Why Carbs are Good for Runners: Fueling Your Runs

Why Carbs are Good for Runners

Table of Contents

Why are carbs good for runners? Discover why your body uses carbohydrates to fuel your runners needs and the carbohydrate sources.

A lot of runners think carbohydrates are their enemy. They see them as the reason they can’t lose weight or get a six-pack. They’re wrong. When eaten in the right amounts, carbs can help you run better and farther than ever before.

Key Takeaways

  • Carbs are essential fuel for runners, providing energy and enhancing performance.
  • Choose complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, and veggies for sustained energy release.
  • Timing carb intake before runs can improve endurance and prevent fatigue.
  • Balance carbs with protein and healthy fats for overall nutrition and muscle recovery.
  • Consult a sports nutritionist for personalized dietary guidance to support your running goals.

Food is energy.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for runners, and they come in many different forms. There are simple carbs (like sugar), complex carbs (found in whole grains), and fiber (which helps you feel full). Fiber also slows down your digestion, so you absorb more nutrients from food. Carbs fuel your body’s cells to do their jobs, including breaking down into glucose to be used as energy by your muscles during exercise.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for runners.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for runners.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for runners. This is because carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source, providing a quick and easy energy supply. Carbohydrates are stored in our liver and muscles and can be used when needed.

Carbohydrates are also more efficient at supplying your body with energy than fat or protein:

  • Your body needs to break down fat into glucose before using it as energy. This means that your body needs to have enough glucose before burning fat as an alternative energy source. By contrast, if your blood sugar levels fall too low from not eating enough carbs after exercise, you might go into ketosis—a state where your body has no access to stored glucose but instead burns fatty acids for fuel.
  • You don’t want this to happen during exercise because it takes longer than breaking down carbohydrates for your body to switch from its usual routine! This means less available energy when running long distances like marathons or ultra races over several hours at a time; ultimately slowing down performance due to fatigue quicker than if we ate enough carbs beforehand.”
Good carbs for runners

Good carbs for runners

Carbs are essential to a healthy diet, but not all carbs are created equal. Some carbs, like those from refined grains and sugars, can increase inflammation in the body, leading to weight gain and other health problems. The best carbs for runners contain complex carbohydrates that are digested slowly by the body, making them a great energy source.

Here’s a closer look at some of the best carbs for runners:

Whole grains contain all parts of the grain seed and are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grains include wheat berries, brown rice, and quinoa.

Fruits: Fruits contain naturally-occurring sugars such as fructose and glucose that provide energy for exercise. Some fruits also contain more resistant starch, which can help improve gut health and increase metabolism over time. Good choices include apples, bananas, berries, and melons.

Vegetables: Vegetables add color to your plate while providing essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that helps with digestion. Dark green vegetables like kale are incredibly nutrient-dense, but any type will work in your diet plan as long as you have variety daily.

Beans and lentils. Beans are rich in carbs but low in fat — an excellent combination for runners who want to lose weight without sacrificing performance on race day! Lentils offer the same benefits as beans with less sodium as canned varieties (which are high in sodium).

Good Carbohydrate sources for runners

Good Carbohydrate sources for runners:

Whole grain pasta

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread and pastries
  • Sweet potatoes or yams
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Quinoa

Fruit (fresh, dried, or canned in juice)

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Peaches

Vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned) Broccoli

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Salad greens (lettuce, arugula, endive, radicchio, watercress)
  • Tomatoes
  • potatoes

Carbohydrate needs of a runner

The amount of carbohydrates you need to eat depends on your training schedule and the intensity of your training. The more intense the exercise, the higher the carbohydrate needs.

The general recommendation for carbohydrate intake is 5 to 7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, a 50-kilogram (110-pound) person would need 250 to 350 grams of carbohydrates daily.

A 150-pound athlete needs between 450 grams (2 cups) and 600 grams (3 cups) of carbohydrates daily.

If you’re exercising intensely for more than an hour, you’ll need more carbohydrates. Suppose you’re participating in endurance sports such as marathons or triathlons. In that case, you’ll need even more carbohydrates in your diet because endurance activities can last up to several hours.

Carbohydrate recommendations for runners

According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) guidelines for exercise performance, athletes who are doing intense workouts should consume about 6 grams of carbs per kilogram (2.7 pounds) of body weight per day — almost twice as much as non-athletes. So if you weigh 70 kilograms (154 pounds), that means 420 grams of carbs daily; if you weigh 60 kilograms (132 pounds), that means 360 grams daily; and so forth.

It’s important to note that an athlete who trains regularly will need more carbohydrates than someone who doesn’t exercise much. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, active adults require about 25 to 35 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. In comparison, sedentary adults should get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbs (or even higher if they’re overweight).

Daily carbohydrate needs

Daily carbohydrate needs

Carbs are essential to your diet but aren’t the only thing you need to eat. Carbohydrates provide only about 4 percent of your daily calories.

1 gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories. Carbohydrates are found in many foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Some foods contain carbs and protein (such as beans), while others primarily control fat (such as nuts).

Adults should get 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrates you need depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity.

Carbohydrate requirements may be more significant or less depending on whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re trying to lose or stop gaining weight, consult a registered dietitian to help with meal planning that meets your needs.

Carbohydrates fuel the brain, too.

Did you know the brain is a hungry organ? It uses 20% of your total energy expenditure. And it needs glucose for fuel, just like other muscles in the body.

Besides that, your brain uses glucose to make neurotransmitters, hormones, and proteins for healthy neural connections and brain cells. So if you’re not eating enough carbohydrates, your brain may be starving for energy, which could negatively affect your mood (including depression), concentration, and memory function.

Carbohydrates build muscle

Carbohydrates build muscle.

