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What to eat before you run – our handy guide on what’s good and when

One of the hardest decisions of the day - what to eat and when! For runners, it can be an even bigger dilemma.

Protein-Bars-Eat-Before-You-RunProtein and energy bars are just one handy snack to choose before you go out for a run

It goes without saying that finding the right balance in our diets is hard in whichever discipline we train in. However, the cardiovascular element of running can be even more clouded than others. Working out what to eat before you run is a phase of experimentation, but with our guide you’ll be safe to run straight past the bog.

What is the best food group to eat before a run?

We’ve already grasped the basics of how to start tailoring your diet to maximise your mileage, but what you eat right before a run could make or break your run.  A carbohydrate heavy meal is great to give you an extra spring in your step. Carbohydrates are great to stores excess energy in the body to fuel our muscles in cardiovascular aerobic activity.

It can get messy when we start looking at other food groups. You want to avoid high fat, high fibre and high protein meals before you take off, but light snacks won’t be an issue. Andy recently did his first olympic triathlon and had a few snacks throughout, definitely read ‘Everything you need to know for taking part in your first triathlon‘ to see what can keep you going, particularly on endurance runs.

When should you eat before a run?

You certainly don’t want to run on a full stomach but hunger pains will only slow you down. Whatever you eat, you want to make sure you give your body adequate time to digest your food before you run.

In terms of how long you wait, from eating to running, aim to give yourself at least 90 minutes to digest your food. If you run generally before a big meal and are just having something light to top up the tank, then an hour should give you adequate time to settle. Eating right before you run might give you cramps or side stitches. However, not eating at all will leave you fatigued with little energy and feeling slightly sore afterwards.

Does my style of training affect what to eat before a run?

Certainly. High-intensity training burns different fuels to low-intensity training, so understanding what your body needs will be a bonus.

High-intensity training, which might include interval training or race days, predominantly burns carbohydrates stored in the muscles. This is to prevent muscle fatigue, but the muscles capacity for carbohydrates is relatively small.

Low-intensity training burns fat, especially handy for those who want to lose belly fat! Unlikely high-intensity training, fuel is taken from fat stores around the body to keep us going. That doesn’t mean you should go and eat everything fatty in sight, but give yourself some sustenance. A light meal or snack will be more than enough.

This is what we’re here for! What do you eat before you run?

Like we said, it’s all a phase of experimenting and seeing what works best for you when it comes to what you eat before you run. I know that rice is the go-to carb for me over potatoes and pasta. I feel heavy and sluggish if I chomp down too much Arrabiata.

If you’re still a little unsure on what to eat before you run, here are six ideas to help you fill your cupboards…

Bars

With so many different brands to choose from, protein and energy bars are a great and easy way to give your body what it needs. If you’re heading out for a light jog, a protein bar is a winning pre-run snack. Feel the pain midway through? Keep an energy bar or gel handy in your pocket or backpack to make sure you see it over the line.

Banana

There is a reason the humble banana takes top place on the throne of runner’s snacks. A great source of carbohydrate and potassium which is essential for athletes. People who exercise can sometimes suffer from a potassium deficit which can cause muscles cramps, so stock up!

Scones and a coffee

Yep, you can eat cakes! In moderation.

Scones are of course small and light, enough to make a great energy stacking snack to have before you run. However, avoid the clotted cream. Try your scone with berries and other fruits high in glycogen which are great for energy. Caffeine of course is a saving grace to many in the running community to give you that extra bit of oomph on the track.

A bagel with peanut butter

Simple stuff. Bagels are an easy source of carbohydrates and peanut butter gives you a whack of protein with a dashing of fat, great before a low-intensity jog or walk.

Yoghurt and granola

Granola possesses the properties of both simple and complex carbohydrates, but its granola’s complexities we like. They provide a slow release of energy, great to keep you going on the road. Yoghurt is full of goodies we runners need and are typically packed with probiotics, vitamin D and potassium.

Avocado with eggs on either toast or a bagel

Avocado is a unique and misunderstood fruit that people don’t think about all that often when it comes to nutrition. An avocado contains 35% more potassium than our other best friend, the banana, but also holds the title topping belt for healthy fats. Around 77% of its calories are from these fats which suits the low-intensity jogger. Egg whites are a great source of protein and can easily be separated from the fatty yolk to make a leaner meal.

Determining what you should eat before you run will initially be a bit of trial and error. Find what works for you, your body and your running style. But most importantly, have fun!

Joe Tucker
the authorJoe Tucker
Journalist
Joe is an aspiring fitness journalist looking to get his foot in the industry at jogger.co.uk. A fair-weather runner and sparring sissy who occasionally enjoys rolling down hills ... on two wheels that is. Any story ideas? Feel free to DM him with any ideas.