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Sample Daily Meal Plan For Runners Trying to Lose Weight

Taren Gesell

This is me before and after I began my fitness journey. As a kid who grew up on hotdogs and boxed Macaroni and Cheese, if I could do it, I know you can do it too. It took dedication and some big life changes but it was all worth it.

A good runner's diet plan isn't just about slashing calories to lose weight; in fact, that will actually probably lead to worse running performance and long-term weight gain. A good runner's diet is about nurturing your body to enhance both endurance and overall health. Here, I'll share insights and strategies for a meal plan that supports your running performance and assists in your weight loss journey.

I recognize that every runner has unique dietary needs, and these recommendations might not work for everyone. Hopefully, you're able to take some of the principles laid out in the article and apply them to your situation. Whether you're prepping for a marathon or just running for fitness, the following plan offers a flexible foundation to help you lose weight effectively and maintain your running performance.

Key Takeaways You'll Learn In This Article

  1. The essentials of a great diet plan for runners.
  2. Selecting the right foods for high-intensity and endurance runs.
  3. The significance of hydration and the perfect electrolyte mix.
  4. The real deal about supplements for runners.
  5. How to figure out your ideal calorie intake for weight loss.
  6. The best foods for runners and why they matter.
  7. A sneak peek into a daily meal plan suitable for every runner.

The Keys to a Successful Diet Plan for Runners

Embarking on a diet plan for runners is more than just choosing healthy foods; it's about understanding how these choices impact your running and health. Here are five key principles to guide you:

  1. Prioritize high-quality foods to energize and heal your body. Focus on nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods for maximum benefit.
  2. Avoid the trap of underfueling. It might seem counterintuitive, but eating too little can harm your health, hinder your running performance, and lead to The Biggest Loser effect, where you gain back any weight you've lost due to metabolic damage.
  3. Embrace nutrition periodization: align your carb intake with workout intensity. Load up on carbs for those high-energy sessions, ease up on the carbs, and keep your blood sugar low for the slower, endurance-focused runs.
  4. Hydration needs to go beyond water. Maintaining a balance of electrolytes is critical, especially during intense training or in warmer climates. You should drink more than you think you need on most days.
  5. Don't get too hung up on supplements. While they can offer benefits, your main focus should be on a well-rounded diet.

Fuel for Performance with Carbs Prior to High-Intensity Workouts

For those high-intensity sessions, your body craves glycogen stored in your muscles as a quick energy source. The purpose of a high-intensity HIIT workout is to hit max effort levels, you need high blood sugar to be able to do so.

To max out your performance, try a carb-rich snack of 20-50 grams of carbohydrates in the 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. Bananas, oatmeal, or a slice of whole-grain bread drizzled with honey. These foods provide the immediate energy boost your muscles need.

Supporting this, a study highlighted here underscores the importance of carbohydrates in fueling and recovering from high-intensity workouts. You can see a sample workout below from our half marathon training plans, where we prompt our athletes to take carbohydrates before intense running workouts.

Fuel for Fat Burning With Healthy Fats and Protein Prior to Endurance Building Workouts

For endurance training, the pre-workout fueling plan changes. In the case of long, low-intensity workouts or recovery workouts, you want your body to get better at burning fat. A pre-workout meal high in proteins and healthy fats, with some low-glycemic carbs thrown into the mix, helps keep your blood sugar stable and enhances fat utilization.

While you absolutely need carbs on race day, even Ironman triathletes have seen massive increases in their performance by being better at burning body fat as fuel. This study found that fat-burning abilities were as important for performance as Vo2 Max and body composition. Below, you'll see that we prompt our athletes to limit high blood glucose carbohydrates before some of their long, easy runs.

Hydrate With the Correct Electrolytes

Hydration for runners isn't just about guzzling water; while drinking straight water is better than nothing, as this study outlines, straight water alone can lead to hyponatremia, which is almost as dangerous as dehydration. Proper hydration is about maintaining the right electrolyte balance.

