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Top tips for optimum nutrition by Dr Ali Hill

22nd April 2016
Sport and fitness

Course leader for Sport Coaching and nutritional expert Dr Ali Hill says “the right nutrition strategy can make a huge difference to your run.

“After all, you wouldn’t put the wrong fuel in your car and expect it to perform to its best, and it’s exactly the same with food and drink!”

Ahead of this year’s ABP Southampton half marathon and 10k, we get some top tips on nutrition for runners. Ali says:

The three main things you need to think about are fuel, hydration and recovery.


  • Carbohydrates give you energy, and you can store some in your body. Make sure you have lots of starchy carbohydrates in the three or four days before the race to maximise those stores. Foods like pasta, rice and potatoes are perfect.
  • On race day, have something with slow-release carbohydrates about two to four hours before the race begins. Porridge, bagels or toast are ideal for this.
  • For those doing the half marathon or expecting to be running for over an hour, you need to think about refuelling during the race. This is where the sugary carbohydrates are useful. You can get these in sweets or sports drinks, and they’ll give you the extra boost of energy you need as you’re running.


  • Hydration is one of those things that is easy to forget but can make a massive difference to your performance. The easiest way to tell this is looking at the colour of your pee. The day before your race you want your urine to be a pale straw colour. If it’s darker you’re dehydrated and need to drink more. Be aware that some multi-vitamins can change the colour of your urine, making it hard to check your hydration status! 


* Urine colour chart taken from

  • If it’s a hot day, or you’re running for a long time, you need to think about hydration during the race. Drink little and often, but make sure you don’t drink too much, as that can slow you down too. You don’t need to drink at every water station.


  • After your run you need to think about the 3 Rs – repairing, restocking and rehydrating.
  • Protein is vital to repair your muscles from the tiny damages they get when you exercise. This helps them grow back stronger. Restocking the energy stores you used during your run is also crucial. This is where carbohydrates are so important. In fact, having both carbohydrates and protein together in the first hour after exercise both repairs muscle and restocks energy stores. A perfect recovery drink is chocolate milk, as it gives you the right ratio of protein and carbohydrate. If you’re running the ABP Southampton half marathon or 10k, look out for some chocolate milk in your race bag, with love from Solent.
  • Rehydrating is also important. You get dehydrated when you run because of sweating, and you can see this if you step on the scales. If you measure yourself before and after running, for every kilo of weight you’ve lost, you need to drink another 1.5 litres of fluid. Or you can use the colour chart again to make sure your urine is a pale straw colour.

One final tip is making sure you don’t do anything on race day that you haven’t done in training. You don’t know how it will make you feel, and halfway through your race is not the best time to find out it makes you ill!

Good luck!

Solent is the official education partner of the ABP Southampton half marathon and 10k. At the heart of the city’s sporting community, Solent delivers sports, coaching and fitness across Southampton.

For more information about Solent’s sports facilities, services and coach education activities, visit our Solent Sport webpages.