What should I eat before I run? It’s an important question to answer. What and when you eat before a run can make a huge difference in how you feel during the run.
Too much of the wrong thing, too soon before the run, can make you feel sick; while too little of anything can leave you with low energy. Either scenario makes completing the run more challenging than it needs to be.
It’s a lot of trial and error. And it’s very personal.
When to eat
“Timing is individual,” says Coach Hayley Munn of Runners Connect Extra Kick Podcast. She suggests trying a medium snack or small meal 90 minutes before your run. If your stomach handles it well, try pushing it forward 15-20 minutes; if it doesn’t sit well, push it back 15-20 minutes. Play around with it to find your optimum.
Timing of your run also depends on how much you have had to eat. You can probably run 30 minutes after having a small snack; with a medium meal, you may need to wait 2 hours or more. It also depends on the intensity of your workout.
Coach Hayley says if you’ve been eating normally for the previous few days, you have enough fuel in your muscles to run for around two hours at a moderate pace. So for an easy or short run, a small snack 30 minutes or more before your run should be more than enough.
If your run will take 90 minutes or more, it’s worth taking the time for extra fuel, especially for morning runners. That medium snack or small meal should give you the boost you need.
What to eat
So what’s the best thing to eat before a run?
Again, it’s very individual. “You know yourself,” said Coach Lauren Evans of Fizio Reno, so stick with what you like and what your stomach can handle. If you tend to be lactose intolerant, for example, don’t have milk with your cereal.
Choose food that is easily digested, low in fat and fiber, with simple and complex carbohydrates plus a little protein, said Coach Hayley.
A small snack such as a banana or toast with peanut butter will suffice for a short or easy run. For a longer run, oatmeal with honey and banana, or a bagel with jam would be perfect.
If you’re an afternoon runner, a healthy lunch high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat is ideal. Avoid high fiber foods, soft drinks and sugary snacks.
In addition, if the run is going to take more than an hour, you should bring nutrition with you, says Coach Lauren. Mostly carbohydrates, and these can be in the form of running gels or gummies, but you can also pack jelly beans. You’ll want to consume one or two of these every 40 minutes or so.
What do you prefer to eat before a run or a race? Please share your nutrition tips in the comments.