Nutrition for Runners

Smart fuel

More than any other sport, running demands that you're careful about when and what you eat. San Diego–based exercise physiologist and running coach Jason Karp presents a basic strategy.

Sixty minutes prior to a run, eat a light, high-carb snack with a little proteinto top off your tank: a bagel and 8 to 12 ounces of fruit juice, or toast with peanut butter and a sports drink. Avoid fat, and go light on fiber—unless your run is populated with public restrooms.

On your long runs (over 90 minutes), you need three things: sugar, electro­lytes, and water. Eat: half an energy gel every 15–20 minutes. Drink: 4–6 ounces of a high-sodium sports drink (like Gatorade Endurance) every 20 minutes. Practice so your stomach gets used to it. Remember: Eat and drink before you feel the need. "If you wait until you're fatigued, it's too late," says Karp.

As soon as possible, drink a mix of sugar and protein to restock the glycogen in your muscles and help repair any tissue damaged in training. The tastiest way? Chocolate milk. Its mix of fluid, carbs, and protein is nearly perfect. Eat well, healthy, and often: You're burning 400 to 2,200 extra calories a day—about 110 per mile—and you'll need to replace them.

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