The 7 Best Carbs for Fuel


There once were three bears that lived in the woods. They loved porridge — a complex carb — but apparently weren’t very good at making it. 

How does this story end? In tragedy, with two bowls of porridge gone to waste and Goldilocks running for her life on an assumedly over-full stomach. Terrible. With a little foresight this crisis could have easily been averted, which is exactly why we’re here.

A runner’s diet is deeply personal, but most experts will agree that carbohydrates are a significant and essential part of it. But which carbs are “just right?” Find out by reading below!

1. Bananas 

Portable, loaded with natural electrolytes, easy to digest, and varietal — this highly-studied superfood carbohydrate is perfect for pre or post-workout snack choices. One standard banana contains 1 gram of protein, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of natural sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 450 mg of potassium. As a bonus, its slow absorption (thanks to resistant starch) protects against exhausting blood sugar crashes. 

2. Whole Grains

Goldilocks wasn’t too far off with her pursuit of porridge in the story above. Whole grains are a great source of complex carbs for long-burning fuel. Examples include bulgur, brown rice, barley, whole wheat bread and pasta, buckwheat, milled, and of course, oatmeal. 

3. White Toast

Sometimes simple is best when it comes to carbs. Though loading up long-term on simple carbohydrates isn’t recommended, they do have their proper time and place. Consider white toast with jam or honey 1-3 hours before a race for an energizing and lightweight boost.  

4. Starchy Vegetables

A huge category with enjoyable options for even the pickiest palate! Some fan-favorites include sweet potatoes and beetroot, which have healthy doses of vitamins C, E, magnesium, and beta carotene (all-natural immune system boosters). Some studies have even indicated that beetroot improves blood and oxygen flow to the muscles!

5. Milk (& Yogurt)

Yes, milk. Admittedly this is a controversial choice, but it doesn’t have to be traditional dairy. The basic premise is to boost your carb (and even protein) intake with an easy liquid solution. Oatmilk, cashew milk, and most other plant-based choices are great substitutes. If you’re trying to meet calorie goals look for the “extra creamy” options. 

6. Legumes

Another touchy topic. Legumes like beans and lentils are an incredible source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, but they do have risks. Not everyone can tolerate adding large amounts of legumes to their diets. Start small, and preferably not on race or heavy training days until you know how your body will tolerate any new (or increased) legume intake. 

7. Dried Fruit

Portable, fast-burning, affordable, and delicious, we saved the best for last! Instead of a mid-run sports drink or gel, opt for an all-natural solution to glycogen store replenishment. Dried fruit of almost any variety can be a great mid-run snack on any longer trek. 

It can certainly be easy for life to get away from us. Skipping meal prep or smart snack purchases may seem like a time-saver in the moment ... but next thing you know you’ll be ravenously hungry, bursting into strangers’ cottages in the woods, and worst of all — making terrible carb choices. 

Don’t let it get to that point. Take the time to prepare and explore the best fit for you and your plans for the day, you’ll thank yourself in the long run!