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Running is a physically demanding sport that places significant demands on your body's energy reserves. As a runner, your choice of carbohydrates can make a profound difference in your performance and recovery. Carbohydrates are the body's primary energy source, and selecting the right ones can help you maintain your pace, avoid hitting the wall, and recover faster. In this article, we'll explore the best carbohydrates for runners to include in their diet for peak performance.

1. Complex Carbohydrates:

Complex carbohydrates are a runner's best friend. These carbohydrates are rich in fibre and provide a steady, sustained release of energy. They help stabilise blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full longer. Some excellent sources of complex carbs for runners include:

Whole Grains:

Foods like oats, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and brown rice are packed with complex carbs, fibre, and essential nutrients. They provide long-lasting energy and are ideal for pre-race meals or daily training.

Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-dense carb source that's rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They release energy slowly and can be a great addition to your post-run recovery meal.


Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are not only packed with complex carbs but also offer a good dose of protein and fibre, making them perfect for post-run recovery dishes.

2. Simple Carbohydrates:

Simple carbohydrates are quick sources of energy. While they don't provide the same long-lasting sustenance as complex carbs, they can be useful for a quick energy boost during a run or immediately after to kickstart recovery. Some runner-friendly sources of simple carbs include:


Known as nature's energy bars, bananas are loaded with easily digestible carbs and potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramps.

Dried Fruits:

Raisins, apricots, and dates are concentrated sources of simple carbs, making them convenient snacks to carry on long runs.


A natural source of simple sugars, honey can provide a quick energy boost. You can drizzle it on whole-grain toast or mix it into your pre-run smoothie.

3. Fruits and Vegetables:

Fruits and vegetables are essential for runners due to their rich carbohydrate content, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They contribute to overall health, support the immune system, and aid in recovery. Some top choices include:


Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are not only high in carbs but also packed with antioxidants that can help reduce exercise-induced inflammation.


Known for their high vitamin C content, oranges also provide easily digestible carbs to fuel your runs.

Leafy Greens:

Vegetables like spinach and kale may not be high in carbs, but they provide crucial nutrients that support overall health and endurance.

4. Energy Gels and Sports Drinks:

During long races or intense workouts, you might need quick energy replenishment. Energy gels and sports drinks are formulated to provide a rapid supply of carbohydrates to keep you going. They're convenient and can help prevent bonking during a marathon or an ultramarathon.

5. Timing Matters:

When it comes to carbs, timing is essential for runners. For optimal performance, consume a carb-rich meal 2-3 hours before a long run or race to ensure your glycogen stores are topped off. During extended training sessions or races lasting over an hour, consider consuming easily digestible carbs to maintain energy levels.

Selecting the right carbohydrates for your running regimen can be a game-changer for your performance and recovery. A balanced intake of complex and simple carbs from sources like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and energy gels can provide the necessary energy to keep you moving, avoid the dreaded wall, and recover effectively. Remember that individual preferences and sensitivities vary, so it's essential to experiment with different carb sources to find what works best for your body and running goals. With the right carbohydrate choices and timing, you can fuel your stride and unlock your full running potential.

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