Here are some suggestions from my twin who is a Registered Dietitian! You can follow her and all her foodie adventures here.
“What should I eat before I run?” Well it’s not as simple as “x, y, z”, that’s for sure. And what works for one person may not work for another.
The first thing to consider is when are you running? In the morning? After work? At lunch?
- Morning: You’ve likely just rolled out of bed and haven’t thought about breakfast yet (unless you’re me). Your body has been fasting all night long and maybe need a snack before heading out the door.
- After work: If you haven’t eaten in 3-4 hours I would recommend having something to eat before exercising. You don’t want to go out on empty and then have no energy for your run. Try something light, a snack will do.
- At lunch: It’s been a while since you’ve had breakfast. Try having a small snack before starting and saving your lunch for after the run.
The second thing to consider is how much time do I have before I hit the pavement or hit the trails. An hour? A half hour?
- 1 hour prior (or more): You may be okay having a meal before your run. Try having a “normal” breakfast or “normal” lunch and see how your stomach holds up.
- A half hour prior: Try a snack high in carbohydrates (any grain, fruit, or dairy) with a little protein for a quick bit of fuel.
Next up, think about how long you are running. 3 miles? 6 miles? 15 miles?
- 3 miles: You’ll likely be running about a half hour and probably don’t need fuel prior to running. Unless you’re hungry!! Listen to your body.
- 6 miles: Once your mileage starts getting up there and you may be closer to running for 50-60 minutes it would be best to eat something beforehand. A snack would do.
- 15 miles: When your runs will take you longer than 90 minutes or two hours your body needs more fuel to get through. Try having a meal before the run, focusing on carbohydrates.
And finally, is your stomach sensitive or solid? Which foods work for you?
- Sensitive stomach: Choose foods that are low in fiber. This is the time to eat plain bagels, cheerios, etc. Avoid the whole wheat bread and oatmeal at all costs.
- Solid stomach: Eat whatever your heart desires, but try not to get overly full as that would be uncomfortable. Go for the dairy, fruit, and fiber if that’s what your heart desires.
And finally, don’t be afraid of trial and error. This is your body, not anybody else’s. If your sister/friend/coworker can eat a bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit before running and you can barely stomach one slice of white toast with jelly, that’s fine! You’re still giving your body fuel for the run aka you’re giving your body what it needs to perform.
- Fruit and nuts/nut butter.
- Toast and jelly/nut butter
- Granola bar or energy balls
- ½ bagel
- Trail mix
To each his own! You do you.
And as always, if you want individualized recommendations please reach out to a dietitian in your area. This post is not meant to be considered as medical advice and is merely a summation of sports nutrition recommendations through my studies and personal experience.