Runger: How runners can tame the beast and eat to perform

There’s a little beast that lives inside every runner. He gets really irritable after long runs. He’ll yell, he’ll scream, he’ll kick, he’ll throw a full on Toddlers and Tiaras style tantrum until you give him what he wants. He’s screaming, “FEEEEED ME!!!!”
Yup, that’s your Runger talking. Shut him up. Feed the beast! 😉

Runger’s an interesting thing, as is sports nutrition. It’s a tricky topic because running burns tons of calories so naturally runners need to EAT more. At the same time, what we fuel our bodies with has a direct correlation to its performance. Add in that every runner’s metabolism and body type is different and things can get kinda hairy, scary monstrous.

So getting back to Runger? Here are some more quick facts about our little belly-dwelling man:

* Running and Appetite: Exercise requires more energy, so duh, runners need more calories [energy] than the sofa-surfers of the world. Input versus output. Ideally everyone could eat intuitively, but food is such a cultural/emotional/past-time, growing up people tend to lose touch with their ‘intuition’ when it comes to hunger and fullness.
* Feeding Runger ASAP: The key to speeding up your muscle recovery, and to help quell the Runger beast from yelling at you so loud later that you over-eat, is to refuel RIGHT after you finish a run or workout. That 30 minute recovery window is critical! Get your protein and carbs in before you even shower!
racing weight
* Marathon Weight Gain? Lots of new runners jump straight to a marathon and think, “Hey, I bet I’ll lose weight!” The irony is that a good portion of those runners notice they GAIN weight and are puzzled. Why? Runger, Baby, Runer. Easy runs and long runs especially kick up the appetite of a person, incidentally the body doesn’t have a totally accurate gauge between the amount of calories burned running and then amount of calories it wants to eat. Probably a survival mode thing that’s outdated. What that means is after those long runs your hunger level will probably leave you wanting to inhale more calories than you actually burned.
* Female Runger: It sucks but the whole mistaken gauge of amount of running in respect to level of hunger is more skewed for women. So women tend to get even hungrier than men after the same run, so can wind up, again, taking in more than they need.
* Speedwork: The irony to the people who sign up for a marathon JUST TO lose weight, is that they would be better off doing shorter races and speedwork. Why? Harder workouts tend to suppress the appetite after and they also kick your metabolism up more than easy runs and they also keep it elevated hours after the hard run.

Taming Runger Tips:

* Protein! Not only do you need protein to build and repair your muscles but protein is also going to really help with satiation; it will keep you feeling fuller longer. If you’re finding yourself insanely insatiable you probably need more protein.
* Eat Fast: Not the rate of your eating, but you need to eat sooner rather than later. Meaning eat when you’re not on the verge of feeling like your stomach is sucking up against your spine, wait too long and you’ll be too famished. Again, another reason to refuel as soon after your runs as possible.
* Eat Healthy: Fiber will help fill you up, so get lots of fruits and veggies in there. Good for straight-up health but also, 10 apples are way more filling than 10 Cheetos. Who can eat just 10 Cheetos??

Gaining Weight:

I said how every runner is different, well the cruel irony is that some runners are constantly trying to tame their Runger in a way to avoid gaining weight, while other runners are constantly fighting to keep weight on. For those with speedy bullet metabolisms:

* Liquids: Fluids don’t fill you up like foods do, so adding liquid calories are super easy. Good choices are milk, smoothies, and protein shakes.
* Calorie Dense: Think the opposite of the 10 apples thing, look for foods that have more calories in smaller portions. Examples: peanut butter, avocados, cheese, nuts, ice cream!! 🙂
* Healthy then Plus: Just because you need more calories doesn’t mean good nutrition goes out the window. I liken it to the healthy+plus method. I tend to have a faster metabolism so I make sure to get my healthy stuff (fruits, veggies, enough protein) in and THEN I use whatever more calories I need as ‘fun foods.’ Totally inhale your cakes but don’t neglect your apples type of thinking.

Whew, I think we covered a lot about that hungry little gremlin dwelling in your stomach. All that food talk probably woke him up….if so, avoid Pinterest or Instagram. 😉


1) How do you balance healthy eating with Runger?
2) What kind of runs tend to leave you the most famished?
3) If you’re trying to gain weight, what are some of your go-to foods/liquids?

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15 thoughts on “Runger: How runners can tame the beast and eat to perform

    • glad you found this helpful and YES, the ups and downs of mileage and training can certainly do a number on your stomach and runger levels. 😛

  1. I notice my hunger for sure increases the day after a hard track workout, even in some cases MORE than my long run days, which are typically 16-20 miles once a week! I guess the high-intensity helps with the after burn! I run track in the evening, so by the next morning, I’m usually famished and ready for a nice plate of eggs and veggies and an english muffin!

    • i do notice what you describe there! it’s odd, the hard workouts don’t make me hungry right after but it’s like the ‘delayed onset-runger’ 😉

  2. Oh boy, is this a topic for me! Some weeks I have major hungry days and some I feel normal. I find the hungry days usually occur a few days after a long run. Make no mistake, I am always ready to eat but the extreme hunger vs. normal hunger is different. Lately though, I am a bottomless pit. People always wonder how I eat so much and stay so thin but it’s all because of the combo between running and EATING RIGHT. I don’t fuel up on those ice cream sundaes every single day lol…But sometimes, I even amaze myself and sometimes it is extremely frustrating to eat a decent sized meal and wonder why I am still hungry. I absolutely eat before and after my runs, work on getting enough protein and eat according to my appetite – mainly so I can function and not attack people with a hungry mood.

    • it sounds like we are in the SAME boat…the other day at the grocery store my checker couldn’t believe how much i was buying/eating…but like you said it’s 1) input vs. output 2) fueling with quality and THEN giving ourselves the treats…cuuuuz, a world without ice cream is too dark to fathom 😉

  3. I have been focusing more on nutrition lately and I have noticed a difference in recovering faster! I have really been making sure to take in protein/carbs right after a workout (usually chocolate milk).
    That part about females’ runger being more skewed than mens’ is so not fair!:)

  4. I’m horrible about going hours after running before I eat (and I run on an empty stomach) – probably why at dinner I eat more than anyone in the family (including 2 teen age boys!!!).

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  7. My favorite go-to post-long run breakfast is eggs. That’s really convenient, now that we have chickens and get 6 eggs per day. They fill me up and I often start thinking about what type of eggs I’ll eat while I’m still running. If it’s a longer long run (for me, that would be 13 or more miles) I like to have scrambled eggs topped with some black beans and salsa. That gives me my protein and fiber 🙂

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