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Does Sugar Affect Your Running?

Runners need to be fit and healthy in order to run marathons, sprints, or better their endurance. Sugary foods such as fizzy drinks or chocolate can have negative effects on your body when consumed in large quantities.

So it’s only natural that people who are health conscious such as runners naturally try and avoid sugary foods! 

does sugar affect your running

However, sugar is the body’s preferred source of energy. Especially for activities such as running. So how can a runner get a sugar hit for the energy they need without impacting their general health too much?

Slow release vs fast release carbs

The key is in eating the right foods. Sugary foods which might immediately spring to mind such as fizzy drinks, chocolate, and even crisps are known as high glycaemic index (GI) or fast-release carbs. 

This means that when your body ingests these, they immediately release the sugar hit that we’re all familiar with.

This gives you a short burst of energy for your running, but means you’ll quickly run out of puff. 

This fast release causes a sharp spike in your blood sugar levels, but quickly levels off, explaining why you easily run out of steam.

Slow-release carbs, or low GI foods, are what runners need to prioritize. These are foods that slowly release their sugar over time as they become digested, and this gives your body the energy it needs to run for longer.

Slow-release carbs which are good for runners include bananas, oats, sweet potatoes, beetroot, chia seeds, and berries.

You should also avoid things like energy drinks. These may seem like an appealing option for runners because of the caffeine, but the high levels of sugar prevent them from being a helpful running aid.

High GI carbs are often known as empty calories because they carry little to no nutritional value.

Does sugar affect endurance?

Sugar does affect endurance, yes. It’s important to remember to ingest the right types of sugar so that you can improve your endurance.

It is a widely known fact that eating high GI foods such as high sugar energy bars, ice cream, or chocolate before a run means that you become fatigued quicker. 

That’s because after the initial sugar high which causes your blood sugar to spike, your blood sugar then crashes.

 athletes crave sugar

This sugar crash makes you more tired, and means you can’t run as much as you could if you ingested low GI foods.

Runners who opt for low GI foods before a run will have much better endurance. As we’ve mentioned in more detail above, low GI foods are slow release, so the sugar gets slowly released into your system.

This means your body gets slowly drip fed the energy it needs throughout your run, so you can run further.

An interesting thing to note about your muscles is that they’re more readily able to absorb a combination of fructose and glucose than just glucose on its own.

Fructose is the sugar that fruits and many plants produce. So instead of that high sugar energy bar, you should opt for some fruit or oatmeal instead.

Why do runners need sugar?

Runners need sugar to give them the energy they need to complete lengthy running sessions. However, runners need to make sure that they’re eating the right type of sugar. 

Even though gels and high energy bars are more efficient, they can actually negatively impact a runner’s performance.

This is because these types of food concentrate on giving you a quick burst of energy. This makes them akin to the high GI foods which runners are likely trying to avoid anyway.

Low GI foods such as bananas or oatmeal will be the better option. A key way to tackle this is to ensure that you eat the right types of food before you need to start your run.

As long as you get on top of your meal prep, you should be able to find it easy to eat the right types of sugar before your run. 

If you eat a banana or another of your preferred low GI foods about an hour before you start running, this will give you the assistance you need during your run.

Why do athletes crave sugar?

Athletes crave sugar because their bodies are craving the energy they need to compete in their favorite sport. It’s worth remembering that everyone craves sugar.

However, if you find that you’re craving a lot of sugar when you go running, it may be worth taking a look at the rest of your diet on the whole. 

When you crave sugar, it’s your body’s way of telling you that you just need more energy. You should ensure that you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet to get all of the nutrients your body needs.

You should stay away from low calorie diets, as these often make you feel even hungrier. As an athlete, you will need to be eating enough calories to properly fuel your body.

Remember, even though it’s tempting to opt for foods that give you a quick energy boost, it will be better for your running if you opt for low GI carbs instead such as bananas!

In summary

So there you have it! Now you know that yes, sugar does affect your running. It’s important to eat the right type of foods to get the right type of sugar you need for your running. 

You should avoid high GI foods that offer an immediate energy release because you will suffer from an energy crash and fatigue quicker.

Instead, you should opt for low GI foods that have a combination of fructose and glucose, as that energy is more easily absorbed by your muscles.

It’s also important to be on top of your meal prep so that you can eat the right type of sugar before you need the energy hit.

If you’re clever with your food planning, you can perfectly time it so that you’ll get the energy boost just when you need it. 

You should also ensure that you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet so that you can get the best results possible from your running.


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