Question of food/nutrition: This is a question... - Couch to 5K

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Question of food/nutrition


This is a question for the long distance runners amongst us...I've seen some Garmin type stats from some of the longer distance runners, saying they have burnt up more than 1700 question is how do you replace that? Before you run, or after? I think that is more than I eat in a day anyway, and running kills my appetite..I doubt I could eat enough to cover that kind of exertion, and what about cost? Just curious, doubt it will ever be a real issue for me, at least for a while..

27 Replies

Any time I run 10k plus, I return home ready to eat a horse. I'm pretty sure I end up eating more calories than I burn!


If you go to a coffee shop and have a piece of cake, that's about 600 calories, give or take 100 or so, they get used up pretty fast that way!

Seriously though, when you're doing long distances you need to fuel the run. You have enough glycogen in your muscles to run for about an hour or so, if you're planning on running longer then you need to think of how you'll get the energy you need. Obviously from your body's fat reserves, yes, but these don't get metabolised quickly enough so you need to feed yourself while running, with gels, energy tablets, jelly babies, bananas etc. I can run and eat a banana but find it hard to summon up the jaw power to chew jelly babies.

If you track your runs with a garmin or similar you know how many calories you burn, for me it's a little under 100 cals per mile, so 6 to 700 per hour. When I did my first HM I was eating a dextrose tablet every 20 minutes or so, in my second HM they had bowls of sweets, biscuits, bananas etc at the quarter, halfway and 3/4 points.

As to excess calories left over from a day where I've run, walked the dog, gone to the gym and swum and/or cycled, well Wetherspoons ribs with chips and onion rings comes in at a whopping 2000+ calories. I've not managed to earn a plate of those yet!

HiddenGraduate in reply to Beads

Even for short distances we need to fuel the run, this is what I'm worrying about.. I'm losing weight quite quickly and didn't really want to. Well, 5 KG was ok but I don't want to lose any more... I never eat stuff like cake, I only eat breakfast if I'm running, I force a banana down. I usually run about 5KM burning about 400 calories

I go to Wetherspoons regularly, I love their chicken wings! They are just under 1200 calories, me and Baldy can't finish a plate between us...

BeadsGraduate in reply to Hidden

If you're losing but don't want to then you need to eat more, add a couple of snacks during the day or increase your portion size or keep a pot of ice cream in the freezer. Other ways is to add a pat of butter to your veg, go to full fat milk instead of semi skimmed, full fat yoghurts and other produce that you would usually go for the lower fat version.

I have lost my weight and am now maintaining, I'm still logging what I eat and what exercise calories I earn and finding the maintenance is going well. I'm a big advocate for MyFitnessPal, as are quite a few of us on here, knowing how much you've eaten and how much you need to eat is as important for maintaining/gaining weight as it is for losing it in the first place.

HiddenGraduate in reply to Beads

I do sometimes crave butter and slather it on biscuits, but I can only eat a couple...I don't have anything low fat, I don't think it's natural unless you need to lose weight and even then there are better ways to cut down. I'm also a bit worried about cholesterol in full fat stuff. I'm a loony for cheese, I love it!

I'll have a look at MyFitness Pal or something similar, thanks xx

10K does about 900 calories for me and I don't look to replace it. Have heard of people using gels and jelly babies ;-)


I dream of having 1700 calories spare to 'spend' on ice cream. I know nothing about distance running, but did notice my calorie burn approaching something more cheering when I increased the distance to 7.5k (walking and running mixed). 5k feels like it is at least 1,000 cals worth of effort but is actually around a piddling 350.

Skinny husb used to run lots and seemed to eat enough bread/tatties/pasta daily to keep a modest-sized nation marching on. Other stuff too, but mainly carbs. I would watch with envy while chewing on my sleeves.

S_J_BGraduate in reply to Slookie

Loving the idea of 1700 calories worth of Ben & Jerrys - but think I'd have to be running for longer than I can to earn that!


On the proper computer now, rather than a tricky to use (without finding my glasses) tablet, so here goes a better explanation. Energy gels come in the little pouches, you'll see them strewn by the side of the road after cycle races have been through. They're easy to tear open with one hand and teeth, easy to suck the gel out, no chewing necessary. They're designed to give you energy quickly and easily when you're exerting yourself, in the 'race' environment. I had a chat to one of the chaps on a stall at the running show the other week. They reckon after an hour or so you should be 'taking' a gel every 20 minutes, they're about 100 calories per sachet, so while they give you some energy your body is still using some of its own fuel, as well as the energy they contain electrolytes which are sweated out during exercise, probably more important in the summer than winter. They also (apparently) don't cause the spike in blood sugar (followed by a drop) which eating sweets (jelly babies) would do, but I couldn't figure this, surely eating sweets (calculating the calorie burn/content and balancing it) wouldn't if you were racing as the sugar would be used when it gets into the blood stream. Anyhow, semantics aside they are designed to do the job, but apparently taste pretty chemically.

