Do you get hungry between meals? Are you ever tempted to raid the vending machine at work? Are you sitting around with a rumbling stomach wondering what are good snacks for runners?
Many of my clients feel negatively about snacking. Modern diet culture communicates that snacking is unhealthy for health and weight goals. But, snacking as an athlete is a great way to fill the gap between meals to contribute to protein, carbohydrate, and overall caloric requirements when training.
Snacking ends up having negative consequences on your body if there is a lack of planning. Devouring a bag of chips or a fries from the drive-thru on the way home from work won’t contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle and your best running times.
With this in mind, we decided to compile the best healthy snacks for runners.
As a registered dietitian, in this article I cover:
- Why you should be snacking as a runner
- What makes a healthy snack
- How to pick the right snacks based on your diet
- How much you should snack
- 27+ healthy snack ideas
Why Should Runners Eat Snacks?
Running burns a significant number of calories! On average, a human being will burn between 100 and 120 calories per mile.
As you continue to increase your training distance, you’ll have a deficit between how many calories your body requires for both training and recovery that needs to be accounted for.
If you’re having trouble consuming over 2,000 calories between three meals, to all my clients I recommend snacks as a component of their nutrition plans.
Simply, without enough calories, your energy will suffer during runs. That’s why it’s never a good idea to do a long run fasted.
Running on too significant a calorie deficit will cause fatigue and may increase the risk of injury.
Snacks for runners that are rich in carbohydrates will build glycogen levels which is converted to energy during physical activity.
What Makes a Good Snack for A Runner?
A great snack for a runner is on that provides: a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
To promote satiety, prevent hunger, replenish glycogen stores, stabilize blood sugars, and maintain energy, a snack should be approximately 200 calories and contain at least 5 grams of protein.
A good snack for a runner should also be quick, inexpensive, and easy to make.
Many of the snacks I’ve listed below include ingredients that you can purchase in bulk and keep readily available in your pantry, car, and purse.
How Much Should I Eat For A Snack?
Snacks should make up one quarter of daily calorie intake for runners.
As an example, the Standard American Diet is based around 2,000 calories per day.
To incorporate snacks into your daily nutrition, split your caloric intake into 500 calories each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then two snacks of 250 calories each.
How many calories do you need per day? There are evidence-based calorie calculators online, such as this one by the Mayo Clinic and the Mifflin St. Jeor RMR plus physical activity factor calculation, however, the best way to estimate your nutritional needs is to consult a sports nutritionist or dietitian.
A dietitian or running coach can provide you with an individualized calorie need based on your level of training and weight loss goals and can help you decide how much you should be eating for snacks.
How Many Snacks Should I Eat in A Day?
You should aim to have 2-3 snacks per day and eat every 3-4 hours.
By spacing out the timing of your nutrition, you evenly distribute your energy availability which makes your metabolism more efficient.
Your snack distribution might change depending on your training schedule.
For example, eating carbs before going on a run gives your body the glycogen it needs to run harder and longer. And eating carbs and protein after a run gives it the ingredients it needs to repair muscle tissue.
What Are The Best Snacks for Runners?
Why it’s helpful: Bananas are packed with easily digestible carbohydrates (27g per serving) and fiber, which provide quick, accessible energy. Bananas are high in potassium which prevent muscle cramps.
When it’s helpful: Bananas are convenient and can be consumed anywhere from 30 minutes prior to a run, during a run, or post-training.
Hummus and Veggies
Why it’s helpful: Hummus contains chickpeas which provide protein and complex carbohydrates (2.1g per serving). Pairing hummus with fresh vegetables adds extra vitamins (like Vitamin A and Vitamin C which aid in muscle recovery), minerals, and fiber.
When it’s helpful: Hummus and veggies make for a satisfying and low-calorie snack after a run or during the day to refuel and keep hunger at bay. Fiber in the vegetables can also promote the feeling of fullness between meals.
Why it’s helpful: Snap peas provide carbohydrates (4.8g per serving), fiber (1.6g per serving), and essential nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin K.
When it’s helpful: Because of their water content, snap peas are beneficial on hot days when water-loss through sweat is particularly high.
Why it’s helpful: Edamame are great source of plant-based protein (17g per serving), fiber (8g per serving), and carbohydrates (15g per serving). They also contain vitamins and minerals like folate and iron.
When it’s helpful: Edamame makes for an excellent post-workout snack, aiding in muscle recovery. Buy them frozen for convenience.
Why it’s helpful: Hard-boiled eggs are a portable and protein-rich snack (6g per serving) that contains all essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and recovery. The yolks also provide healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and selenium.
When it’s helpful: It would be optimal to consume a hard-boiled egg after a run to support muscle recovery and prevent excessive hunger between meals.
Why it’s helpful: Depending on what type of trail mix you’re consuming, most trail mix provides a good balance of carbohydrates (67g per serving), healthy fats (11g per serving), and protein (9g per serving), offering sustained energy for long runs or intense workouts.
When it’s helpful: Trail mix is an excellent on-the-go snack, but it can be heavy. Reserve it for post-run for maximum benefit.
Why it’s helpful: The book Run Fast, Eat Slow popularized the energy ball. Energy balls can be made in many different ways but are often made with dates, nuts, seeds, protein powder, and natural sweeteners are a convenient and tasty way to get protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates without added sugar.
When it’s helpful: Energy balls travel well, so you can grab a few before or after a run if you’re on the go. You can personalize your recipes and get creative with your flavors and mix-ins.
