Best Running Nutrition for Energy & Recovery

Running Nutrition & Hydration Advice,Expert Advice on Running Accessories
Best Running Nutrition for Energy & Recovery

Nutrition is an essential part of every runner's training: carbohydrate for energy, and protein for recovery. In order to take in these key nutrients conveniently, many runners use: 

Energy DrinksEnergy GelsEnergy ChewsEnergy BarsRecovery Drinks & Bars

These products are designed for easy and quick on-the-go consumption, both in packaging and digestion. We only stock high quality nutrition that provides the body with slow release energy throughout exercise. High carb nutrition is also good for carbo-loading before a race. For recovery we have a range of bars and drinks with higher protein content.

Test before you race

It's so important to try things out in training, find out what flavours you like and how the different types affect your stomach and digestion. Running nutrition comes in a variety of flavours to suit individual tastes, and some drinks come in trial size packs.

There can be nothing worse than pulling up short in a race because the gel you've taken has made you feel sick. All that hard training is wasted because you'd forgotten to try the nutrition in training. This is one setback that can easily be avoided. Cross it off your list of running risks by reading our guidance below, then experimenting with a few that sound good to you.

Running Race

Running Energy

Why do runners need carbohydrate?

Carbohydrate is the compound our bodies finds easiest to convert into energy. We can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate in the muscles (in the form of glycogen). To ensure this fuel is readily available, we can store it up in the muscles prior to running (carbo loading), and then keep it topped up during the run.

There are many different sources of carbohydrate, but the best for sustained release of energy are called "long-chain". These are mainly found in energy drinks and gels in the form of maltodextrin. Glucose and fructose are "short-chain", providing a more immediate but short-lived effect. Often you will find the main ingredient is maltodextrin with smaller amounts of glucose or fructose. This way you get the best of both worlds; an immediate energy boost, followed by a more sustained long-chain release.

What is carboloading?

Carboloading means storing as much carbohydrate in your body before a run as possible. This means you don't have to try and cram so much in during a run to replenish starving muscles.

Once the stored glycogen is used up, your body will have to resort to burning fat, which is harder work. (If your aim is to burn fat, then of course you might not want to make that glycogen too readily available. But  be careful, training on empty is really only recommended for short, lower paced runs.)

So why not just eat more? Well, for example if we are tapering before a marathon we might not want to stuff ourselves with endless bowls of spaghetti. Too much bulk can make us feel bloated, and may mean we are taking on unnecessary amounts of fat and protein into the bargain. A pure carbohydrate drink (in addition to a healthy diet) is an efficient way of stocking up the muscles with fuel.

The pitfalls of underfuelling

In the same way that drinking when you are thirsty is too late, equally, not eating until you are hungry is also too late.

If this happens on a long run or in a marathon situation, then there is no coming back from this point. If you have not put fuel into the tank, then naturally the body will be running on empty. At this point the stomach can shut down. Either you finish the run enduring pain and really slowing down, or you have to give up.

On top of this situation, it will take much longer for you to recover before getting your energy back and feeling able to train again. So, enjoy trying out all the different options of energy foods and see what works best for you. 

Maurten Energy Drinks

Running Energy Drinks

A popular choice for many runners is a high carbohydrate content energy drink – check out Maurten and Tailwind. If you run with a water bottle or reservoir then you can pre-mix your energy drinks instead of carrying gels.

We only stock high quality nutrition that provides the body with slow-release energy throughout exercise. If you've suffered from an upset stomach or you get bloated when taking on drinks during your runs, Active Root is excellent. You don’t get such a high dose of carbs compared to the other drinks, but it really does help with stomach issues – as I can attest to.

See all Energy Drinks / See all Hydration Drinks / Hydration Guide

Maurten Drink Mix 320 Caf 100 Sachet
Running Energy & Hydration Drinks

Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel 50 Servings
Running Energy & Hydration Drinks

Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel Caffeinated 2 Servings
Running Energy & Hydration Drinks

Active Root Single Sachet (1 x 35g)
Running Energy & Hydration Drinks

High5 Energy Gel

Running Energy Gels

The most efficient way of carrying fuel during your runs and races, carbohydrate gels come in little disposable packets. You can fit one in a pocket, or for longer runs all you need is a small waist pack to stash them in. These will give a boost of energy through a long chain reaction, i.e. it will be dispersed through the body at an even rate rather than the rush and dip of energy you would get from a chocolate bar. 

