The Benefits Of Keeping A Food Diary When Running

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Tracking food is a great way runners can see if they are consuming enough carbs. The Benefits Of Keeping A Food Diary When Running

It’s really easy for us as runners to not pay attention to our nutrition as much as we should. We often fall victim to the mentality that since we are constantly burning lots of calories that we can indulge—sometimes a little more than we should—or not focus on what we eat at all. We know the importance of eating healthy before and after the long run and especially prior to a big race. But that’s where we stop tracking just what exactly we are consuming. But our performance as everyday athletes is directly related to what we are putting into our bodies. Which is why there are major benefits to keeping a food diary as a runner.

Runners either run as a way to exercise and lose weight or just because they love to run and instead have specific race goals or running milestones they chase after. Both groups of runners can greatly benefit from keeping a food diary.

Thanks to technology, doing so is so easy. You don’t need to manually write down every little thing snacked on. There’s plenty of apps for that—and some even reveals macros.

Why Runners Should Track Their Macros

Macronutrients, or macros, are the molecules our bodies use to make energy. It is the kind of calories that are in our food,  broken down to fat, protein and carbs.

It’s important for runners to count their macros being the amount of protein and carbs consumed directly influences performance. Since carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel, runners need to make sure they are fueling their body properly and enough to be able to get through that long run. The number of carbs consumed should be based on running specific goals and needs. Those running to lose weight and run a mile every other day do not need to “carb load.” But those who train moderately for less than one hour need about 2.3 to 3.2 grams of carbs per pound. Those who have high-intensity runs or long mileage need more carbs.

Protein is key for muscle repair. Those training for a marathon needs more protein than those training for a 5k. And while the needs slightly differ, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends runners consuming 0.55 to 0.64 grams protein per pound of body weight each day.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.

The Main Benefits Of A Running Food Diary

In general, everyone can benefit from keeping a food journal. This includes the main incentive, losing weight. According to a study, those who kept a daily food journal lost twice as much weight in a six month period than those who didn’t track at all.

Keeping a food diary shows people that they sometimes eat because of boredom, or mood, and it helps to prevent this. It can also help identify feelings after eating certain foods. This can be easier to pinpoint certain foods make a person feel bloated and sluggish, whereas other specific foods are filling and nourishing.

Logging food, in general, provides a source of accountability and mindfulness. A person might be less likely to eat “bad” foods when they know they have to track it. It also means smaller and more controlled portions. Instead of listening to cravings, the person has a better chance of consuming what their body needs.

And this is extremely important for runners.

Runners aren’t as much concerned with overeating as they are with eating the right kinds of food to fuel their body for their runs. Runners would be surprised to see if they are really getting enough carbs in their diet when training for a marathon.

Both new and experienced runners can benefit from keeping a food diary. Not only does it reveal how many calories are consumed and burned, but it also reveals gaps in nutrition. It can help show if we aren’t getting enough carbs or protein, or if we are consuming too much sugar or calories, in general, to help us reach our goal.

It also can reveal any diet issues when it comes to their performance. Runners might note they feel more energized during a run after eating a healthy breakfast. Others might notice the gas or constipation they experience is related to the types of food eaten to help identify food sensitivities. It can also determine what time of day to eat is based on performance.

Food diaries often reveal that the person isn’t drinking enough water, something most people and even runners are guilty of.

Photo by Matteo Sönning on Unsplash

Best Ways To Track Your Food

Many runners have training logs for their mileage and pace so that they can see how far they’ve come along. Runners should take their nutrition as seriously and start logging their food. The best way to track food is via apps made specifically for this purpose. MyFitnessPal is among the most popular. It is free to download (available for iOS, Android and for the web). It is easy to use and breaks down food in-depth to reveal macros.

Runners can enter in their weight, height, and goals and see how on target or off they are when it comes to eating their recommended macros. Because the runner can enter in their runs, the app takes this into consideration when revealing the macros for that day. Plus it syncs with other third party apps like Garmin to seamless transfer data.

Other options include Fitbit, which is ideal for those with the smartwatch, Fooducate, MyPlate Calorie Tracker and Lose It!.



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