Why it’s helpful: There are a lot of cereals which are artificially sweetened. Avoid those that are commonly marketed to children like Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes. But, other cereals you can find at the grocery store like Cheerios or anything with a bran or whole wheat base is enriched with essential vitamins and minerals. Opt for cereals that contain 5 grams of fiber or more per serving and (ideally) no added sugars.
When it’s helpful: Cereal works well as a pre-workout snack. They can even be a post-run energizer, or even as a convenient trail mix during a long and leisurely run to curb a sweet craving.
Why it’s helpful: Smoothies are easy snacks to digest, quick to make, and are highly customizable to your taste preferences. In order to turn any smoothie into a recovery snack, add protein powder and chia seeds.
When it’s helpful: Smoothies are a great option as a post-run snack or meal replacement when time is limited. They provide quick and easily absorbable nutrients to aid in recovery.
Yogurt and Granola
Why it’s helpful: Greek yogurt is a source of protein (17g per serving) and calcium which support muscle repair and bone health. Add in granola to yogurt provides additional carbohydrates and healthy fats for energy.
When shopping for yogurt, opt for unflavored. Flavored or yogurts with fruit have artificial sweeteners and preservatives. (We like Chobani best.)
When it’s helpful: Yogurt and granola make for a nutritious and filling snack, suitable for post-run recovery or as a mid-day energy boost.
Why it’s helpful: Cottage cheese is a high-protein snack that also contains Calcium and B Vitamins. The protein content supports muscle repair, while calcium is essential for bone health.
When it’s helpful: Since cottage cheese is often high in sodium, it makes for a great post-run electrolyte snack especially in warm weather.
Tuna and Crackers
Why it’s helpful: Tuna is a lean source of protein and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and support heart health. Pairing tuna with whole-grain crackers adds carbohydrates and fiber.
When it’s helpful: Tuna and crackers is amazing as a post-run snack or afternoon snack that provides both protein and carbohydrates for recovery.
Why it’s helpful: Convenient and portable snack that is ideal for carbohydrates before a run and repair after a run. This snack is all going to come down to selection. Brands like CLIF and Honey Stinger make great products geared towards athletes.
When it’s helpful: Keep protein bars in your car and purse for hunger pangs during the day.
Why it’s helpful: Contains carbohydrates and protein, making it an effective option for muscle glycogen replenishment and muscle repair.
When it’s helpful: Chocolate milk is an ideal post-run snack, especially after intense or prolonged exercise, to help the body recover and rehydrate.
Whole Grain Bagel and Peanut Butter
Why it’s helpful: Easy, cheap, and quick. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein (8g per serving) and heart-healthy fat (16g per serving). It also contains vitamin E, which helps with muscle recovery.
When it’s helpful: Great for 1–2-hour pre-run snack, providing sustained energy for the workout ahead.
Oatmeal with Fruit
Why it’s helpful: Oatmeal has 30g of carbohydrates per serving and 8g of protein. Fruit like berries will provide sugar, fiber, and Vitamin C for running and recovery.
When it’s helpful: Before a run. Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrates that provides sustained energy for release.
Whole Grain Toast with Avocado
Why it’s helpful: The carbohydrates from the whole grain toast (20g per serving) and the fat from the avocado (15g per serving) provide a well balanced complex carb and healthy fats provide sustainable energy for short and long runs.
When it’s helpful: Before a run. The avocado isn’t high enough in protein to be a meaningful recovery food compared to other options.
Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas
Why it’s helpful: Both quinoa and chickpeas are a plan-based protein source. Depending on serving side, the combination of foods offers 10g of protein, 30g of carbohydrates and 5g of fat.
When it’s helpful: After a run. The salad offers the flexibility to include leafy vegetables like spinach for magnesium as well.
Chia Seed Pudding
Why it’s helpful: Chia seeds are the unsung hero of high-protein snack that also contain omega-3 fatty acids like fish that reduce inflammation.
When it’s helpful: Depending on what you’re using as a base for the pudding (milk, water, etc.) it’s best to keep chia seed pudding as a post-run high-protein snack.
Turkey and Veggie Wrap
Why it’s helpful: As a high-protein lean meat, turkey is great for muscle recovery and you should choose a vegetable like a cruciferous leafy vegetable with Vitamin A like broccoli or magnesium like spinach to super charge recovery.
When it’s helpful: After a run. As a high-protein lean meat, turkey is great for muscle recovery and you should choose a vegetable like a cruciferous leafy vegetable with Vitamin A like broccoli or magnesium like spinach.
Frequently Asked Questions about snacks for runners
A runner’s snack should ideally be a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy and aid in muscle recovery.
Some good snack options for runners include bananas, hummus and veggies, trail mix, protein bars, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, nut butter (i.e. almond butter) on rice cakes, and smoothies with a mix of fruits, vegetables, and protein.
High sodium snacks are necessary after a long run to replenish losses. Some good high sodium snacks for runners include pretzels, salted nuts, cottage cheese, string cheese, or soup.
Athletes with high blood pressure may need to monitor their sodium int
A good snack between track events should be easily digestible and provide quick energy. Some suitable options include bananas, granola bars, energy waffles, gels, energy bars, sports drinks, or sports drink mix diluted in water. It is crucial to maintain hydration during and between events and avoid hunger during a meet.
The best fruit snacks for running are those that provide a quick source of glucose and essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some excellent choices include bananas, apples, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and dried fruits like apricots or raisins.
For long runs, sports drinks with electrolytes can be beneficial to replenish lost minerals. After a run, low-fat chocolate milk can be an effective recovery drink, providing a mix of carbohydrates and protein.