A good electrolyte drink should contain roughly the following:

  • 300-500 milligrams of sodium
  • 30-50 milligrams of potassium
  • 30-50 milligrams of magnesium
  • 10-20 grams of carbs to help with fluid absorption

What Supplements, Vitamins, and Minerals Should Runners Take?

While supplements can have their place in a runner's diet, they should complement, not replace, a nutritious diet, and a nutritious diet will take care of most requirements. Common go-to's for runners include Vitamin B, Omega-3, probiotics, magnesium, and Vitamin D, but it's best only to take supplements if you've been told to by a nutritionist or healthcare professional who has performed testing that confirms you actually need to take supplements.

How Many Calories Should You Eat When Running to Lose Weight

Figuring out your ideal calorie intake for weight loss while running isn't an exact science, even if you get into a testing lab. Here's a simple, adaptable approach that can work for every runner:

Step 1: Calculate Approximate Daily Calorie Intake

Your daily calorie needs are different for everyone. A general guideline for how many calories you should eat each day is your body weight in pounds multiplied by 15. For example, a 200-pound person might need roughly 3,000 calories in a day.

This gives you a starting point, but it's essential to listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

Step 2: Count Calories Using an App and Monitor Weight

An app like Senza is branded as a keto app, but it's great for simply counting your daily calorie intake. Use this app and a scale to track your calorie consumption and your weight for three weeks.

Step 3: Adjust Calories Per Day and Monitor Weight

After tracking for a few weeks, you can start to tweak your calorie intake by 200 calories and see what the changes are. Stay at each daily target calorie intake for three weeks and monitor your weight to see if it improves. Test different target daily calories and see if you can find the level at which you lose roughly 1 pound per week.

Step 4: Listen To Your Body

Always pay attention to your body's signals. If you're constantly tired, irritable, or not recovering well, it might be a sign that you're not eating enough. Adjust your intake until you find the right balance that keeps you energized and healthy.

MOTTIV app user Steve Evers uses running and triathlon to manage his weight and his chronic heart condition. He reports that his health continues to be stable and his doctors are thrilled with test results since he's taken up endurance exercise.

100 of The Best Foods for Runners

The best foods for runners offer one of three important features: nutrient-dense for overall health, low calorie high, volume for managing calorie intake, or very satiating to fill you up for longer. A variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can keep your diet diverse and satisfying while fueling your running needs.

Here are some of the best foods for all people, especially runners. These options should allow you to customize your diet based on the foods you enjoy and your dietary beliefs and restrictions.

40 of The Most Nutrient Dense Foods:

  1. Kale - High in vitamins A, C, and K and minerals like calcium.
  2. Spinach - Rich in iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
  3. Broccoli - Contains fiber, vitamin C, and a range of antioxidants.
  4. Blueberries - Known for their antioxidants and vitamin C content.
  5. Avocado - Source of healthy fats, potassium, and vitamin E.
  6. Quinoa - A complete protein source containing all nine essential amino acids.
  7. Salmon - Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
  8. Sweet Potatoes - High in vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber.
  9. Almonds - Good source of healthy fats, magnesium, and vitamin E.
  10. Chia Seeds - Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and calcium.
  11. Oats - Rich in fiber, especially beta-glucan, and antioxidants.
  12. Garlic - Contains bioactive compounds and boosts immune function.
  13. Turmeric - High in curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory substance.
  14. Green Tea is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful effects on the body.
  15. Eggs - Great source of protein and contain various essential nutrients.
  16. Brussels Sprouts - High in fiber, vitamins C and K, and other nutrients.
  17. Lentils - Great plant-based protein source and rich in dietary fiber.
  18. Walnuts - Contain omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and phytosterols.
  19. Greek Yogurt - Rich in protein and probiotics for gut health.
  20. Black Beans - Excellent source of fiber, protein, and folate.
  21. Apples - Good source of fiber and vitamin C.
  22. Oranges - High in vitamin C and antioxidants.
  23. Pumpkin Seeds - Contain antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, and other nutrients.
  24. Flaxseeds - Rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans.
  25. Mackerel - Another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
  26. Kefir - Fermented drink high in probiotics and nutrients.
  27. Sardines - Nutrient-rich, especially in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.
  28. Cauliflower - Versatile and packed with vitamins and fiber.
  29. Red Bell Peppers - Contain large amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C.
  30. Swiss Chard - High in vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like magnesium.
  31. Chickpeas - Good source of plant-based protein and fiber.
  32. Strawberries - Rich in vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants.
  33. Tomatoes - Good source of vitamins C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
  34. Artichokes - High in fiber and a variety of nutrients.
  35. Olives - Source of vitamin E and healthy fats.
  36. Shiitake Mushrooms - Contain bioactive compounds with potential health benefits.
  37. Seaweed - Rich source of iodine and other unique bioactive compounds.
  38. Tofu - Plant-based protein source rich in isoflavones and nutrients.
  39. Beets - High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals like folate and manganese.
  40. Bok Choy - A type of Chinese cabbage, rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C.

