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Are You a Fasted Runner or a Fueled Runner?

Nutrition is monumental in your training. If you are asking your body to do hard things, like running, you must properly fuel it. In our society of ever-changing diet culture this concept might be difficult for some people to pun intended! Let's dive into this topic.

Do you run fasted?

If you do, please stop doing this now! Fasted running is running in a carb-depleted state. When people do this they are trying to train their body to burn fat rather than glycogen as energy, you may have heard the term 'fat adapted.' This is extremely difficult to achieve and research is showing that the ability to do this might depend on your genetics.

Carbohydrates are essential to running and endurance sports. Your body relies off glycogen stores for energy during exercise. Glycogen stores will typically last between 90-120 minutes depending on intensity. When glycogen stores are depleted that is when athletes hit the dreaded 'wall.' Therefore, it is important not only to fuel prior to your runs but also during long runs. It is recommended that you fuel on runs that will be longer than an hour in duration. Sports drinks, gels and real food options are all good resources.

What are the risks of fasted running?

Studies have shown that long duration fasted runs have an adverse effect on the immune system. It can also effect hormone levels in the body, especially cortisol levels. If cortisol levels are high, this could create metabolic imbalances and lead to weight gain. Recent research is also highlighting the adverse effects of fasted running on bone health. Studies have shown a correlation between low energy availability and declining bone health. I can personally attest to this. I used to run fasted all the time, for diet and timing reasons. I experienced several stress fractures in my feet as a direct result.

What are the benefits of fueling?

Fueling before a run has benefits for your health and performance. Prior to running it is important to take in carbohydrates. It does not have to be a full meal. Some easy options are a sports gel, stroop waffle, graham cracker, pop tart, banana or a slice of toast. It should be quick and easy to digest. If you are going for a longer distance run you will need a more sustainable meal. If you are running for more than an hour, you should fuel during your run. You should fuel within the first 45-60 minutes and every 30 minutes after that. Ideally you want to take in approximately 60g of carbohydrates per hour of running, that is approximately 2 gels per hour. After running, it is important to replenish carbohydrates and protein. Protein after your run will aid in repair of muscles, tendons, bones, etc. Ideally you should eat within 30-60 minutes of your run for optimal results.

Do you eat carbs?

I know...that's a dirty question! If you are a runner, you have to eat carbohydrates. Honestly, everyone needs to be eating carbohydrates but in today's diet climate carbohydrates are the enemy. However, if you are going to run this is the source of energy that your body needs to perform without injury. Carbohydrates will not make you fat. Carbohydrates can make you retain water, which will make you feel like you have gained weight but you have not actually gained weight. If your body does not have adequate glycogen stores, it will take from other areas. Your body will begin burning fat and muscle, which we definitely don't want.

This was a very broad overview of how nutrition relates to running and why it is important to fuel your body. With all the craze of fad diets I think it would be worth it to discuss dieting and runners in another blog post. I think it would also be worth it to discuss carbohydrates and why they are not the enemy in further detail. Nutrition is so important and I don't feel that most runners understand the importance. As athletes, it is not realistic to 'diet' and train at a high level. If you want your body to perform at the level you are asking it to you must fuel it, especially for longer distances such as the half marathon and marathon.

Be kind to yourself, nutrition is one of the key factors in staying injury free! So, are you fasted or fueled? Leave a comment below or follow Hit Your Pace on Facebook and instagram to connect!

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