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for running. They provide the body with an immediate energy source, without which it cannot function properly. Carbohydrates are also crucial to runners because they help build muscle and speed up fat burning, which can burn calories while you’re asleep or after you’ve finished your run—which means less weight gain over time!

Carbohydrates are also a great way to fuel your brain before/during/after exercise—they help keep you alert and focused on whatever you’re doing (like running).

The less you eat carbohydrates, the less efficient you become at metabolizing them.

One of the main reasons carbohydrates are essential for runners is that they’re the body’s primary energy source. You need to be able to use them for physical activity, or else you’ll feel tired and weak during your run or another workout.

However, carbohydrates are also essential for keeping your brain functioning properly. Your brain needs a steady supply of glucose to function at its best, so running low on carbohydrates can make it difficult to concentrate while exercising or competing in races without getting distracted by hunger pangs that distract you from where you should be focused (i.e., on improving your performance).

Carbs also help build muscle tissue and provide energy for regular day-to-day functions like walking around after a long day at work without feeling exhausted before even starting an exercise session! So if someone tells you that they don’t eat carbs because they want faster results from their workouts…well, good luck trying not to have any muscles left over from losing all those calories through sweat!

So why are carbs good for running?

Tailoring Carbohydrate Intake: A Strategic Approach

A strategic approach to carbohydrate intake is crucial for optimizing a runner’s performance. Tailoring carb consumption based on the intensity and duration of the exercise can make a significant difference. For instance, endurance sports such as marathons require a higher intake of carbohydrates to sustain energy levels over an extended period. Understanding the body’s carbohydrate needs and planning the diet accordingly is essential for preventing energy lulls and ensuring consistent performance throughout the exercise.

Unleashing the Full Potential of Carbs: Variety and Quality

Diversifying the sources of carbohydrate intake can unlock numerous benefits for runners. Incorporating a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates ensures a balanced release of energy. Simple carbs offer quick energy boosts, while complex carbs, found in foods like brown rice and quinoa, provide a sustained energy release. This combination can be particularly beneficial in preventing energy spikes and crashes, promoting a more stable and sustained performance during running.

Carbs and Muscle Recovery: An Essential Partnership

Carbohydrates play a pivotal role in muscle recovery post-exercise. They aid in the replenishment of glycogen stores in the muscles, promoting recovery and preparing the body for future physical activities. Ensuring adequate carbohydrate intake post-exercise is essential for minimizing muscle soreness and optimizing recovery times, allowing runners to bounce back quicker and more effectively after intensive workouts.

The Balanced Approach: Carbs in Harmony with Other Nutrients

While carbohydrates are paramount, a balanced intake in harmony with other essential nutrients such as proteins and fats creates a holistic nutritional profile for runners. This balanced approach not only optimizes energy levels but also supports overall health and wellbeing, ensuring that runners are well-equipped, both physically and nutritionally, to face the challenges that intensive exercises and marathons present.

So why are carbs good for running?

Carbs are an essential source of energy for runners. They can be found in many foods and help keep you going throughout your run or race. Carbohydrates are not the enemy! However, they aren’t the only source of energy either—protein and fat are also necessary for runners to stay healthy and perform well.

FAQs about Why Carbs are Good for Runners

Q: Why are carbs important for fueling runs?

A: Carbs provide the primary source of energy for muscles during exercise, helping to optimize performance and endurance.

Q: How do carbs benefit runners?

A: Carbs replenish glycogen stores, prevent fatigue, and support muscle recovery after intense workouts.

Q: What types of carbs are best for runners?

A: Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide sustained energy release and essential nutrients.

Q: How much carbs should runners consume?

A: It’s recommended that runners consume 3-5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight daily for optimal performance.

Q: Are there any risks or downsides to consuming carbs?

A: Excessive carb intake without proper balance and timing may lead to weight gain or digestive discomfort in some individuals.


In conclusion, it’s clear that carbs play a crucial role in fueling the runs of dedicated runners like you. As you lace up your running shoes, remember that carbs are not the enemy but rather your ally in achieving peak performance.

By consuming the right amount of carbohydrates, you provide your body with the necessary energy to power through those challenging miles. It’s like giving your running shoes jetpacks!

Just like a car needs fuel to drive, you need carbs to run. So, don’t be afraid to load up on healthy carb sources like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Embrace the pasta power and fruit frenzy!

Now that you understand the importance of carbs for runners, it’s time to put this knowledge into action. Fill your plate with nutritious meals that include a balanced amount of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Your body will thank you with increased stamina and improved running performance.

So, fellow runner, let’s carb up and conquer those miles together! Remember, every step you take is a step closer to your goals. Strap on your running shoes hit the road, and embrace the power of carbs!


Carbs, or carbohydrates, are essential for runners as they are the primary fuel source for working muscles during exercise.

According to [1], muscles store carbohydrates as glycogen, which is used as energy during exercise.

Runners need to eat the right amount of carbohydrates daily, typically around 45-65% of total daily calories, to stock their muscle glycogen stores and fuel their runs [2].

Complex carbs should comprise about 50% of a runner’s diet as they provide a slow and steady source of energy [3].

[2] mentions that carbohydrates are important for runners as they provide them with a supply of glucose in the blood, which serves as extra fuel and gives them additional energy.

[3] further states that eating carbohydrates while exercising provides the runner with a supply of glucose in the blood which serves as extra fuel and gives additional energy.

[1] mentions that while there is a huge emphasis for runners to get lots of carbs in their diets, carbohydrate intake is sometimes overemphasized and runners often neglect protein and healthy fats.


The information provided is for educational purposes only and it is important to consult with a doctor before deciding on a protein bar for weight loss.

Individual needs and health conditions may vary, and a doctor can provide personalized recommendations.

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