Featured image of post Common Nutrition Mistakes Runners Make and How to Avoid Them

Common Nutrition Mistakes Runners Make and How to Avoid Them

Avoid common nutrition mistakes runners make to improve performance, recovery, and well-being. Learn about calorie needs, hydration, nutrient timing, sleep, and more, for a balanced and effective running diet.

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Common Nutrition Mistakes Runners Make and How to Avoid Them


As a seasoned running coach, I’ve seen firsthand the profound impact that proper nutrition can have on a runner’s performance, recovery, and overall well-being. Unfortunately, many runners fall victim to common nutrition mistakes that can sabotage their training and undermine their goals. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the most prevalent nutrition pitfalls and provide you with the knowledge and strategies to avoid them.

Nutrition is the foundation of any successful running program. What you put into your body directly affects your energy levels, muscle recovery, and overall health. Neglecting this crucial aspect of your training can lead to a host of problems, from decreased endurance to increased risk of injury. By understanding and addressing these common nutrition mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your running goals and feeling your absolute best.

Mistake #1: Not Eating Enough

One of the most prevalent nutrition mistakes among runners is not consuming enough calories to support their training. Many runners, especially those focused on weight loss, tend to underestimate their caloric needs, leading to a significant energy deficit. This can have serious consequences, including decreased performance, muscle loss, and a weakened immune system.

Runners need to fuel their bodies with the right amount of calories to support their training load. Undereating can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty recovering from workouts. To avoid this mistake, it’s essential to work with a registered dietitian or sports nutritionist to determine your individual caloric needs based on your activity level, body composition, and training goals.

Mistake #2: Skipping Breakfast

Breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. For runners, skipping breakfast can have a detrimental impact on your performance and overall health. Fueling your body with a nutritious breakfast helps to replenish glycogen stores, stabilize blood sugar levels, and provide the energy you need to power through your morning runs.

Neglecting to eat before a run can lead to feelings of sluggishness, decreased endurance, and a higher risk of bonking (sudden loss of energy). To ensure you’re properly fueled, aim to consume a balanced breakfast that includes a combination of complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Some great options for runners include oatmeal with fruit and nuts, whole-grain toast with nut butter and banana, or a protein-packed smoothie.

Mistake #3: Overreliance on Energy Gels and Chews

While energy gels and chews can be valuable tools for fueling during long runs and races, many runners make the mistake of relying on them exclusively. These concentrated sources of carbohydrates can provide a quick energy boost, but they lack the balanced nutrition that your body needs to perform at its best.

Solely consuming energy gels and chews can lead to gastrointestinal distress, electrolyte imbalances, and a lack of essential nutrients. To maintain optimal performance and health, it’s crucial to incorporate a variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods into your running diet. This could include items like fresh fruit, trail mix, or even homemade energy bars that provide a more well-rounded nutritional profile.

Mistake #4: Not Hydrating Properly

Proper hydration is a critical component of any runner’s nutrition plan, yet it’s often overlooked. Dehydration can have a significant impact on your running performance, leading to decreased endurance, muscle cramps, and even heat-related illnesses.

To stay properly hydrated, it’s essential to drink water before, during, and after your runs. Consider investing in a hydration pack or water bottle that you can carry with you on your runs, and be sure to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat with sports drinks or electrolyte tablets. Pay attention to your body’s thirst cues and urine color, and adjust your hydration strategy accordingly.

Mistake #5: Ignoring Nutrient Timing

Nutrient timing is a crucial aspect of running nutrition that is often overlooked. The timing of your nutrient intake can have a significant impact on your energy levels, muscle recovery, and overall performance.

Before a run, it’s important to consume a meal or snack that provides a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to fuel your workout. After a run, your body enters a critical recovery window, and it’s essential to replenish glycogen stores and support muscle repair with a post-workout meal or shake.

By paying attention to nutrient timing and incorporating pre- and post-workout fueling strategies, you can optimize your body’s ability to perform and recover, ultimately helping you achieve your running goals.

Mistake #6: Relying on Fad Diets

In the world of running and endurance sports, fad diets are all too common. From keto to paleo to intermittent fasting, these restrictive eating patterns can be tempting for runners looking to improve their performance or lose weight. However, the reality is that these diets are often not sustainable or tailored to the specific nutritional needs of runners.

Relying on fad diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies, decreased energy levels, and a compromised immune system – all of which can negatively impact your running performance and overall health. Instead of following the latest diet trend, it’s crucial to work with a registered dietitian who can help you develop a balanced, nutrient-dense eating plan that supports your training and recovery.

Mistake #7: Not Getting Enough Sleep

While it may not seem directly related to nutrition, getting enough quality sleep is an essential component of a runner’s overall well-being. During sleep, your body undergoes crucial recovery and repair processes, replenishing glycogen stores and facilitating muscle growth.

Inadequate sleep can have a detrimental effect on your running performance, leading to decreased energy, impaired decision-making, and a weakened immune system. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and establish a consistent sleep routine to ensure your body is getting the rest it needs to perform at its best.

Mistake #8: Not Listening to Your Body

Perhaps the most important lesson for runners to learn is to listen to their bodies and respond accordingly. Each runner is unique, with different nutritional needs, preferences, and sensitivities. What works for one runner may not work for another, and it’s crucial to pay attention to your body’s cues and adjust your nutrition plan accordingly.

Be mindful of hunger and thirst signals, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different fueling strategies to find what works best for you. If you experience gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, or any other issues, take the time to identify the root cause and make the necessary adjustments to your diet.


Navigating the world of runner nutrition can be a daunting task, but by avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to fueling your body for optimal performance and recovery. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to runner nutrition – it’s about finding the strategies that work best for you and your individual needs.

If you’re unsure where to start or need personalized guidance, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or sports nutritionist who can help you develop a comprehensive nutrition plan tailored to your running goals and lifestyle. With the right nutritional foundation, you’ll be able to take your running to new heights and feel your absolute best.

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