Running Nutrition


What a Cheeseburger Taught Me About Running Nutrition

What a Cheeseburger Taught Me About Running Nutrition…

Perhaps hard to believe, but I learnt one of the most valuable lessons in my running career from the good old Maccas cheeseburger.

It was about the 58km point in an 80km race, that no man’s land where you are over halfway but not far enough through the race to smell the finish line. I had stopped at the aid station and looked in my green bag of goodies thinking, “is it time for a bit of sports bar, a gel or a honey shot?” – not an overly delicious sounding list of options at that point! While I was pondering my decision one of those old wisened runners with a 70’s style tennis band around his head and a t-shirt with some random ultra from 20 years ago emblazoned on it, ran up and pulled a cheeseburger, still in its wrapper, from his pack and began to get ready to chow down…I must have been staring as he started to tell me he had gotten through over 200 races with his nutritional requirements solely sponsored by the golden arches.

I definitely am not a frequent flyer at Maccas but I have never seen anything so inviting in my life…the pickles, the sauce, the plastic cheese…I could taste it…he must have seen the glint in my eye or perhaps my drooling gave it away so he reached into his bag and handed one over. I nearly knocked him over as I grabbed it and literally inhaled it thanking him as I ran off.

Of course this story has a point, and the point is that about 5 km down the road I was cursing every single cheeseburger in the world and desperately searching for the portaloo…I had broken my rule: PLAN YOUR RACE and RACE YOUR PLAN. 

As a runner you cannot control the weather, the course or your competitors, but you can control yourself: your nutrition, your clothes, your training, your recovery.

I always practice everything nutritionally before a race in as close to race conditions as I can and we do the same with all my athletes.

Here is what I believe are the key things you need for a perfectly prepared and practiced running nutrition plan:

  1. Night before meal: I have found over the years through trial and error that a big meal at a pre-race pasta party meal leaves me feeling heavy and full on race day. My preference and that of a large number of my athletes is to have that larger meal at lunch, and then at dinner have a small portion of easily digestible protein (like salmon) and about 1-2 fists of rice and a few token veggies. The key is to trial this before your longest training run – a month or so out – and then tweak it if it isn’t spot on. This meal is also travel friendly, I have found it at races from Boston to Melbourne to the Pacific Islands without any problem!
  2. Race day breakfast: The day after you trial your pre-race dinner get up so you can finish your breakfast 2 hrs before running that longest run…yes I know it will probably be 3am – you can go back to sleep! This is very scientific – I eat and recommend about 2g per kg of lean body mass…note this is lean not total – your sports dietitian can do your skinfolds to calculate this! So for a runner with about 65kg lean mass two options would be something like: one sports bar + 60g oats + 2 Tbsp honey + a Gatorade: This provides ~140g carb.
  3. Race Nutrition: This is a no brainer right? Well my story above shows that in a glucose-deprived state it’s easy to make mistakes or forget your plan….trial your gels/bars/chews. Work out how many you need and write down when you will have them or at what km marker. Know what sports drink is available on the course and try it in training! I race with a friend who writes it all in permanent marker on her arm! As a starting point I like to aim for about 50g carb each hour. So that’s a gel and some sports drink, or some lollies, or chews. BUT that’s me, some of our A to Z athletes can cope with more and some race brilliantly on less…that’s why it’s great to be guided through the process!

The next obvious area is post-race recovery…but I think Sal has that one covered in the next article…..

So if nothing else just treat your nutrition like your training and take it seriously; invest time and energy into it and it will reap huge performance and recovery benefits. It also means that there is one less stress on race day, you can get out run hard and enjoy the day!  AND if you want to eat cheeseburgers please, please, please try it out on a few training runs! J

Happy running everyone!


Running Nutrition 101 for beginners!

Running Nutrition 101 for beginners!

Recently I was interviewed by the Sunday Mail regarding nutrition for the Bridge to Brisbane run. It is however applicable to all people whether you are old or young or a regular runner or just starting out. I have never met anyone who couldn’t improve their diet even in a small way!

I hope you enjoy the Q&A session and learn something! Feel free to email any feedback or experiences!

  • Is nutrition and diet important for fitness/running/etc please? If so, why? If not, why not?

FM: Nutrition is a vital piece of the puzzle to get the best out of your fitness and running. Think of your body as a car, the better fuel you put in and the more you maintain it the more likely you are to “drive like a Lamborghini”!  Your body uses all the food you eat to fuel your running and importantly to recover from your training as well.  

  • Does it vary for men, women and/or children? Or would it be, basically all the same or very similar?