30 Foods With the Lowest Calorie Content

  1. Celery - Mostly water, very low in calories.
  2. Cucumbers - High water content, very few calories.
  3. Lettuce - Various types (iceberg, romaine, etc.), low in calories.
  4. Tomatoes - Low calorie, high in water and nutrients.
  5. Zucchini - Low in calories, high in water.
  6. Radishes - Very low calorie, crunchy and full of water.
  7. Bell Peppers - Low in calories, high in flavor and water.
  8. Cauliflower - Low calorie, versatile for cooking.
  9. Broccoli - Low in calories, high in fiber and nutrients.
  10. Mushrooms - Very low in calories, great for adding bulk to meals.
  11. Spinach - Extremely low in calories, high in vitamins.
  12. Kale - Low in calories, high in fiber and nutrients.
  13. Green Beans - Low calorie, good source of fiber.
  14. Asparagus - Low in calories, high in nutrients.
  15. Bok Choy - Very low in calories, high in vitamins.
  16. Watermelon - High in water, low in calories.
  17. Strawberries - Low in calories, high in water and nutrients.
  18. Papaya - Low in calories, high in water and vitamins.
  19. Grapefruit - Low calorie, high in nutrients.
  20. Oranges - Low in calories, high in vitamin C.
  21. Apples - Low in calories per volume, high in fiber.
  22. Peaches - Low in calories, juicy and sweet.
  23. Plums - Low in calories, good for snacking.
  24. Berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) - Low in calories, high in antioxidants.
  25. Cabbage - Very low in calories, high in fiber.
  26. Brussels Sprouts - Low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals.
  27. Carrots - Low in calories, high in vitamin A and fiber.
  28. Turnips - Low calorie root vegetable, versatile for cooking.
  29. Beets - Low in calories, high in nutrients (though higher in sugars than other vegetables).
  30. Onions - Low in calories, high in flavor and nutrients.

These foods are excellent for adding bulk to your meals without significantly increasing the calorie content. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, making them healthy choices for a balanced diet.

Longtime MOTTIV app user Zsuszanna Griffin has dropped weight and accomplished things she never thought possible, since learning to run and eventually taking up triathlon.

30 of The Most Satiating Foods to Fill You Up

Foods that are considered most satiating have high protein content, are rich in fiber, contain healthy fats, or have a combination of these elements. Here's a list of 30 such foods:

