Snacks are my downfall. I don’t plan ahead well and then end up eating a bag of chips or 10,000 bowls of cereal at 4 pm or 9 pm. So selfishly, I wanted to write an article that rounds up the best easy snacks for runners.
A solid snack for a runner should be one that gives your body the fuel it needs to maintain energy and run well. This means it should include carbs, protein, fiber, and some healthy fats. My hope is that the below list of easy snacks for runners gives you ideas of what snacks to have on hand. Buy them in bulk and have them in your pantry, car, and purse so you are never caught hungry!
Eating regularly (every few hours) helps ward off binging, and including protein and fiber helps keep you full. Even more—it keeps us from getting HANGRY! There’s nothing worse than dealing with a thousand requests from your kids or trying to quell a fight or tantrum when your tank is empty!
I talked with registered dietitians who work with runners to create the below list of 20+ easy snacks for runners. These healthy snacks for runners make the cut because they have the macros we need to maintain energy, perform and recover well, and are easy to have on hand (and digest!).
As noted, I am not skilled at meal prep, so I wanted a list of healthy snacks for runners that can be “grab and go”!
Below I will answer:
- What a runner should eat for a snack
- Foods that are good for runners
- Foods runners should avoid
- When a runner should eat a snack, and
- 20+ snacks for runners
I hope this list helps you stay well-fueled for your running and momming! Let’s go!
Note: I am not a registered dietitian or doctor, but I did speak with them to write this article.
Why should runners eat snacks?
According to Kristy Baumann, a registered dietitian who works with marathoners, snacks provide fuel to hold you over to your next meal. What one person needs to eat at a snack is not going to be the same for the next person.
“Take note of your hunger. For some runners who are running high mileage, a snack may actually need to be a meal-size portion,” she explains.
If you find yourself in an afternoon slump, it can be tempting to open the pantry door or stare at the fridge and wonder what I should eat. Or you just start grabbing your kids’ snacks like goldfish and Cheez-its and mindlessly eat.
“But intentionally thinking about and creating a snack that’s satisfying with carbs, protein, and fiber can help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you satisfied and full longer,” advises Baumann.
That’s what this article aims to do! Help you be intentional about your fueling!
What should a runner eat for a snack?
A snack for runners should be at least 200 calories and include up to 20 grams of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and carbohydrates to help maintain energy, prevent hunger, and help with muscle recovery, says Megan Robinson, a registered dietitian. The more you run, the more you will need these macros!
- Carbohydrates are energy. They replenish the glycogen you burn on the run. Eat carbs that contain fiber to keep things moving and help you feel fuller longer.
- Protein is crucial for muscle repair and keeping hunger at bay. Aim to have about 5-20 grams of protein every 3-4 hours. Runners need more protein than regular people (about 0.5 to .9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.)
- Fat is important for crucial bodily functions and nutrient absorption. It also promotes satiety.
How much should I eat for a snack?
How much you eat as a snack depends on your size and how much you run. The more you run, the more you are going to eat. If you are training for a marathon, eating a couple of crackers and peanut butter isn’t going to cut it. You’ll likely need to couple that with yogurt or a banana, too.
Listen to your body. Eat slowly and mindfully. Recognize when you feel full. Easier said than done I know. However, I think you will find (I know I have!) that by eating consistently throughout the day with each meal or snack including the three macronutrients and fiber, you will feel less hungry (and bingey).
If you are wanting to lose weight, your snack may be smaller to create a calorie deficit. You can read more about how to run and safely lose weight here.
Related: How to Safely Lose Weight and Run
How many snacks should I eat in a day?
You should aim to eat at least two snacks a day—sometimes more if you are running more.
Ideally, you want to eat about every 3 to 4 hours. By spreading out your caloric intake and nutrition, you evenly distribute your energy availability.
Snacks can also help you maximize your training because they give your body what it needs to work out and recover hard. Eating carbs before a run gives your body fuel to run harder and longer. Giving your body carbs and protein after a run gives it the ingredients it needs to repair and build muscle, for example.
What are the 10 best foods for runners?
The best foods for runners include both carbs and protein. Pretty much any healthy food is good for runners. However, there are foods that runners should avoid pre-run or post-run that are hard on the digestive system.
The best foods for runners may include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and whole grains.
Some of my personal favorite snacks include a Greek yogurt with honey, Lara bar, apple slices with peanut butter, or rice cakes with cashew butter.
Related: How to Avoid Runners’ Trots
What foods should runners avoid?
Runners should avoid foods that are high in fat or fiber, fried, greasy, spicy, and oily. These foods can be hard on the stomach and cause stomach upset, especially when eaten before or after a run.
Related: How to Refuel After a Long Run
Can runners eat junk food?
Yes, runners can eat junk food! In fact, some runners fuel themselves with junk food such as pop tarts before a run or gummy bears during a run. That’s because these foods have simple carbs that can easily be converted into energy.
Runners (like me!) also love to eat carb-rich foods such as pizza and cereal.
