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What to eat before a run

At Get Fit Today we introduced a weekly running class every Sunday morning back in January to help around 25 people complete the ‘couch to 5k’ program. Due to the popularity and success of this, we decided to make it a regular thing and we have now progressed onto longer distances so it’s important to know how to fuel your body.

The first question that needs to be answered is:

Should I eat before I run?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straight forward. If you wake up hungry and have an early morning run of more than half an hour planned, then yes - it’s probably going to be beneficial to have something to eat.

Contrary to popular belief, running on an empty stomach doesn’t result in a higher fat burn. The theory is that as you haven’t eaten all night, your body’s stores of glycogen (energy) are already low, so if you run without eating, your body will start to convert stored fat into energy instead.

Unfortunately, research doesn’t support this - instead of burning fat, your body will actually get the energy it needs from your muscles and will then turn to muscle protein - which can lead to loss of muscle mass.

As your energy levels drop, you become fatigued and the risk of injury increases. So our advice is YES - you should eat before a morning run, which means the next question is:

What should I eat before running?

You want to eat something that will give you energy for your run, so ideally a slow releasing carbohydrate. The following suggestions are all ideal for this:

  • whole grain cereal

  • whole wheat toast

  • banana

  • apple

  • yogurt

If you wake up late and don’t have much time to eat before you run, you should aim to eat a light snack of between 200-300 calories.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Toast with peanut butter

  • Cup of yogurt

  • Grapes with a few almonds

  • Banana and walnuts

  • Cottage cheese with apple

Regardless as to what you choose for your breakfast, don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids prior to your run, especially in the summer.

Should I eat during my run?

If you’re running for less than an hour, you probably aren’t going to need any extra fuel. However, once you start to extend your runs over an hour, its worth thinking about taking some snacks with you.

  • Sports drinks: These drinks contain electrolytes, which you lose in sweat, and a high percentage of carbs to restore energy.

  • Energy gels: These concentrated sources of carbs contain sugar and other ingredients like electrolytes or caffeine. They come in small, single-serve disposable packets.

  • Energy bars: These tend to be high in carbs and moderate in protein. Protein helps your muscles recover and rebuild.

  • Other snacks: Dried fruit, packets of honey, gummy bears and other candies work just as well as their more expensive counterparts at restoring energy.

Post-Run Food

Thinking about what you are going to eat after a run is just as important. After the exertion of running, you'll be left with low glycogen levels, micro-tears in your muscles and depleted electrolytes and minerals.

To repair your muscles and replace the lost nutrients, it's essential that you eat the right post-run food, such as:

  • Fruit and low-fat milk smoothie

  • Grilled chicken with roasted veggies

  • Salmon with sweet potato

  • Smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit

  • Oatmeal with banana and almond butter

  • Cereal and skim milk

  • Tuna salad sandwich on grain bread

  • Cottage cheese and fruit

  • Almonds and a piece of fruit

  • Baked salmon and asparagus

  • Whole grain toast and almond butter

  • Sweet potato with cottage cheese

  • Low-fat chocolate milk

  • Yogurt with berries

  • Whole-grain bagel with eggs whites

  • Pasta with chicken, eggplant, and broccoli

  • Egg white and spinach omelet

  • Pita and hummus

  • Vegetables and hummus

  • Whole grain cereals with banana and milk

  • Protein sports bars

  • Oatmeal, whey protein, almond, and banana

  • Turkey on a whole grain wrap with vegetable

  • Apple with almond or peanut butter.

  • A handful of raisin and nuts

So there you have it - everything you need to know about what to eat, why and when for running! Most of this advice relates to other types of exercise too such as our ever popular bootcamp classes.

If you want any more information regarding nutrition and diet when exercising, please get in touch!

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