What to Eat Before Running

One of the most common questions that new runners have is whether they should eat before running. Many worry that eating anything before running will lead to cramping or gastrointestinal issues. But they're also concerned that not fueling before a run will leave them feeling weak, lethargic, and hungry while they're running.

When you begin a run, you should feel neither starved nor stuffed. You don't want to eat immediately before running because it could lead to cramping or annoying side stitches. But running on an empty stomach may cause you to run out of energy and leave you feeling very fatigued during your runs.

Your best bet is to eat a snack or light meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you start running.

What to Eat Before a Run

Your choice of a pre-run meal is important, as eating the wrong foods could send you looking for the closest bathroom during your run or just leave you feeling very uncomfortable. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein.

Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include a bagel with peanut butter; turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread; oatmeal with berries; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. If you typically run in the morning, here are some quick and healthy breakfast ideas. If you run in the evening and it's been a few hours since lunch (but you haven't had dinner yet), try eating one of these healthy snacks about an hour before your run.

Stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress. If you've had digestive issues and find yourself stopping to use the bathroom frequently during your runs, here are some suggestions for the best pre-run foods to prevent runner's trots and tips on which ones to avoid.

How Long to Wait After Eating to Run

Like many related running-related questions, the answer is, it depends. If you eat a very big meal, you should wait at least two hours before running. This is especially true if you eat foods that take a long time to digest, such as greasy, fatty, or fried foods. (In general, it's best to avoid those kinds of foods before running.)

If you eat something smaller, like a light breakfast or lunch, you should be fine to run about an hour after you eat. But, it again depends on what you're eating. Also, everyone has different digestive systems and what works for someone else may not necessarily work for you. It may be a bit of trial and error until you figure out exactly what works for you. Some runners like to write down what they eat before runs (especially long runs) and then write down how they felt, so they can look back at their training logs and figure out which foods had the best effect on performance.

If you prefer to run in the morning and you don't want to wake up really early to give yourself enough time to eat, try eating a small snack so you're not starting your run with an empty tank. You can have an energy bar, a banana, some toast, or something else that's light and easily digestible. You still should try to finish eating your snack about 30 minutes before you start.

If you're running for more than 45 minutes, carry an energy gel or a small snack with you in case you get hungry.

Nothing New on Race Day

If you're training for a big race, it's important that you try out different pre-run foods and practice the timing of it all so you can figure out what works for you. You don't want to have any surprises on race day. The morning of your race, you'll want to eat the same foods with the same timing as you did during your training. Unlike race day weather or course conditions, your nutrition is one area that you have complete control over. With proper planning of your pre-race meal, you'll feel more confident and prepared knowing that you already have a nutrition plan worked out.

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