However, runners should eat junk food in moderation if it has no nutritional value. Foods that are heavily processed and empty calories are not good for your body over time, so enjoy them sparingly.
Foods like burgers and pizza can provide necessary carbs, fats, and protein for runners—especially runners refueling after a long run!
What is a good energy snack for runners?
Energy snacks for runners include snacks with simple carbs such as a bagel, banana, pop tart, or graham crackers. You want food that is easily digestible so that your body can easily access glucose for energy.
What are good snacks for runners to eat before a run?
If an athlete is eating a snack an hour before training, Robinson recommends reducing protein and fat and focusing more on easily digesting carbs to avoid any GI issues and to fuel their training better.
The below snacks are good to eat pre-run, says Robinson:
- Rice cake
- Fig bar
- Handful of pretzels
- Fruit smoothie (no added milk or yogurt)
When should runners eat a snack?
Most runners should be eating foods that are protein-rich and contain healthy carbs about every 3-4 hours to maintain energy and sugar levels.
This means eating breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner, and an evening snack if you have a workout in the early morning to stock glycogen stores.
Here is a sample of what I eat in a day of training:
- 5 a.m. pre-run plain bagel and coffee
- 8 a.m. post-run protein smoothie
- 9:30 a.m. eggs with avocado toast
- 12:30 p.m. sandwich with salad
- 4 p.m. Greek yogurt with honey and granola or fruit
- 7 p.m. flatbread with nuts and cheese, side salad
- 9 p.m. graham crackers with nut butter
20+ Easy Snacks for Runners
Below are protein-rich and healthy carbs-containing snacks according to our registered dietitians!
- Energy bites (see below for recipe)
- Nuts (at least ¼ cup) with a small piece of fruit
- Smoothie: 1 cup of low-fat milk or plant-based milk + ½ cup Greek yogurt + banana + ½
- cup berries + ½ small avocado blended w/ice
- 1 cup yogurt with granola and berries
- Naked Nutrition cookie and a banana
- Apple slices with nut or peanut butter (you can purchase the small containers to eat
- w/fruit at lunch)
- Kodiak Cake waffle with peanut butter or almond butter and added banana slices. (If you buy the mix you can make banana chocolate chip muffins. Recipe here.)
- Whole-grain crackers and veggies w/hummus
- String cheese or cheese cubes w/crackers or fruit
- Trail mix (store-bought or homemade w/nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips and dried
- cereal or small pretzels added
- Turkey jerky with a handful of nuts and fruit or crackers/pretzels
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Dried fruit (dates, raisins, apricots) with nuts
- Apple Slices with peanut butter
- Crackers and string cheese
- Banana with nut butter
- Simple energy bar such as Lara bar or Kind bar and Fairlife chocolate milk (which packs 30 grams of protein!)
- Carrots and hummus
- Whole grain crackers and cheese and raspberries
- Apple slices dipped in peanut butter
- Rice cakes or graham crackers with cashew butter
- Fig bar and Greek yogurt
- HoneyStinger’s new Oat and Honey Bars
Related: The Best Protein Powders for Runners
3 Healthy Snack Ideas for Runners
Below are three recipes from elite runner Andrea Pomaranski. These recipes are good for in between snacks and also recovery snacks after a run.
Energy Bites Recipes
Combine all of the below ingredients together in a bowl. Roll into balls. Place into fridge for 30 minutes to set and enjoy.
- 1 cup oats
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder like Previnex Nourify (save 15% with code TMR15)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp cacao powder or carob powder
- 2 tbsp Maca Powder
- 1/2 cup cashew butter
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 3-4 tbsp cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
*You can also use any nut butter, add in dates, sub in chocolate protein powder, honey, flaxseed, chocolate chips, and chia seeds.
Blueberry Detox Smoothie
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1 Tsp cinnamon
- 1 liberal scoop of Previnex Vanilla Protein Powder
- 1-2 Tsp of Honey (Raw, organic if possible)
- 1/2-1 cup of cilantro, depending on your taste
- 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower
- 1-2 chunks of frozen banana (optional)
- large handful of frozen mango
- 2 cups of frozen wild blueberries
- 1 handful of ice
- Top with milk and blend
- Continue adding milk to desired consistency
Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie
- 1 cup of nondairy milk of your choice
- 1 heaping scoop of Previnex Vanilla Protein Powder
- 1-2 Tsp honey
- 1 date
- 1/2 cup frozen cooked cauliflower and/or
- 1/2 cup frozen cooked butternut squash
- 5 frozen bananas
- 1/2 cup frozen mango (optional)
- 5 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 handful of ice
- Top with milk and blend
- Continue adding milk to desired consistency
Are you hungry yet?
If you want guidance with your run training, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
- Postpartum Training Plan
- After a Break Training Plan
- 5k Training Plans
- 10k Training Plans
- Half Marathon Training Plans
- Marathon Training Plans
- Strength Training Plan