  1. Eggs - High in protein and fats, very filling.
  2. Greek Yogurt - Rich in protein and probiotics.
  3. Oats - High in fiber and can keep you full for hours.
  4. Chicken Breast - Lean protein that is very filling.
  5. Cottage Cheese - High in protein and calcium.
  6. Potatoes - Especially boiled, they're high in fiber and nutrients.
  7. Legumes (lentils, black beans, etc.) - High in protein and fiber.
  8. Fish (like salmon, tuna) - Rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  9. Avocado - Contains healthy fats and fiber.
  10. Quinoa - High in protein and fiber.
  11. Almonds - Healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
  12. Chia Seeds - Rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
  13. Whole Grains (brown rice, barley) - High in fiber.
  14. Lean Beef - High in protein and iron.
  15. Apples - High in fiber and water content.
  16. Nuts (walnuts, pistachios, etc.) - Good source of healthy fats and protein.
  17. Peanut Butter - Healthy fats and protein, very satiating in small amounts.
  18. Dark Chocolate - Rich and satisfying, best in moderation.
  19. Popcorn - High in fiber, low in calories if air-popped.
  20. Cheese - High in protein and fats, very filling.
  21. Broccoli - High in fiber and nutrients, low in calories.
  22. Kale - Nutrient-dense and high in fiber.
  23. Sweet Potatoes - High in fiber and nutrients.
  24. Olive Oil - Healthy fats that are satisfying and beneficial.
  25. Berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc.) - High in fiber and water.
  26. Oranges - High in fiber and water content, more filling than juice.
  27. Turkey Breast - Lean source of protein.
  28. Pumpkin Seeds - High in protein and healthy fats.
  29. Cauliflower - High in fiber and versatile in cooking.
  30. Protein Bars/Shakes - Especially those high in protein and fiber.

These foods are not only filling but also offer a variety of nutrients and health benefits. Incorporating a balance of these foods into your diet can help manage hunger and maintain a healthy weight.

Sample Daily Meal Plan That Works for Runners

The sample daily meal plan below is an example of what I would eat on a daily basis during my most intense periods of training. Keep in mind that I'm just someone who found a system that works for me, and while I've taken many nutrition courses and even held a nutrition certification in the past, I'm not a registered dietician or a nutritionist. This meal plan below is simply a guide that helped me and might help you.

Use the food list we wrote above, the target calorie intake you've determined in the system for this article, and the principles for what I eat and when below to find your ideal diet plan.

Breakfast (Pre-Workout)

I always recommend eating before a workout in the morning; it helps bring down your cortisol stress hormone from waking up and gives your body fuel to perform the workout.

Prior to a high-intensity interval workout options: Oatmeal with protein powder for flavor, toast and nut butter, or even cereal with protein powder. I wanted a quick hit of carbs to get my blood sugar high so that I had the energy to hit peak efforts in the workout.

Prior to a low intensity long workout or recovery workout options: Bulletproof coffee, an omelet; if I was feeling sluggish, I'd have some low blood sugar carbs like a green banana with a lot of nut butter on it. Keeping my blood sugar low helps the body learn to burn fat as fuel.


What you consume during a workout will change depending on what the workout is, how long it is, how intense it is, and the physiological effect we're trying to get from it. We provide a specific nutrition guideline with every single workout inside the MOTTIV training app, so athletes can make the most out of every single workout they do.  It looks something like this:

Post-Workout Recovery

I always liked having a post-workout recovery smoothie after every workout. I always found that having 15-30 grams of protein powder and 60-80 grams of carbs would start the recovery process to rebuild from the workout, and I found that this shake would lower my hunger later in the day. If I waited more than 45 minutes after a workout to eat, I always found I was very hungry later in the day.

60-90 Minutes Post Workout

60-90 minutes after a workout, I would have my full recovery meal to replenish everything after my workout in the morning. In this meal, I'd try to balance proteins, fats, and carbs.

My favorite easy meal to take to work or leave in the fridge was oatmeal, protein powder, and nut butter, all mixed together. Preparing this in a jar and heating it the night before, then letting it cool overnight, turns the oatmeal into a resistant starch, which is very good for the stomach.

You'll see that I eat a lot in the morning around a workout. This is to fuel for and recover from the workout, but it's also because it's better to eat more in the morning and less before bed. Even when controlling for calories, studies have found that people who do this tend to weigh less.


For lunch, I'd try to eat something very natural and extremely filling without being too calorie-dense. A four-egg omelet with cheese, potatoes, and green vegetables was really good for getting fats, proteins, and a pile of nutrients.

Snacks Throughout the Day

Here's a list of the snacks I really liked munching on whenever I felt hungry during the day:

  • Plain almonds
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Snap peas
  • Greek yogurt
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut Butter (I had to be careful with this because it's very calorie-dense)
  • Chia seed puddings
  • Veggies and hummus dip
  • Natural lunch meats and cured meats


I always wanted to make sure that I enjoyed dinner and felt full enough afterward so that I didn't have to eat again after dinner. So dinners are something that tends to vary a lot from day to day. The only general guideline I had with dinners was that the foods be 80% natural, which immediately keeps nutrient density higher and calories lower.

