5K Fuel Plan for a Newbie Runner

So you just signed up for your first 5K, bought new running shoes and planned out your training schedule. What else do you need to do? Well, whether you're a seasoned runner or a fresh newbie, nutrition is another key component for a successful 5K.

Your daily nutrition plan should include all the macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, protein and fat. A common nutrition challenge for beginner runners is getting the right balance of carbohydrates, which are the most immediate and efficient fuel to the muscles. Without enough carbohydrates for your working muscles, your performance will be impacted—but too many carbohydrates can also have an effect.

More: 5 Pre-Race Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid

Eating a well-balanced daily diet rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat will help keep your glycogen levels topped off, as well as ensure optimal digestion for each training session and for race day. Make sure to include a whole grain or starch at every meal, don't skimp on fruit, eat your vegetables and drink low-fat milk or eat low-fat yogurt. Carb-loading is not necessary when training for a 5K. Carb-loading is meant for endurance exercise lasting 90 minutes or longer.

Adequate protein before exercise and throughout your training season will build and repair muscle tissue and may help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.

It's also important to get the recommended levels of healthy fats in your diet. Fat plays many important roles in your body including protecting your internal organs. They are essential for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in your diet and maintaining healthy skin and hair, and they are necessary to help your body create important hormones. Total fat consumption per day should be about 20 to 35 percent of your total energy intake. These fats can come from olive oil, avocado, salmon and nuts and seeds.

More: Peanut Butter: A Super Sports Food

5K Nutrition Tips:

Don't show up to the race hungry. Consume a well-balanced meal three to four hours before the race. Whatever you plan on eating the morning of the race is also what you should be eating during training. This will prevent intolerance and/or gastrointestinal symptoms. Make sure to sip on fluids throughout the day, too.

Pre-Exercise Meal/Snack Ideas:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of low-fat milk
Low-fat yogurt with blueberries and low-fat granola
Oatmeal with a banana and almonds
Turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato with a side of raw carrots
Bowl of cereal with low-fat milk and strawberries

Active logoSign up for your next race.

About the Author

Michelle Ulrich

Michelle Ulrich, MS, RD, CNSC, works as a clinical dietitian at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California. She's also the sports dietitian for ETA Coach, an endurance coaching company. She has a passion for food, nutrition and sports.

Michelle Ulrich, MS, RD, CNSC, works as a clinical dietitian at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California. She's also the sports dietitian for ETA Coach, an endurance coaching company. She has a passion for food, nutrition and sports.

Discuss This Article