which is best. I will keep thinking of what else may work!

    • says

      Hi Kinzie! To follow up with Meredith’s response, have you tried products other than Gus/gels? It can be dangerous to run a full marathon without any food, as you risk low blood sugar, dizziness, and fainting – and you need electrolytes, whether from food or supplement, to prevent hyponatremia (not having enough salt in your blood), which can be fatal. I find it helps to pick a product to try – even if it’s raisins, apple sauce packs, or saltines – and test it out on long runs before your race. Give it three or four long runs before your try another one, as it will take your body time to adapt. I personally found that the first few long runs with fuel were rough and caused some GI distress, but then my body soon adapted to it because it realized how great it was to have energy!
      Alternatively, you could try sports drinks, mix a gel into your water bottle, or even drink coconut water. Some runners find that liquid carbohydrates are easier to digest.
      Hope this helps!
      Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Fartlek Workouts for the 5K through MarathonMy Profile

  10. says

    Good post, thanks for sharing this. I often miss “the window” after my long run because I get distracted flootering around with getting a drink, having a shower, chatting to people & I definitely notice a crash in energy levels if I make this mistake. I’m always hungrier on rest days, for sure.
    Fiona recently posted…Eating The Burn: WHAT to Eat ? CarbsMy Profile

  11. says

    I find it so so hard to eat early in the mornings. I am team roll out the door in a haze to run most mornings so food is not happening. I am trying to have at least part of my breakfast when I get home as I get ready for work. But usually – I run at 6 and don’t eat until 10 or so. I did have something small before my 11 miles this weekend (I also don’t use fuel while I run). Trying to see if changing up that morning nutrition helps as far as weight. I am okay where I am at but would not be opposed to getting leaner.
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted…Half Marathon Training 1/31/16 – 2/6/16My Profile