How Many Calories Should a Runner Eat?

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Are you ready to uncover the secrets of fueling your running performance? Well, you’ve stumbled upon the perfect spot. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the fascinating world of runner’s nutrition.

Picture this: you’re out on the road, pounding the pavement with every stride, pushing your body to its limits. In those moments, food becomes more than just a delightful taste on your tongue—it transforms into the fuel that propels you forward. It’s the energy that powers your legs, the vitality that keeps you going mile after mile.

But here’s the thing: if you don’t provide your body with the right amount of calories, you could unknowingly compromise your training. It’s like embarking on a long journey without enough gas in the tank. You wouldn’t want to run on empty, would you?

Now, let me share a little secret with you: there’s no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan that works for every runner. Just as every runner has their unique stride, each of us requires a different fueling strategy to reach our peak performance.

Ask a group of runners about the perfect diet for optimal performance, and you’ll witness a glorious symphony of different opinions. It’s like a buffet of ideas, each runner contributing their own flavors and experiences. But amidst the diversity, there are some guiding principles that can lead us on the path to success.

That’s where this article becomes your trusted companion. I’ll be your guide, sharing training and nutrition guidelines that will help you navigate the intricate world of calories for runners.

Ready? Let(s get started.

The Importance of Calories

Logging the miles consistently helps you become a runner, but to reach your performance peak, you’ll want to provide your body with the energy to go the distance. Otherwise, you won’t make it far down the road.

A calorie is a unit of energy. This means that all types of food—whether they’re carbohydrates, proteins, or fat—are a source of fuel—all of which we need to perform at our best.

Determine Your Calorie Needs

Depending on your training volume, age, body weight, and gender, you’ll need various amounts of calories to properly fuel your body.

For instance, if you’re training for a marathon and logging 40 to 50 miles a week, you’ll need more fuel in the tanks to sustain your efforts. You can use this calculator to figure out your calorie burn and how many calories to budget.

The Exact Numbers

Runners should consume at least 20 calories per pound of body weight.

But this may vary widely depending on your training load and your other activities throughout the day.

Are you trying to lose weight? Then aim to take in less than 20 calories per pound of your body weight.

Additional resource – Running with diabetes

How Many Calories Should a Runner Eat

When it comes to calorie burning, running is a true powerhouse. But it’s not as simple as saying, “I ran, so I burned X number of calories.”

Oh no, my friend, it’s a fascinating interplay of various factors that contribute to the calorie-burning equation.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the intensity of your training. Just like a simmering pot on a stove, the higher the intensity, the more calories you’ll burn.

It’s like revving up the engine of a sports car—more power, more fuel consumed. So, when you push the pace, those calorie-burning engines roar to life.

Distance also plays a crucial role in the calorie-burning bonanza. On average, you can expect to burn around 100 calories for every mile you conquer. Picture this: each mile you run is like a small victory, chipping away at those calorie numbers.

So, if you lace up your shoes and tackle a magnificent five-mile run, you’re looking at torching roughly 500 calories. That’s 500 more than if you had chosen the cozy embrace of the couch!

But here’s where things get interesting. Every runner is a unique individual, and their calorie needs are as varied as the paths they tread. The variables at play—metabolism, body weight, age, and more—create a beautiful tapestry of personalized energy requirements. It’s like a gourmet chef creating a bespoke menu tailored just for you.

Now, let’s talk numbers. If you’re moderately active, you might need around 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight. That’s the baseline.

But as a runner, you’re far from average. You’re training for a marathon, conquering 45 to 50 miles each week. That’s a feat worthy of celebration—and extra calories! To fuel your ambitious goals, you’ll want to add an additional 700 (or more) calories to your daily intake.

A grand total of 2,700 calories, my friend, to power you through those intense training sessions and keep you running strong.

Here’s the full guide to calories burned running a mile.

Eating For Endurance

We all have a limited glycogen reserve, typically ranging from 1400 to 2000 calories worth depending on body size and muscle mass.

To prevent the dreaded bonk—when your glycogen stores hit rock bottom, leaving you feeling like a deflated balloon—we need to talk about fueling during those extended training sessions and races. We’re talking about workouts that extend beyond the 1.5 to 2-hour mark, the true tests of your endurance.

Here’s the magic formula: aim to reload 20 to 30 percent of your energy expenditure per hour.

Let’s break it down. Imagine you’re burning 450 calories per hour, a formidable feat indeed. To keep those energy levels soaring, you’ll want to replenish between 90 and 140 calories per hour.

And what’s the secret ingredient? Carbohydrates, my friend—the ultimate source of running power.

The Calorie Estimations You Need

Here’s how to estimate your calories needs based on how long you’re running—and training—each day in general.

  • 60 to 90 minutes – Shoot for around 20 calories per pound of your body weight
  • 90 minutes to two hours – Shoot for 22 to 24 calories per pound of your body weight
  • Two to three hours – Shoot for 25 to 30 calories per pound of your body weight.

For example, if you’re weighing 165 pounds and plan to do a two-hour long run today, you should ensure that you consume at least 4000 calories on that day.

Additional resource – Can you run a marathon on keto

What Runners Should Eat

Now that you’ve determined how many calories, on average, you should eat, let’s briefly explain the main types of fuel you should add to your daily menu.


First up, we have the mighty carbohydrates. These bad boys are like the rocket fuel for your body, especially when it comes to those hard-working muscles of yours. When you indulge in carb-rich foods, your body works its magic, converting those complex carbs into simple sugars, the magical substance known as glucose.

And oh boy, is glucose essential! It’s like the energy currency for your cells, powering every step of your run.

During exercise, your body can store glucose in your muscle cells, ready to be unleashed as immediate energy. Any extra glucose in your bloodstream finds a cozy home in your muscle and liver cells as glycogen, waiting to be tapped into when the going gets tough.


Protein is another valuable macronutrient.

Timing is everything when it comes to protein. Consuming protein right after a run can speed up the repair and recovery process of those hardworking muscles, making sure you bounce back stronger than ever.

And here’s a little secret for you: having a protein-rich snack before bedtime can work wonders for muscle recovery and growth while you catch those precious Z’s.

Healthy Fats

Now, let’s talk about the good fats, because trust me, they’re not the enemy. We’re talking about the healthy fats that can contribute to your overall well-being. Aim to include about 20 to 30 percent of your total daily calories from these fabulous fats.

They’re like the trusty sidekicks, supporting nerve function, promoting joint health, and even playing a crucial role in hormone production. It’s like a symphony of goodness happening inside your body when you nourish it with the right fats.

Additional resource – Keto diet foods

How Many Calories Should a Runner Eat – The Conclusion

There you have it! If you’re a runner and are wondering how many calories to consume, then today’s post has you covered. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

Keep training strong.

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