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Health & Wellness
5/28/2024 by Alissa Palladino

Ask a Dietitian: How to Fuel Performance and Beat the Heat

Summer is here and whether you're training for the AJC upcoming Peachtree Road Race or just logging miles in and around Atlanta, there's no escaping the heat and humidity, and it's impossible to ignore the impact it has on your runs.

As the temperature increases outside, your body temperature rises, too. When you're running in hot, humid conditions, your body adapts in a variety of ways, including diverting blood away from your gut to the surface of your skin to cool you down.

As a result, some runners may find themselves feeling nauseous during or after running, unable to tolerate their go-to pre-run fuel, and/or experiencing a lack of appetite after finishing their runs.

But fueling appropriately is just as important in the summer as it is during the cooler months. The nutrition you take in before, and in some cases during, your runs provides energy, delays fatigue, and improves endurance. The nutrition you consume after running is critical for replenishing energy stores, repairing muscles, and optimizing training adaptations.

Therefore, skipping your pre-run, mid-run or post-run fuel may compromise your performance and recovery.

So what's a runner to do? Well, we can adapt our fueling strategies to take into account the hot, humid conditions and the effect that they have on our bodies.

Here are some ideas for what to eat before, during and after your runs to beat the heat, stay well-fueled and keep running strong during the hot summer months ahead.


Before running, the priority is fast-digesting carbs to provide energy for your working muscles. The following "cool" snacks would be perfect about an hour before you head out. If you have a little more time, pair any of these options with a small amount of protein, such as a cheese stick, hard-boiled egg or handful of nuts, for more staying power.

  • Frozen fruit: If your go-to pre-run snack during the fall and winter is a banana, try a frozen banana instead. You can also get fancy and blend up your banana in a food processor until it reaches a creamy consistency similar to ice cream, also known as "nice cream." Frozen grapes, mango, or pineapple are also excellent and refreshing sources of natural carbs that will provide needed fuel and help lower your body temperature before heading out.
  • Popsicle: A fun, easy-to-consume way to fuel up and cool down. Look for store-bought pops with at least 30 grams of carbs per serving. Note that most if not all the carbs in traditional popsicles will come from sugar, which in this case is not to be feared - sugar is actually just the simplest form of carbohydrate and therefore ideal in a pre-run snack. That said, if you prefer a more- nutritious option, look for a frozen fruit bar instead. You can also make your own popsicles by pouring juice or blended fruit into popsicle molds and freezing overnight.
  • Sorbet: Whether you go with strawberry, watermelon, or mango, pick your favorite flavor and enjoy! A half cup serving of a typical sorbet provides just over 30 grams of easy-to-digest carbs to energize your run.


For runs lasting longer than 60 minutes, runners need to refuel mid-run to keep energy levels up, maintain blood sugar, and prevent muscle breakdown. The simpler the carb the better to minimize digestive issues, which is why most sports products are made with various types of sugars. You can still opt for traditional gels or chews in the heat, just make sure to consume them with plenty of water to prevent gut distress.

Alternatively, carb-containing fluids might be better tolerated on long, hot, runs. The bonus of this strategy is that it allows you to fuel and hydrate at the same time. Powerade and other sports drinks are an easily accessible option that you can pour into your hand-held or waist-band bottles to consume on the run.

You can also try carb-containing hydration mixes such as Skratch, Tailwind, Ucan or Maurten. Keep in mind that many popular electrolyte products such as Nuun and LMNT are sugar-free, meaning they do not contain carbs and are designed for hydration only. Similarly, Powerade ZERO and other zero-sugar beverages also do not provide carbs, so if you opt for one of these, you will still need an additional fuel source on long runs.


After running, our bodies need carbs to replenish energy stores (glycogen) and protein for muscle recovery. The following "cool" snacks contain a balance of both.

  • Smoothie: There are plenty of pre-made smoothies available for convenience, but making your own allows you to control and customize the ingredients. Simply combine any frozen fruit (for carbs and micronutrients) with a scoop of a high-quality protein powder, Greek yogurt or even silken tofu (for protein). Then add a cup of your preferred liquid, such as unsweetened nut milk, soy milk, dairy milk, water, or cold brew coffee. Throw in a handful of spinach or your favorite leafy greens to boost antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Optionally, add a spoonful of healthy fats such as peanut butter, flax seeds, or avocado to keep you fuller longer and reduce inflammation. Try the recovery smoothie recipe below, or experiment with your favorite ingredients.

    Recovery Smoothie Recipe
    • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
    • 1 banana
    • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
    • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
    • 1 handful of baby spinach
    • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • Parfait: Start with a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for high-quality, muscle-building protein. Top with blueberries, strawberries, peaches, or any chopped fruit for energizing carbs and a nutrient boost. Sprinkle with almonds, walnuts, or your favorite nuts for heart-healthy fats and greater satiety. Finally, add a drizzle of a liquid sweetener such as honey or maple syrup for extra carbs and a touch of sweetness. Try the Georgia-inspired parfait recipe below or customize with your favorite ingredients.

    Peachy Parfait Recipe:
    • 1 cup cottage cheese
    • 1 peach, diced
    • 2 Tbsp. pecans, chopped
    • 1 tsp. honey
    • Dash of cinnamon

  • Chocolate Milk: There's a good reason you often find chocolate milk served at the finish lines of so many races. In addition to being delicious, it provides the ideal ratio of carbs and protein for recovery, plus fluids to help you rehydrate. Chocolate milk is also packed with key runner-friendly micronutrients such as potassium, for muscle and heart contraction, and calcium and vitamin D for strong bones. If you're looking for a non-dairy milk alternative, keep in mind that most coconut, almond, oat or rice milks do not contain protein, unless they've been fortified. Soy or pea-protein based beverages have the most similar protein content and overall nutrition profile to dairy.

Alissa is an Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer dedicated to helping people optimize their health and athletic performance by harnessing the power of nutrition. Alissa currently offers virtual and in-person nutrition consultations, meal planning services and metabolic testing. Learn more at https://alissapalladinonutrition.squarespace.com or contact her at apalladinordn@gmail.com