Nutrition For Runners: Paleo and Whole30 Tips

I’m so excited to be co-hosting this week’s Tuesdays On The Run with April, Patty, and Erika! This week’s topic is “Nutrition For Runners” so link up your posts below or at one of their sites, and be sure to check out a few other posts as well!

Tuesdays on the Run

We all know that good nutrition is important for runners, right? I think it’s something that everyone needs to figure out for themselves, and there’s no one correct formula for everyone. I started paying more attention to my nutrition about a year and a half ago. I read Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (affiliate link) which helped me understand the basics about how athletes should be eating. 

Last spring/summer I started learning more about Paleo and began eating mostly paleo foods. Last summer Michele wrote a guest post about Paleo for runners which still seems to get a lot of hits on my blog, and things like “paleo, running, fuel” etc are very popular search terms.  

For the past 30 days I have completed the Whole30I was a little worried about how this would go as a runner, but to be honest I didn’t have any problems with it! Now, I wasn’t running high mileage or completing long runs so I would have had to adjust if that were the case. For more info on that stuff refer to Michele’s post.  nutrition for runners So here are so basic tips for doing the Whole30 as a runner or general athlete:

1. Figure out how to time your workouts around meals. I like to run in the morning, but I know I can’t wait a long time after waking up to eat. So I would sometimes eat a banana before running, or not eat anything and run right away. If you like to work out later in the day, figure out which foods are the best pre-workout foods for you. Note: Make sure you are refueling within 30-60 minutes after you complete your workout! whole30 breakfast scramble 2. Make sure to eat enough fat. You know how us runners can feel hungry all the time? We also tend to be carb-happy. I used to be able to deal with that by eating a big bowl of pasta or pretzels or some other kind of carb throughout the day. One of the biggest adjustments for me was adding fat to my meals. I still struggle with this, but it’s the most helpful advice I have gotten. 

3. Figure out a snack plan just in case you do end up hungry. Some days I just didn’t feel like I could make it between meals without eating something. So I always had snacks available, especially when I was at work all day. These included apples, pears, baby carrots, almond or cashew butter, nuts and LARA bars. carrots 4. If you need to bring fuel on your run, try raisins or dates. I didn’t do this since my longest run during the Whole30 was 8 miles, but I’ve used raisins before and that worked well. I have used Powerbar Energy Blends (affiliate link) during marathon training and now they are my favorite long-run fuel.

5. Get creative with adjusting your meals. Rob and I were used to eating pasta and meatballs every Friday night before our Saturday long run. So we started eating paleo meatballs and spaghetti squash. It’s not the same as a big plate of penne but it at least gave us some comfort in keeping a similar routine.  Spaghetti squash I think that one of the best parts about the Whole30 for runners is that you are really shifting your focus to eating whole, nutritious foods. Sometimes as runners we may feel like we are “allowed” to eat whatever we want because we run so much. We absolutely shouldn’t deprive ourselves of things we want, but it’s also important to focus on getting enough of the good stuff- fruits, veggies, protein, and healthy fats. 

In case your not already sick enough of hearing all about the Whole30, I’ll be back tomorrow with one last post about it! Spoiler alert: I may have a guest poster share some thoughts on the Whole30 with a much different perspective from my own 😉  What are some of your nutrition tips for runners? What’s your favorite long run fuel? Favorite pre-run meal?


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53 thoughts on “Nutrition For Runners: Paleo and Whole30 Tips

  1. I wish I could link up a post about nutrition but I have a hunch there would be a lot of disappointed people out there. 😉 I definitely need to smarten up with my eating habits which is why you’re such an inspiration to me. I will come around eventually! With my heels dragging, but I’ll come around.
    Suzy recently posted…Name-CallingMy Profile

    • I’ve never tried jelly beans! But I did eat swedish fish on a course once, and found it hard to chew them.

  2. Since I started training using MAF, I haven’t need any nutrition on my long runs. That’s a huge change for me. My body is efficiently burning fat for fuel at this point. I do still carry around Clif Shot Bloks. One of the few things my tummy agrees with on a run. I’ve never tried raisins or dates. Sounds interesting!
    Melanie recently posted…TOTR: Runner NutritionMy Profile

    • Haha yea I think as far as carrying fuel on a run raisins would be easier than dates but I think its just better easier to have something thats packaged.

  3. I have also noticed that paleo and running or something similar are popular search terms which makes me think more and more runners are hearing about it and considering it. All your advice is great and all things I’ve done.