As a rule of thumb, aim to take your first gel 40 to 60 minutes into your run, and then another every 30 to 40 minutes. 

Gels vary in taste and texture, and are mostly of a viscous nature. Some gels require a sip or two of water – they are concentrated and your stomach needs a bit of water to digest them without affecting your hydration levels. Some are already in isotonic form, and therefore designed to be taken without fluid. They all vary in terms of pack size and shape, as well as their vitamin and mineral content. Isotonic ones are a little bulkier than concentrated ones because of the higher water content.

For the ultimate energy boost, try a caffeinated gel. Alternate the caffeinated ones with regular gels and plan them more for the second half of your event. The lower your daily caffeine intake the more noticeable the kick – which also slightly expands blood capillaries, delivering a bit more to your muscles.

During a race, time your consumption of a gel so that you take it just before a water station. That way you can get the hydration top-up and clear your mouth of the sweet taste at the same time. During training runs, if you need an energy kick, you’re likely to need a hydration kick too, so a few sips of water will ensure you don’t get dehydrated.

What’s the best gel? Maurten could lay claim; it is easier to digest thanks to the seaweed extract, and you don't need water with it (though for reasons above, it's still a good idea to top up your hydration). It works harder for you than any other, but you'll notice it most on really tough runs/races. Personally, I love the Torq gels as their flavours are less synthetic. But don’t just listen to us, try a few to find the one that suits you best – we are all different!

See all Energy Gels / Energy Gel Guide

Energy Gel Guarana
Running Energy Gels

SIS Go + Caffeine Gel
Running Energy Gels

Energy Gel
Running Energy Gels

Energy Gel
Running Energy Gels

High 5 Energy Gel Aqua
Running Energy Gels

Running Energy Chews

If you can’t stomach gels but need good quality energy release supplements for your longer runs (anything over an hour) then chews make a tasty alternative.

Chewy gums such as Sport Beans, Lucho Dillitos or Clif Shot Bloks are yummy, and will also help tremendously with blood sugar levels. Whichever you try, it is imperative to take some water with these products. 

Generally you need to take chews more frequently than gels – one gel equates to 2 or 3 chews. After you take your chew, simply take a few generous sips of water.

Shop all Energy Chews

Lucho Dillitos Guava Paste
Running Energy & Electrolyte Chews

Clif Shot Bloks
Running Energy & Electrolyte Chews

Sport Beans
Running Energy & Electrolyte Chews

Running Energy Bars

Bars are a handy, easily digestible source of energy before a run, and a quick source of energy afterwards.

Energy bars fall into two basic categories: carbohydrate loading energy and protein based recovery. Carb bars (generally called energy bars) are lighter on the stomach and work well as a pre-race/run snack – ideal if you have to travel to a race – or an energy supplement during a long run, especially good for day-long adventure races. Most people find gels easier to digest during a faster run though.

Shop all Energy Bars

Running Food Chia Charge Bar
Running Energy & Recovery Bars

Clif Bar Energy Bar
Running Energy & Recovery Bars

Runner Recovering

Running Recovery

Once we've done the hard work, we need to replace all that carbohydrate we have leeched out of our muscles for fuel, and all that electrolyte fluid we've sweated into our technical T-shirts. If we started out well-hydrated and worked hard to replace as we went along, then this will be easier, but don't underestimate how much you need to drink after a run. It's good to carry on with an electrolyte drink even after running.

Protein is key for rebuilding muscles and reducing fatigue after a long run. For some people, fatigue hits the legs, for others it's a general brain haze. But how do we replace protein when often the last thing we feel like doing straight after a long run is to eat a big meal? Your body will respond best if you take a protein and carb snack, then have a proper meal an hour or two later.

A good recovery drink will have a mix of carbohydrate and protein, plus those vitamins and minerals your body will be crying out for after all the exertion. Most of them can be mixed up and put in the fridge before you go out for a long run. That way it will be nicely blended and chilled, and you can access it as soon as possible after you finish.

Protein-packed bars are perfect for post race/run, offering a handy way to get much needed nutrients back into your body – ideally within 20 mins of exercise – and kick-start recovery.

Shop all Running Recovery Nutrition

Tailwind Nutrition Rebuild Recovery 15 Servings
Running Recovery Drinks

Clif Bar Nut Butter Filled
Running Energy & Recovery Bars

SIS Protein Bar
Running Energy & Recovery Bars

This is nutritional information that we found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not nutrition specialists. The nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or sports nutrition.

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