RUN 101: Rachel Hannah's meal plan for new runners

RUN 101: Rachel Hannah's meal plan for new runners

Rachel Hannah is a nutritionist at the University of Guelph, and a bronze medalist at the 2015 Pan-Am Games. As part of The All-Season Co's new free e-book, RUN 101, she has provided this guest post to give new runners an example of how to eat before and after your run. 

When you have less than 90 minutes you want to have quick digesting carbohydrates for energy. Fat and protein slow down digestions so having a cheeseburger soon before running will not feel good on the gut and could cause issues during the run too.

Pre-Run (Race or Long Run)

3-4 Hours Before
High carbohydrate meal but including protein. Protein will slow digestion and delay hunger during competition. Relatively low in fibre/fat to avoid stomach discomfort.
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereal w/ milk and fruit
  • Oatmeal w/ berries and walnuts or almonds or pumpkin seeds & soy milk
  • English muffin w/ hard boiled egg
  • Low fat Greek yogurt w/ fruit salad and nuts
  • Cottage cheese w/ fruit and almonds
  • Toast or wrap with a small amount of peanut/almond butter and jam or banana
  • Tempeh on whole grain bread w/ mixed vegetables
  • Fruit smoothie w/ yogurt, berries, banana, oats, peanut butter
  • Scrambled eggs, toast, avocado
  • Grilled cheese, veggies and hummus
  • Whole wheat pasta w/ meat sauce, green beans
  • Tofu, rice/potato/quinoa and veggies
  • Glass of soy milk, wrap w/ banana and almond butter
  • Protein bar and a piece of fruit
    Tip: spicy or acidic foods eaten close to competition may also lead to indigestion and heartburn.
1 - 2 Hours Before
Reduce the snack size. High carbohydrate and moderate protein only if feeling hungry or well tolerated.
     Examples: Handful of dried fruit, fresh fruit (banana, grapes), freeze dried bananas, plain bagel w/ jam or honey, small non-fat yogurt, cereal bar, rice cakes, low fibre (0-2g), low sugar cereal + milk, trail mix w/ cheerios, raisins and almonds, granola bar and milk and banana.
15-45 Minutes Before
Take some sips of a sports drink, carbohydrate chew/gel. If the last food eaten was 3-4 hours before, top up on familiar and easily digested carbohydrates within 15-60 minutes of competing. Note: A liquid meal may be preferred for athletes who are very nervous.



Aim to have a balance of carbohydrates and protein to help aid muscle recovery. When doing short efforts like 5 km you don't have to eat within 30 minutes. Eat when your next usual meal or snack is planned or when you feel hungry again. Eating within 30 minutes applies when doing sessions that use up your stored glycogen (carbohydrates) like workouts over 90 minutes and long runs. Or when you have less than 8 hours in between runs or other exercise that is over 1 hour at a time.

Rachel Hannah joined the University of Guelph's Health and Performance Centre in the fall of 2018 and has worked as a registered dietitian since 2011. Prior to joining HPC, Rachel worked in Toronto with a private healthcare company (MEDCAN).

A native of Barrie, Ontario, Rachel made her way south of the border to complete her undergrad at Georgia State University prior to returning home to launch her professional career as a registered dietitian. 


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