You know 'the WALL' that marathon runners hit, round about 18 to 20 miles? Apparently that is the point at which their body has used the glycogen stored in the muscles (glycogen is the storage form of glucose (probably a bit more technical, but that's all we really need to know)) and started on fat reserves etc, and as the fat reserves can't be metabolised quickly enough (so although they will keep up with demand during the first bit, when they're sharing the load (as it were) with the glycogen, once they're acting on their own they can't cope) so the body runs out of fuel and you 'hit the wall', basically just do not have the energy (literally) to put one foot in front of the other. So a well prepared marathon runner will eat plenty of carbohydrates for a few days before, to make sure their muscles are fully stocked with glycogen and then fuel the run from the outset, taking on doses of energy in whichever form they prefer all through the race.

You can apparently train your fat metabolism to work more efficiently by running on empty, ie doing a morning run before breakfast. Your glycogen reserves will be lower after a night's sleep as they've been used to keep your body ticking over, so will be used up quicker making the fat metabolism have to kick in earlier.

I hope that helps.

tanyag_163Graduate in reply to Beads

That is interesting (about running before breakfast). I run early mornings and never eat because I hate running when I've just eaten. The other day, I had to run after work as just couldn't fit in an early morning run and I had noticed that my performance was better. The only difference was that I'd had my breakfast and lunch earlier that day.


for a 11 and half i burned 1091 calories ,just have a decent meal some kind of carbs and lots of water i cant drink went im running because it makes me feel sick im crap at eating at 530 in the morning but if you can bit of toast banana ,on the run maybe a couple of jelly babies or sweets

HiddenGraduate in reply to moger

That doesn't make up 1000 calories though does it? I do have bananas when I'm running, sometimes even on whole meal toast if I haven't eaten the night before, but running kills my appetite and I don't want to eat after..

BeadsGraduate in reply to Hidden

It doesn't need to add up to 1000 calories, it just needs to keep ahead of your energy expenditure, with your body using it's stores. Then the calories used but not already eaten can be eaten later in the day/week. Food in/exercise out doesn't need to balance on an hour by hour basis, more like a week by week basis which allows for you being more hungry on some days than others.


What long distances are you thinking of Curly. 10 k doesn't require any food on board. I only took a few sweets with me on my half marathon. You burn calories on your run according to how heavy you are. You can't compare yourself to a man running the same distance as he will burn more than you as he's heavier. On the half marathon I burned about 900. Straight afterwards I drank a coconut water drink, ate 2 home made energy bars, and some ham sarnis (2 slices of bread) Went home and had home made chilli for my dinner. I don't go mad as I don't want to take in more calories than I expend

HiddenGraduate in reply to misswobble

Moot men are not heavier than me, at least running men... I'm nearly 12 stones (75KG) and losing fast! I couldn't eat all that that you did, even after a run...running kills my appetite, I don't want to lose any more weight...


HI Curlygurly, As I started to cover longer distances from about 10k and above my regime includes ensuring i start the day with a good breakfast usually porridge with a spoonful of jam or honey and a slice of toast and marmalade. During the run i started out with Jelly Babies and as i started to train for a HM I changed to using Gels. For the longer runs I have a Gel every 5k to ensure I do not encounter any energy problems as I run, there is no point waiting until you run out of energy.

After I finish my run I have a chocolate milkshake and a piece of fruit to start the recovery process.

When i did my HM i did modify my diet eating more carbohydrate in the week or so leading up to the run.

There is plenty of information online giving advice and recipies.



Thanks for all the replies guys, I suspect I AM not eating enough...I don't want to fade away! Not sure what to do about that...

BeadsGraduate in reply to Hidden

Come play with us over at There's a few of us over there. Track how much and what you eat, put in your exercise calories and see how much over/under you're going. Then you can sort out the balance of food and exercise.

And if necessary go for a quick swim after running to get your appetite back!

HiddenGraduate in reply to Beads

Thanks I'll give that a go...I gave up swimming because of an ear problem, it gives me tinnitus, makes me dizzy and I stagger around like I'm drunk, affects my vision etc... I'm much better off with running!


If you run a half marathon - and I hope you will - you will want to eat a lot afterwards. Your body will crave it.

Eat well in the run up to a long run/race as well. Drink plenty of water too.

If you don't want to lose any more weight then you can afford to have a bit more of everything as long as you are putting the miles in and then your weight should stay stable, which is what I am achieving at the moment. I eat good food though and don't eat takeaways and I don't drink. If you eat healthily you can have a bit more of the rice and the potatoes or pasta, piece of chicken or whatever

What long distance have you got planned?

