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Nutrition for Runners

Written by Dr. Shannon Sarrasin, ND

This year has brought a new endeavor for me, being involved in a running group and training for my first 10km race. As a novice runner I have asked myself, how can I support my body for this physical challenge? The following are some tips on how to support your body during a training regime to optimize performance and muscle recovery. These guidelines can be applied to a diverse range of activities whether you are focused on walking, running, cycling, rowing, etc.

Balanced Nutrition
Taking in the right foods can make all the difference in fueling your body for a training regime. Focus on a whole foods diet consisting of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy oils and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Regular meals and snacks (including breakfast) help to maintain healthy blood sugar, energy and fulfill nutrient needs.

Drink Up
Staying hydrated is critical to performance and helps to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and lactic acid build up. Start with drinking lots of water in the days leading up to a race and stay well hydrated leading up to activity. During activities 1 hour or shorter, water is usually sufficient and it is recommended to take in 3-6 ounces every 15min. For activities longer than 1 hour, a sports drink containing carbs and electrolytes are generally recommended.

Fueling before Exercise
Large meals take 2-3 hours to digest and should be consumed well before activity. During exercise the body uses muscle glycogen stores for energy. Taking in an easy to digest carbohydrate snack 30min before exercise helps to conserve muscle glycogen store for increased endurance.

Muscle Repair after Exercise
The first hour after a work-out is a window for replenishing your body, and a snack consisting of carbohydrate plus protein should be consumed. Carbohydrates replenish muscle glycogen for increased endurance and protein supports muscle repair. Some examples include banana and nut butter, a protein smoothie, trail mix or yogurt.

For those of you who want to take it one step further in supporting your body via supplementation, here are some to consider:

  1. A high potency multivitamin contains additional nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and B vitamins that are important during a time of increased physical demand.
  2. Protein powder: Protein is the building block of muscle. During your training regime you may choose to boost protein intake through a protein powder made from whey, hemp, rice or pea.
  3. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that supports the repair of muscles and can be supplemented to speed muscle recovery.
  4. Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids are anti-inflammatory in nature and support the joints, immune system and cardiovascular system.


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