Whether you’re training for this year’s London Marathon or just trying to get the new year off to a good start by going for the odd jog, you’re probably asking yourself the same question: “What can I eat before a run that isn’t spaghetti Bolognese?”

As well as Lycra, smugness and hi-vis fitness jackets, bowls of pasta are synonymous with running culture – but there are alternative running-fuel ingredients, and sports nutritionist and former bodybuilding champion, Anita Bean, is committed to proving that. The health writer has put together 100 recipes specifically geared towards the needs of runners – regardless of speed and ability – in her collection, The Runner’s Cookbook.

“A lot of athletes and runners come to me with the same questions because they don’t really know what they ought to be eating – there’s a lot of conflicting information,” she explains. “Do I really need to take gels during a run? What’s the best way to fuel for a 5k or a marathon, or a half a marathon? What should I be eating straight after a run? Those are the kind of questions I really wanted to address.”


Part nutrition guide, part cookbook, the recipes are simple (“You don’t need advanced cooking skills”), come with extensive nutritional information, and are tailored to a typical runner’s lifestyle – meaning they’re generally quick to whip up, and will keep you going and going and going.

But what food mistakes do runners consistently make? And does all that exercise mean you can eat anything you fancy? Here, Anita busts some myths and sets out some golden rules…

There’s no need to consume energy supplements

“I see runners relying on supplements, thinking they need to have sports nutrition products after all their runs, and they’re taking sports drinks and gels and they really don’t have to. For the majority of runners, if you’re running for less than 60-90 minutes, you certainly don’t need to be taking sports drinks or any other kind of sports nutrition products.”

Being a runner doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you like all the time

“Runners starting out often think running is a license to continue eating whatever they want. Runner’s weight gain is quite a real phenomenon, and that’s because many runners overestimate the amount of calories they burn, or overcompensate by consuming extra food after their runs,” explains Anita. “Or they think, ‘Well, I’ve run 10k today, so I deserve this chocolate cake’. Basically, it’s getting the balance between calories in/calories out wrong. And it’s fair to say some runners will find their appetite increases, but once you continue running regularly, you find your appetite will reduce.”



Carrot and Spinach Soup with Pumpkin Seeds . This healthy soup is packed with flavour and a truly fantastic way of getting your daily iron and vitamin C. You can substitute spinach for other green leafy veg, such as cabbage or Brussel sprouts, and adjust the amount of spices to your taste. . It’s from The Runners Cookbook, which has a Foreword from 5 time Olympian Jo Pavey Link in bio ⬆️ . . Serves 4 2tbsp light olive or rapeseed oil 1 leek, topped and tailed, finely sliced 1 medium potato, peeled and roughly diced 1 large carrot, sliced 1 garlic clove, crushed 1 tsp mild curry powder ½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp turmeric 1 litre of vegetable stock (or 2 -3 tsp vegetable bouillon (stock) powder dissolved in 1 litre water) 200ml (1/2 can) light coconut milk (or extra stock) 200g (7oz) fresh or frozen spinach Salt and freshly ground black pepper A squeeze of lemon juice A handful of grated Parmesan OR PUMPKIN SEEDS Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the leek, potato, carrot, garlic and spices, stir, then cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the stock and coconut milk, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the spinach, stir and cook for a another 2 – 3 minutes. Liquidise the soup using a stick blender or conventional blender. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice. Ladle the soup into bowls, scatter over Parmesan or seeds and serve with wholegrain bread. • #eattowin #fuelyourbody #fitnessfood#vegetarianeats #vegetarianfood #vegetariansofig #vegetarianathlete #vegetarian #vegetariansofinstagram #vegetariandiet #nutritionist #nutrition #nutritiontips #fitnessfood #athletelife #athletefood #runnersfood #runnersfuel #running #runningcommunity #sportsnutrition #performancenutrition #healthylunch #recipebook #cookbook #soup

A post shared by Anita Bean (@anitabean1) on


The Runner’s Cookbook: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes To Fuel Your Running by Anita Bean, photography by Adrian Lawrence, is published by Bloomsbury Sport.

You may also be interested in…

Wise Living Magazine may receive a small commission to help support the running of this site from purchases made from links on this page, or some links may have been sponsored to be included in the article. Affiliate or sponsored links do not influence our editorial or articles published by Wise Living.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.