HiddenGraduate in reply to misswobble

I don't have anything planned really, I'd like to be doing a bit more than I am at the moment though, I average about 5KM usually. There is a run I'd like to do in Spain when I pass by there again in March to the next little village, it's about 3.5 KM each way. Last time my Husband gave me a lift there and I ran back, this time I'd like to run both ways, then Baldy can stay in bed! I could tag on the promenade too, and make it more like 10 KM, although at the moment that seems like a dream for me....

You probably know I was a swimmer until recently, have given it up now as running suits me better for a number of reasons. Swimming makes me starving hungry, even short swim and I would eat the leg off the table, your leg, anyones leg who gets near enough for me to grab them...I need to eat every few hours after a swim, that lasts for two or three days, in fact I found it a bit of a nuisance to be at the mercies of my appetite all the time. Running just doesn't do that, sometimes I even forget to eat.. weird isn't it? I don't usually eat takeaways either, I like veg and healthy stuff, although I find it hard to get the carbs down. I do like a glass of wine or six though.

12 stones probably sound a lot, but I am tall and broad, wear a size 10....

I am the same as you, after a longer run my appetite disappears for the rest of the day. I always have a big glass of skimmed milk when I get in before my shower sometimes with a banana. The protien helps the muscles heal. I put a bigger portion of my main meal on my plate and I have a big packet of ready salted crisps, the carbs and sodium help replenish. But I don't always get it right and wake up at 3am starving. Some say almonds with your milk help so I might try that.

I'm exactly the same Curly in that i just don't have an appetite until at least an hour or two after a run. I never do breakfast and don't like to eat immediately before running. Consequently many times on a Sunday it's 4 p.m. and i have had no solids by mouth. I'm usually famished but go on a run normally 10k but occasionally longer up to HM distance if its a nice day. When i get back there is no way i can eat for another couple of hours despite not eating all day. Although a nice cold beer is very tempting. I find that running longer distances does seem to synchronise your digestion system in that you don't desire food unless you are hungry. I do however seem to regain my appetite later in the evening especially if i'm indulging in the odd glass of Chardonnay but its satisfying to know that it is my body crying out for food.

If your eating sensibly and your weight isn't a concern it sounds as if you have the perfect diet. Why eat if your not hungry ?


Ah, the sodium lost in sweat! Of course! That must be why I crave Marmite...I'm put off by large amounts of food on my plate, I prefer to go and get some more if I'm still hungry. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds running reduces their appetite, I thought I was a bit weird!I I never wake up hungry, wouldn't ever eat breakfast at all if it wasn't for running...I eat twice what my not exactly skinny husband does, he moans about the cost l of feeding me lol

I Strangely, the one time I DO crave carbs and eat a lot is when it's coming up to full moon.....


You don't need extra food for 5 and 10 k. When you start getting towards the 10 to 13 mile mark you will be hungry afterwards but you can eat well in the run up and afterwards. I think if you ran a half marathon you would be hungry afterwards and in the week that follows. Your body impels you to feed it because of course it's depleted. You just have to be careful what you put back in though so you don't undo the good you've done by the long run

This is interesting - here's another way to look at it.

We all know that to lose one imperial pound of fat per week (regarded as a healthy steady rate of weight loss) you need a deficit of 3,500 calories, ie 500 fewer calories a day than it takes to stay the same weight.

Most people use around 100 calories per mile for running. So, without eating any less, to lose one pound a week you would have to run 5 miles/8k a day (500 cals) seven days a week or 35 miles a week. That's quite a lot for a recreational runner.

Based on my total miles run over the past three months (which includes three 10 milers) I worked out I have run 14 miles a week on average so that's a pretty small deficit of 200kcals a day - I can inhale that much extra butter on my toast without even noticing :-) I haven't lost or gained weight and haven't been aware of eating differently so I think it all balances out in the end.

Obviously if you are really pushing up the miles training for a marathon or something then you'd need to adjust accordingly.

I wonder if the lack of appetite after running is anything to do with dehydration? Being thirsty without realising it can do weird things to your hunger mechanism.


Lots of good advice here thanks, good question and it's something I've only just started to take seriously.

For me running on empty works okay for a 5k and I believe Beads is right when she writes it's good training, but no good for peak performance. Mostly I eat 2 hours before, just something light like toast/banana, this has seen me through to 10 miles. On the few 10 milers I've done I'm starving afterwards and so have started putting a casserole in the oven before, when I return my tea is ready and this is working well for me. Have read as RFC writes that protein is essential in the 2 hours after for muscle repair, so aim to get that into my casserole - but if you can't stomach that apparently chocolate milk gives you both the protein and the sugar/carb for recovery (Mo supposedly uses that). This seems to be working very well, after several experiences of neglecting fuelling I have learned the hard way.

Oh and interesting to read what Miss Wobble writes about the week after, I'm finding my hunger spikes days later too, so not just me then.

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