    The other thing I would say is that for marathon training, try not to get caught up in the “rules” of whole30/paleo when major fueling is needed on a long run, and take a gel that works for you and keeps you feeling energized. Whatever helps you perform the best in that situation has to take precedence I think.
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…The Best Stay-Home DatesMy Profile

    • I think you’re right about that. It seems like the “rules” are a little different when it comes to endurance sports with paleo/whole30.

    • That was a little tricky for me too. People have suggested sweet potatoes and I did scrambled eggs when I was marathon training last year. I’m sure you can find something if you experiment a bit!

  4. I love dried apricots instead of GU on training runs. That said, when I get into “serious” marathon training the dried fruit goes out the window. I too love a Paleo-focused diet, and I’ve read Paleo for runners more than once, but can’t seem to make it work for me when my runs get over 12 or so miles.
    Marcia recently posted…Nutrition Basics for RunnersMy Profile

    • I hope the Whole30 goes well for you! It’s a great idea to do it when you’re not training.

    • It can be so easy to get carried away with our eating as runners! That sounds great that you do a few paleo meals a week.

    • All of that sounds really good! I sometimes eat nut butters before a long run with a banana.

    • It definitely helps! I need to keep making an effort to include it in my meals, even now that the Whole30 is over!

  5. My typical breakfast before a long run is something like Cheerios and then a half a bagel or whole English muffin with peanut butter. My post run snack has carbs, protein and fat to hold me over until lunch.
    Lesley recently posted…Running to DisneyMy Profile

    • Agreed! I think that in general people should probably be eating more healthy fats. And I think its just easier to take gels than something like raisins while running, especially during a race!

    • It can be so easy to fall into the trap of eating whatever we want because we run! I’ve really found that I feel better (both while running and in general) when I’m eating well!

  6. Great post! I did Whole30 in January last year and I had some pretty great results. I didn’t wind up sticking with a paleo diet but I did gain a new appreciation for eating whole foods, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and including healthy fats in my diet. There were recipes that we made on Whole30 that we continue to make regularly because they were so delicious. Reading labels was a real eye opener for me as well because it is amazing the amount of stuff that can get added to what you think are healthy items!
    Leana recently posted…Running…LatelyMy Profile

    • Sounds great! It sounds like I had a similar experience to you. And I definitely agree about the labels- its definitely eye-opening!

  7. Great information! I’ve looked at Paleo several times but I just can’t say goodbye to beans! Thanks for guest hosting the linkup today!

    • For a long time I thought I couldn’t go without grains…I made it 30 days and I’ll probably continue to limit them. But when you find something that works for you its hard to give it up!

  8. I really want to give Paleo a shot again, but I have a hard time getting enough carbs for long run and I’m marathon training again. I also usually run my long runs unfueled now, so maybe it would work. Definitely something to think about.
    MCM Mama recently posted…TOTR: Fueling your runMy Profile

    • It can be so tricky to do long runs without grains- it was definitely something I struggled with last fall when I was eating mostly paleo and I’m still not sure what my plan will be for the next time I train for a marathon!

    • Glad that you learned something! I definitely wouldn’t recommend a Whole30 while marathon training. It could be done, but I think it would just be more difficult.

    • Yea I’m not sure how it would work without eating meat:) But there are definitely good concepts involved in it that anyone could benefit from!

  9. I mainly use sweet potatoes as my long run fuel. Lately, I’ve been making baked sweet potatoes with some kind of filling + salad and avocado: primal beef chilli with cheese, or bacon and scrambled egg with cheese.

    I second your tip on runners eating more fat: the more good fats you consume, the more likely you’ll be a fat burner so you’ll be able to use body fat and dietary fat as fuel sources, and not need to rely exclusively on glycogen in your muscles and liver. You’ll be able to run much longer without needing mid-run fuel.

    Another nutrition tip from me would be ditch the grains and replace with tubers. Too many recreational runners think porridge, pasta and muesli are musts for running. They’re not. With proper nutritional knowledge, a runner can easily fuel and thrive on a grain-free diet. If paired with proper nutrition (protein, fat and vegetables at every meal, little to no sugar consumption), a runner will see improvements in their performance, and most likely, overall wellbeing. No more frequent illnesses!

    My favourite 8+ mile run breakfast consists of paleo pancakes made with banana, eggs and tahini. I use Honey Stinger Organic energy chews for mid-run energy, but this is usually for races only because I follow the Mark Sisson ‘Train low, race high’ mantra.
    Danielle @ Eat Primal, Run Hard recently posted…{WIAW} The Primal FormulaMy Profile

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