Don’t Ditch Your Best Source of Fuel For Running

When you’re trying to slimdown and look super-tonedcarbohydrates may be one ofthe first things you cut out. Popular diets suchas Atkins, Paleo, South Beach and Dukan allfocus on reducing carbs and eating moreprotein and fats. But if you want to fuel yourrunning programme, especially endurancesessions, carbohydrates are a must, as theyprovide your body with its preferred energysource for running.


Carbohydrate is the best energy source foryour body during intense exercise. It’s foundin two main forms in the body: glycogen andglucose. Glycogen is stored in your muscleand liver cells, while glucose, the body’spreferred energy source, is found in theblood. As muscle glycogen levels begin to fallduring exercise, especially in sessions over90 minutes, eating carbohydrate during yourworkout helps maintain the optimum levelto delay fatigue. Your body uses bloodglucose first, and when you take in carbs,this is topped up.

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In addition, incorporatingcarbohydrate into your post-workout snackor meal can speed up recovery, restoring your glycogen levels in time for your next training session.But not all carbs are equally beneficial.Ditch the processed, refined carbohydrates(such as white bread, pasta, white rice,biscuits and cakes), as they offer little in theway of nutrients and can result in fluctuatingenergy levels. While grains are a good sourceof carbohydrate, some people find them,particularly those containing gluten (wheat,barley and rye) difficult to digest. Othernutritious carbohydrate sources include fruits,vegetables – especially starchy ones (carrots,sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, beetroot,parsnips) – potatoes, low-fat dairy foods, beans and pulses. Ancient grains such as quinoa and amaranth are also nutritious options. The amount of carbs you need is key to your performance. Here’s a guide of what to eat when.

During the day:

For sustained energy, aim to include low glycaemic-index carbohydrates with each meal and snack. Think wholegrains, oats and starchy vegetables.

Before arun:

About 30 minutes before youset off, opt for a quick-releasing source ofcarbohydrate (around 20-30g) that’s easy todigest, such as a handful of raisins, energy bar,smoothie or banana. For long sessions, eatsomething more substantial, such as a bowl ofporridge, about an hour before your run.

During training:

If you’re training for longerthan 90 minutes, you may need to refuel inthe form of a carbohydrate-based sports drinkor energy gel (see box, below).After training: Aim to replace your glycogenstores within 30-45 minutes of longer runs.For maximum benefits, include carbohydrateswith protein (3:1 ratio) to aid muscle recoveryand repair. Depending on the length andintensity of your training, this may be around40-60g carbohydrates. Ideal quick and easysnacks include a protein shake with fruit, abowl of fruit salad with Greek yoghurt or an energy bar.


If you’re lacking in energy, suffering frommuscle soreness, fatigue or reducedperformance, you may not be fuelling yourbody sufficiently. This may mean you’re noteating the right carbs at the right times, oryour overall carbohydrate intake is too low.While everyone’s needs are different, thefollowing guide is a good place to start:

●General training and low-intensity workouts– around one hour’s training per day: 5g carbsper kg of body weight per day.

●Endurance workouts and high-intensitysessions – one to three hours’ training a day:7-10g carbs per kg of body weight per day.For a woman weighing nine stone (57kg),training at a low intensity, this equates toaround 280g carbohydrates a day. This couldinclude a bowl of porridge with raisins, anenergy bar before a run, fruit smoothie aftera run, baked potato as part of lunch followedby fruit and yoghurt, cereal bar for a snack orhandful of dried fruit, then in the evening, asweet potato or rice with lots of vegetables.

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