San Francisco’s Becca Blumberg, MS, RDN: Gut Nutrition is Key for Running, Think Ahead and Start From Day One

By Becca Blumberg

If you are new to running, or new to the marathon distance, you might wonder why a dietitian would be a part of your training team. Why talk about nutrition for running at all? The truth is, whether you are running 5k or 50k, nutrition can make or break your race day experience. It impacts every aspect of your training and plays a key role in meeting your goals when the big day comes.

Read on to find out more about why you should be thinking about nutrition for running from the moment you
start training.

1. Go longer and harder: Our bodies rely on stored sugar, called glycogen, to fuel our muscles during exercise. When we run out of these stores, we bonk or hit the wall. This happens for most athletes at 90-120 minutes of activity. At this point, we must start
taking in additional sugar via gels, bars, drinks, and other fuel to avoid relying solely on our fat stores, which take much longer to convert to energy our muscles can use.

Because of this, it’s important that endurance athletes have a nutrition plan that allows us to maximize these stores prior to key workouts and competitions, to take in enough sugar during these efforts, and to replenish our glycogen stores afterwards to be ready
to go again the next day.

2. Prevent soreness and injury: Whenever we workout, whether it is a long or hard run or a strength session in the gym, our muscles are damaged. As this damage is repaired, our muscles actually grow stronger. This allows us to run faster or farther or to lift heavier
weights over time. Our bodies need adequate protein, energy, vitamins, hydration, and minerals for this process to occur. If we do not have these things, we will become rundown. At best, we no longer benefit from our workouts as much as we could. At
worst, our bodies become injured because they can no longer repair the damage that is
being done.

3. Maximize recovery: The name of the game in training for a marathon is consistency. You can’t get out and run consistently if you are always run down. Long runs deplete our muscle glycogen and throw off the balance of water and electrolytes in our bodies. Over
time, this leads to fatigue and the inability to keep running as long or as hard as we need to reach our goals. It can also impact our energy levels in other areas of our lives.

Having a good nutrition for running and hydration plan before, during, and after these runs helps our bodies to bounce back and be ready for another week of work and training.

4. Prevent illness: Speaking of putting in the consistent miles, nobody wants to mis training because of a cold. Nutrition can’t keep you from ever getting sick, but it does play a vital role in your immune system. When our bodies perceive stress, our immune systems take a hit. Making sure that the stress of training is minimized by providing our bodies with adequate energy and protein is the most important thing we can do to help fight illness.

We can go beyond making sure that our bodies have enough energy and protein and focus on some specific vitamins and minerals that support our immune system. They are all important, however, the antioxidant vitamins C & , vitamin A, as well as iron and zinc
play key roles. Eating real whole foods and making sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables can help make sure that your immune system has what it needs to stay healthy.

5. Confidence: There’s a quote “endurance is 90% mental, the other half physical”. Without a strong mental game, we cannot hope to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. Having a planned and practiced fueling strategy for race day ensures that your body will be able to handle the task of taking in calories while you are moving and lets you know that you’ll have enough energy to make it. The confidence that this can
bring can be the difference in finishing or hitting that time goal.

You’ll be getting tips, tricks, recipes and information throughout your training cycle to maximize your nutrition and develop a solid race day plan. If you’ve got more questions or want some one-on-one help, please reach out to me at

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