In practice, what this means is that most dinner meals are made from scratch with real food ingredients. What's a real food ingredient? A real food ingredient is a one ingredient food like ground beef, there's nothing else in ground beef besides ground beef. Broccoli is another one-ingredient food. Use a bunch of real foods to create a real food meal, and it'll naturally be very healthy.

Late Night Snacks

At the start, it may be difficult for people to not snack after dinnertime; even today, I still find this hard to refrain from when I'm stressed out. In cases where I'm feeling peckish after dinner, I'll have a big glass of water, herbal tea (not sweetened), or maybe some air-popped popcorn, which is very low-calorie.

FAQ About a Meal Plan For Runners to Lose Weight

Q: Can I follow a low-fat diet as a runner trying to lose weight?

A: Yes, many runners trying to lose weight follow a low-fat diet to control calorie intake, but know that eating fat doesn't make you fat. Rather, fat is calorie-dense (9 calories per gram instead of 4 calories per gram for carbs and protein), so while fat should be a part of everyone's diet, overconsumption of fat will probably make it hard to reach your target calorie intake. Also, some fats can be very detrimental to health, so it's important to choose healthy fats from sources like avocado, nuts, and olive oil.

Q: How can I ensure I am consuming enough carbohydrates and protein in my daily diet as a runner trying to lose weight?

A: Tracking your food intake on an app like Senza will help you learn how many grams of fat, protein, and carbs you're consuming. As a general guideline, runners should target 150-300 grams of carbs per day and one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day, with the remainder of calories coming from healthy fats.

Q: Is carb-loading beneficial for runners trying to lose weight?

A: Carb-loading, which involves consuming large amounts of carbohydrates before long runs or endurance events, is not necessary for runners on a weekly basis. Carb loading the night before big races like half marathons, marathons, and triathlons is helpful for performance, however.

Q: How important is it to stay hydrated as a runner trying to lose weight?

A: It is crucial for runners trying to lose weight to stay hydrated to maintain proper bodily functions, aid in metabolism, and support performance during workouts.

Q: Should I incorporate post-run snacks into my daily meal plan as a runner trying to lose weight?

A: Yes, including post-run recovery means and snacks in your daily meal plan as a runner trying to lose weight because they can help replenish energy stores, support muscle recovery, regulate blood sugar levels, and manage hunger.

Q: Is following a keto diet advisable for runners trying to lose weight?

A: While consuming carbs all the time is not necessary for runners (despite what many online personalities and brands might want you to believe), following a keto diet may is also not advisable for runners because it can lead to many long-term health issues similar to under fuelling.

Q: How much water should I consume daily as a runner trying to lose weight?

A: It's recommended for runners trying to lose weight to drink water for every 15-20 minutes of running, aiming for at least 16 ounces of electrolyte fluid every 60 minutes during workouts to stay hydrated.


Creating a meal plan for runners looking to shed pounds is about more than counting calories. It's about quality nutrition that fuels your runs and promotes overall health. If you exercise consistently, eat roughly the right amount of calories without overfilling or underfilling, and eat high-quality foods, your body will almost certainly take care of the rest and find your ideal body weight.

With this guide, you can tailor a diet plan for runners to meet your specific needs, whether that's improving performance, losing weight, or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The key is to find a diet for runners that feels right for you and supports your running and health goals.Hello fellow runners! As someone who has lost 65 pounds through running and endurance sports, I know how important a good diet plan for runners is if you're trying to lose weight. Running alone will create weight loss for the first three to six months after you start running, but after that, you'll need to start making some dietary changes to keep losing weight.

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Taren Gesell

| Author

"Triathlon Taren" Gesell is founder of MOTTIV and one of the world's top experts on helping adults become endurance athletes later in life. Best known for his YouTube channel and podcast, Taren is the author of the Triathlon Foundations series of books and has been published featured in endurance publications around the world.

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