What should runners eat to lose weight?

This question is about Running

Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Runners wanting to lose weight should eat a combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats from a variety of whole or minimally processed foods like fruit, vegetables, fatty fish, eggs, poultry, tofu, beans/legumes, and whole grains. These foods support both weight loss and athletic performance. 

Modest weight loss achieved through exercise most likely won’t affect a runner’s overall performance so long as there is adequate intake of calories (particularly from carbs and protein), and pre- and post-run nutrition are prioritized. 

  • Low-carb diets are not great for running but a modest reduction in carbohydrate (40-45% of daily calories) may help runners lose weight without sabotaging performance.

  • To help preserve lean muscle mass, runners trying to lose weight should consume roughly 1.8-2.7 g/kg/protein/day, divided into 4-6 meals or snacks [



  • Furthermore, having a small meal or snack that provides 1 g/kg of carbohydrate and 0.5 g/kg of protein within 30-60 minutes of a run will promote muscle synthesis, which is important for runners trying to achieve weight loss while maintaining or increasing lean mass [



oats, raisins, apples, and milk for a healthy snack


  1. Kreider, R. B., Almada, A. L., Antonio, J., Broeder, C., Earnest, C., Greenwood, M., Incledon, T., Kalman, D. S., Kleiner, S. M., Leutholtz, B., Lowery, L. M., Mendel, R., Stout, J. R., Willoughby, D. S., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2004). ISSN Exercise & Sport Nutrition Review: Research & Recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 1(1).