What to Eat Before Running | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


One question I often receive over and over again on our Run with the Sisterhood Facebook page and in our Couch to 5k Group is “What should I eat before I run?”  It seems we all know that food is fuel for a runner, but what, when and how much is often the question.

For many runners, what to eat before running is a highly individualized problem.  What sits well on my stomach may not on yours, and visa versa.  If your run or workout will be at a lower intensity and under 60 minutes, you may be able to get away with just heading out the door (unless you are starting right after waking up, then you should put some fuel in your body since it’s likely been 6-8 hours since you last ate or drank anything), but most experts still suggest at least a very light snack.  The right pre-run fuel can keep your energy levels up and prevent any crankiness later.  Healthy foods totaling between 150 and 300 calories are generally recommended (less calories if you are heading out within less than 30 min, more if you have longer to digest and are planning a longer workout).

Here are a few guidelines most runners, walkers and general fitness folks should follow:

  • Make sure to drink 12 to 16 ounces of water about 60 minutes before you run.  Then, if you are going to be out for more than 30 min or it’s extremely hot, take more water with you.
  • For a light workout, make sure to stick with low-fiber carbs.  Things like a banana, orange slices (whole fruit is better than juice which is too high in carbs and will burn off too quickly), 1/2 a english muffin with jelly are all great ideas.
  • For a longer run, increase the carb content a little and if your stomach tolerates it, add a bit of protein.  Ideas include a banana with a spoonful of nut butter, Greek yogurt with some berries, a cup of oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar (this is my pre-run meal of choice), or a sweet potato.
  • Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something easily digestible.  Stay away from the high fiber cereals and fruits, like Kashi or an apple, and also avoid foods high in fat.  Now is not the time for a burger and fries.  These will likely lead to stomach upset.
  • Wait 30 minutes after eating before you start your workout.  This will give your digestive system a chance to get started.
  • Go ahead and have that cup of coffee – just make sure you know what coffee/caffeine do to you.  It often has a laxative effect which is why so many runners love it.  If it makes you go, make sure you’ve planned accordingly!

Remember – NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY! Whatever you choose to eat or drink pre-run, make sure you don’t try it before a race.  The training cycle is your time to experiment and find the right combination FOR YOU.

What is your favorite pre-workout snack?

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