What to Eat Before Your Run

EatingBeforeRun“What should I eat before running?” is a question that I’m frequently asked.

While looking through the “email bag”, I came across a query from a reader:

“I usually run 7-10 km (4-6 miles) early in the morning.  Do you have a recommendation on what to eat before I run?” Heather.

Thank you for writing in, Heather.

For runs up to an hour in duration: Assuming you do not have diabetes, a blood sugar problem or any other related medical condition, try running without eating beforehand.  Many runners find that they can comfortably complete early morning runs of this distance without taking in prior food.

If you find yourself very low on energy or motivation, try drinking a cup of coffee (or energy drink) 30 minutes before your run.  Caffeine engages the nervous system, cranks up your metabolic systems quickly and increases alertness, all of which are helpful for exercise.

I can have a quality early morning run of under an hour without eating, as long as I ease into my run.   Time permitting, I really do enjoy a cup of coffee beforehand.I can have a quality early morning run of under an hour without eating, as long as I ease into my run.   Time permitting, I really do enjoy a cup of coffee beforehand.

Another suggestion is to eat a light easily digestible snack 30-40 minutes before running.   The snack should have 100-200 calories, comprised of 80% carbs and 20% protein.  A banana with a smidge of peanut butter, a cup of yogurt or a low fat energy bar are all good options.

For runs over an hour in duration: It is important to eat a small easily digestible breakfast of approximately 200 calories about 60 minutes prior to your long run or race.  The meal should consist of primarily carbohydrates with a bit of protein.  My favourite is a toasted bagel with jam and a bit of peanut (or almond) butter.  This is one time where white bread is preferable to whole wheat due it its easier digestibility.

Other options that work for many runners are:

  1. dried fruit and yogurt
  2. a banana with yogurt or peanut butter
  3. instant oatmeal with skim milk.

During your long runs, try drinking the same sports drink and flavour that will be available at aid stations during the race.  Race day is not the time to discover that the menu does not agree with your stomach.  Ingesting gels with water is also an excellent carbohydrate management strategy for long runs and race day.  Again, find a brand and flavour that you like and that your stomach can tolerate.

Note: Use either sport drinks or the gels with water, not both.  Ingesting both will result in too high a concentration of carbs in your digestive system. This is counterproductive, as it slows down gastric emptying, the absorption of sugars into your blood stream and hydration.

Experiment during training to see what foods and strategy works for you.

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