Race and Running Fuel: Don’t Make These Common Nutrition Mistakes

An elite runner shares her top nutrition and fueling tips

According to Tina Muir, an elite runner for the Saucony Hurricanes, a 2:45 marathoner, and third place 10k finisher at the 2012 Great Britain Olympic Trials, the number one nutrition mistake that most runners make is failing to refuel properly after a workout.

“Make sure you refuel within 45 minutes of finishing your run,” she said. “So many people neglect this and put it off, but to start the recovery process, your body needs those carbohydrates, protein and fats.”

If she can’t get to a full meal right after a tough workout or race, Muir says she turns to a protein drink or bar during that 45-minute recovery window.

Her favorite post-run meal, though, is pancakes.

“I have a healthy Greek Yogurt Pancake Recipe on my blog that is great for refueling, and gives everything your body needs to start the recovery process,” she said. “As for drinking, I make sure to have lots of water to rehydrate, and spray some EnduroPacks electrolytes into my drink.”

Muir is an EnduroPacks sponsored athlete and says that while she was skeptical about supplements at first, she was surprised to find what a difference they made.

“Honestly, I was shocked just how much of a difference [it] made to my training,” she said. “I was very skeptical, and I did not expect to notice any changes, but I did.”

She said that using the supplements really helped to speed up the recovery process for her, which led to an overall improvement in her training.

“If you do not recover and try to run hard, that is when you risk injury,” she said.

In addition to improper recovery, Muir mentioned a few other nutrition mistakes that runners should avoid.

She suggests centering your diet around healthy whole foods and said that she focuses on “eating the rainbow.”

In other words, incorporate lots of color in your diet by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“You hear it a lot, but that really means you get a variety of nutrients, which help you run faster,” Muir said. “And I don’t mean eating fruit loops.”

All jokes aside, Muir also mentioned that in her experience, many runners don’t eat enough foods that provide healthy fats. She suggested making sure to also incorporate foods like avocados, nuts, salmon, and olive oil.

Another common nutrition mistake that she mentioned (and one that she admitted to struggling with herself): snacking.

No, snacking isn’t bad, but Muir says you should make sure that you’re not snacking too much or with the wrong foods.

“Snacking can be my downfall, especially as I am at home all day,” she said. “I find that keeping lots of healthy snacks in the house helps me stay on top of my fueling and not overeat.”

She says that she likes eating her carbohydrate-rich meals after her running workouts and that she keeps her house stocked with high-protein and high-fiber snacks like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, fruits and vegetables.

“That way, if you do end up grazing, at least it is with high-protein or high-fiber foods that keep you fuller for longer,” she said.

The final nutrition mistake Muir mentioned (which is one that every runner has probably made at least once in their career) pertains to race day.

Muir says to never experiment with a new type of food or meal right before a race.

“On race day, stick to what you know, and keep it very bland,” she said. “My go to pre-race meal is 1/2 cup oatmeal made with 1/2 cup almond milk and 1/2 cup water, a banana, and some animal crackers or pretzels. The complete opposite of 'eating the rainbow.'”