What to eat on heavy training days

On heavy training days you'll need to pay close attention to hydration levels and up your carbohydrate intake. Make sure you're eating the right kind of carbs with our recipe suggestions...

A female athlete running on a track

On heavy training days, getting your nutrition right is especially important in order to meet the increased demands of training and ensure rapid refuelling and overall recovery. Hydration is a key element too as you will be sweating more and losing water.

Nutrition plan for heavy training days (two or more training sessions or a long, endurance-based session)

Increase the carbs
Carbohydrate intake is raised on these days, and as a general rule, a serving should be included at all main meals, to top up muscle glycogen (fuel) levels. 

Snacks can also be used to support high training volume. Higher-GI carbohydrate snacks mid-morning or mid-afternoon can be a useful tool to increase overall intake, or as a quick pre-training snack. 

The priority is to increase carbohydrate intake (as the main fuel), but don’t forget to maintain both protein and polyunsaturated fat intake with each meal. Be sure to include an evening snack containing protein, as this is vital to help your body recover from a heavy training day and assist muscle growth overnight, as this is when a large amount of growth and repair (adaptation) will occur in the muscles.

Other nutrients
Up your fluid intake to compensate for sweat losses during training and stick to tried and tested foods before setting out on a long run. Avoid foods that may cause gastrointestinal issues, such as spices, fatty or very high fibre foods.

Selecting fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants or dietary nitrate may offer further benefit to the muscles during training and recovery.

Meal options:

Breakfast options:
Cinnamon buckwheat pancakes with cherries
Blueberry bircher pots
Good-for-you granola

Morning snack options:
Cinnamon berry granola bars
Banana yogurt pots

Lunch options:
Falafel burgers
Chicken & broccoli pasta bake
Quick chilli bean wraps

Afternoon snack suggestion:
Instant frozen berry yogurt

Dinner options:
Spanish rice & prawn one-pot
Lamb with buckwheat noodles & tomato dressing
Chicken, sweet potato & coconut curry

Evening snack suggestions (optional):
Protein shake

Now find out what to eat on easy and normal training days.

More training & nutrition tips for runners

These meal plans were last updated on 25 March 2019.

James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Are you training for a race this year? What have you found most challenging and do you have any top tips to share with other runners? We'd love to hear from you below...

Comments, questions and tips

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7th Jul, 2015
1. Aren't post-workout meals just important for building muscle? Do they matter at all if my goal is fat loss? 2. Is it best to use one of the fancy post-workout drinks or shakes that you see in the magazines or is a whole food meal better? What's the best combination of carbs to protein to fat in a good post workout meal? 3. How quickly after a workout is best to consume my post workout meal? Answers: 1. Post-workout meals are important for BOTH muscle building and fat loss! Always remember that one of the most important aspects of long term fat loss and maintaining a lean body for life is raising your overall metabolic rate by building and maintaining adequate lean muscle mass throughout your body. By consuming a proper post workout meal after every workout, you assist your body in repairing and building lean muscle throughout your body. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate… hence, you lose fat easier, and it is MUCH easier to stay lean long term. 2. Whole foods or supplement shakes? This can be done either way, but I'm going to show you some guidelines why some post-workout shakes are better than others and some whole foods are better than others. Either way, you can make it work. First, keep in mind that your goal throughout the majority of each day is eating small whole food meals frequently that digest slowly with high fiber and a controlled glycemic response (blood sugar). These normal daily meals should also contain healthy fats and slowly digested proteins to keep a steady supply of amino acids. http://www.weightlosseasy.tips/post-workout-meals-shakes.html Well, when it comes to post-workout meals, you can almost use the exact opposite strategy of your normal meals. With post-workout meals, you actually want a faster digesting carbohydrate source to elicit an insulin response, which surges nutrients and glycogen back into your muscles for repair. So while I always preach high fiber for most of your meals, with post-workout, you actually want low fiber, high GI carbs, and quickly digesting proteins as well for muscle repair. Another aspect to keep in mind… while I always preach healthy fats at most of your meals… with the post workout meal, you actually want almost all carbs and protein, and very little fat if any. Fat just slows the absorption and glycemic response which is not what you want with the post-workout meal.
Daisy@Cheaperseeker's picture
29th Mar, 2014
Delightful post!I look forward to each and every new article you write and post here.
21st Apr, 2016
I'm trying to put on weight while doing quite heavy training. Should I try to follow these diet plans or devise something more substantial? Also, I train in the morning before eating anything and eat a heavy meal the night before. What should I bear in mind when planning my meals?
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