FM: The overall basics of a healthy diet are similar for most people however amounts and timing of foods can vary greatly between people. As we age needs change also. Men and women can have slightly different needs as well. A good sports dietitian can help you to make sure your diet is the best it can be for you!

BUT an easy way to think about a healthy diet is to imagine a plate: with half of the plate containing a mix of vegetables or salads, a quarter with protein (such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, legumes or eggs) and the last quarter containing some carbohydrate (such as a grainy bread, brown rice, pasta, potato or quinoa). There is also room for healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado or some nuts!

  • It’s four weeks out from the B2B. We assume it’s time to improve your diet, if you haven’t already. Is it too late to make improvements to what you eat?

FM: The really good news is that it is never too late. Nutrition is a wonderful thing in that your body responds to what you eat pretty quickly! I often have people email me a few days after coming in, telling me how much better they feel!


  • If not, what are some basic changes people should implement and why?

It is basically making sure they are eating in line with the suggested guidelines above as well as regularly. I normally like to see three meals and two healthy snacks. Sleep is very important as is reducing their intake of highly processed, high fat and high sugar foods such as takeaway, fried foods and softdrink. Additionally, amongst other problems and issues, we know that drinking alcohol can reduce recovery time from training so people should ensure they are careful their consumption is within guidleines.

  • What if you’re also hoping to lose some weight along the way? Would the diet change at all?

The best advice I can give to people when trying to lose weight is to be mindful of what they are eating. Often we eat without thinking about it and we can fall into the trap of eating more than we need to, but most importantly we don’t stop to enjoy our food! Food is meant to be an enjoyable thing! Again, it is a fine balance with athletes in ensuring they fuel adequately to be able to train and recover which again is very doable at an individual level by a specialised Sports Dietitian or Accredited Practicing Dietitian.


  • Should your nutrition vary depending on whether this is your first or 5th or 10th Bridge to Brisbane etc?. If so, by how much or?

Experienced runners will know what has worked for them in the past and hopefully should learn from any mistakes. I have made plenty over the years and many marathons under my belt still learn every time I run! My best advice is not to try ANYTHING new on race day. Practice all of your nutrition strategies in training beforehand. I never send anyone into an event without dinner the night before/breakfast on race day/any nutrition on the course/hydration, completely planned and ready to go. It’s one less thing to worry about!


  • What foods should you be avoiding (especially in the lead up/last month before the run?). Please clarify whether these are to be avoided strictly before the race or in general perhaps?

FM: Aside from the foods mentioned in q4, which should be avoided/eaten occasionally all the time, I generally reduce intake of high fibre foods in the day or two leading up to the race. This includes excessive veggies, & beans as well as anything extra spicy like curry which may upset your gut. 

  • Are there any foods that can help your performance?

FM: There are lots of supplements and things on the market which people can try but generally, I believe that 80% of your performance on race day comes from a healthy diet in the lead up. You want to start the race with a full tank and a few extra simple carbohydrates the day before will make sure your tank is topped up.

  • What should your diet look like on a training day compared to on a non-training day?

FM: Again depending on how much training you are doing and how often, nutrition will vary. Generally if you are eating a healthy well balanced diet you need to make sure you go into your training fuelled up. If, for example, you are running after work, have a snack at about 3 or 4 pm and also make sure that you eat as quickly as you can after you finish! If you can eat something with a mix of protein and carbohydrates within 45 mins- 1 hr of finishing you will recover very well. This can be breakfast or dinner as well, it doesn’t need to be anything extra if you are close to a meal time.

  • How about on the day before the race and on the actual day of the race?

FM: See question 8 answer. re carbs… Also you want to make sure you are well hydrated, so drink a glass of water with meals the day before and the morning of the race. Make sure you have breakfast at least 2 ½-3 hrs before the start, which could be toast, banana & honey or porridge cinnamon and maple syrup to give you the petrol to race your best!

  • Anything you should do after the race (day of and/or day after?) nutrition-wise?

FM: See answer to question 9. A great recovery snack after racing is one which combines protein to help your muscles recover and carbohydrate to replace your basic energy stores. Believe it or not a chocolate milk is a great option straight after the race! Later on have avocado, eggs, wholegrain toast make a perfect brunch to top off a great morning!

  • Anything else you would like to add?

FM: Sports nutrition is such an individualised thing and each athlete is different. However, evidence as well as experience tells me that everyone can benefit from taking stock of their diet. I have seen mums running their first 5 km gaining as significant improvements as elite athletes from making a few tweaks to their nutrition! Another benefit is you will feel better and have more energy not just while you are running but in everything you do. We all want to be the Lamborghini not a rusty hunk of junk!