Choosing what to eat before a run plagues nearly every one of us until you figure out what works best for you. And because people tolerate foods differently, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to prerun fueling. Some runners swear by eating nothing before short or easier runs, while others have to put something in their system. That said, there are some general guidelines to follow as you prepare a prerun snack or meal.
What to Eat Before a Long Run
Long runs are most commonly defined as being 60 minutes or more, and once you get into half or full marathon training, a good chunk of your runs will be at least 60 minutes.
What you eat before a long run is a good dress rehearsal for your prerace breakfast, says Lizzie Kasparek, R.D., sports dietitian for the Sanford Sports Science Institute.
Long runs require more energy than shorter runs, which means your prerun snack or meal will be larger and take a little more time to digest. That’s why Kasparek recommends eating two to four hours before a long run (and eventually, your race).
“Whether you give yourself a few hours or just an hour to digest, focus on consuming mostly carbs,” she says. Your body’s preferred fuel source is simple carbs—banana, oatmeal, white bagel, a honey packet—because it can be quickly turned into energy.
Yes, we know that may mean an early wake-up for morning runners, but you’ll be grateful when you have the energy to push past the first hour. Plus, you can always wake up, eat a little something, and go back to sleep until run time.
Try: A small bowl of oatmeal topped with a few slices of banana
For sensitive stomachs: Half a white bagel with peanut butter or serving of white rice
What to Eat Before a Sprint/Interval Workout
Often, speed work doesn’t last for more than 60 minutes, but the workout is much more intense than slower, longer miles. And because of this, your body needs prerun carbs, says Kasparek, who points out that some people also like a little bit of protein with this snack.
“You need to provide your body with quick carbs that give your body energy it can use right away,” she says.
Try: Plain greek yogurt with blueberries or banana with peanut butter or handful of dry cereal or Honey Stinger gel
For sensitive stomachs: Half a banana
What to Eat Before an Easy Run
Most easy runs don’t require a prerun snack—even those that are pushing 60 minutes, says Kasparek.
“If you’re going out for a quick 30- or 40-minute easy run, and you haven’t eaten in a couple of hours or it’s in the morning after an overnight fast, you’re probably not going to die if you don’t eat before that run,” she says.
The best thing to do is schedule those easy runs around your normal snacks and meals. For example, after a morning run, use your breakfast as your recovery meal, which will include carbs plus 15 to 25 grams of protein, says Kasparek.
If you’re running in the afternoon, instead of having your usual 3 p.m. snack and a 4 p.m. prerun snack, skip the prerun snack, or bump your 3 p.m. snack to an hour before your run. Then Kasparek suggests making your postrun meal your dinner.
That said, if you know that you can’t run well or safely without something in your system, have something small like half a banana or a tablespoon of peanut butter. And remember, easy means easy, so running at a relaxed pace that you can maintain and talk to a friend effortlessly if needed.
Try: Eggs with toast or a protein shake or oatmeal made with milk after a morning run, or salmon with rice or a veggie stir-fry after an afternoon or evening run
What to Eat Before a Race
If you’ve been training properly, you have practiced your prerace meal before your long runs, says Susan Paul, exercise physiologist and program director for the Orlando Track Shack Foundation. “Race morning is not the time to try anything new,” she says.
For shorter distances, like a 5K or 10K, your breakfast should be similar to what you’d eat before a track (interval) workout, because the intensity is higher, while the duration is shorter.
For longer distances, like a half or full marathon, your breakfast—and the timing of when you have it—should be similar to what you practiced eating before your long runs.
As Paul and Kasparek point out, give yourself plenty of time to digest before you head to the start line. And because you might have hours between the time you have breakfast and toe the line, bring an extra snack, says Kasparek.
“You don’t want to be hungry on the start line,” she says.
Try: Bagel with peanut butter + gel or Clif bar 30 minutes prior to the start
RELATED: Build a killer midsection in the kitchen for powerful, effortless miles on the road with Eat for Abs!
Never mind the tears they bring on—onions are an ace ally in your fight against disease. A prized member of the lily family, they lavish you with health benefits while adding oodles of taste to your food.
A quick glimpse at their incredible health benefits:
- The phytochemicals in onions improve the working of Vitamin C in the body, thus gifting you with improved immunity.
- Onions contain chromium, which assists in regulating blood sugar.
- For centuries, onions have been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections.
- Do you enjoy sliced onions with your food? If yes, rejoice! Raw onion encourages the production of good cholesterol (HDL), thus keeping your heart healthy.
- A powerful compound called quercetin in onions is known to play a significant role in preventing cancer.
- Got bitten by a honeybee? Apply onion juice on the area for immediate relief from the pain and burning sensation.
- Onions scavenge free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of developing gastric ulcers.
- Those bright green tops of green onions are rich in Vitamin A, so do use them often.
My favorite way to enjoy onions is to slice them really thin, squeeze some lemon juice on top and add a little salt. Sprinkling a few freshly washed cilantro leaves adds fragrance and flavor to this simple, quick salad, without which no dinner of mine is complete.
This soup from the Vegan Christmas cookbook is sure to be a holiday party hit, as “the vanilla works so well with the earthy creaminess of the parsnip.”
Recipe and photo excerpted with permission from Vegan Christmas by Gaz Oakley, published by Quadrille Publishing, October 2018.
“A daring combination of parsnip and vanilla that I came up with during my time at Le Gallois restaurant,” says Gaz Oakley in his new cookbook Vegan Christmas. This soup is sure to be a hit at holiday get-togethers, as “the vanilla works so well with the earthy creaminess of the parsnip.”
Parsnip And Vanilla Soup
- 2 Tbsp rapeseed oil or water
- 4 banana shallots, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 8 parsnips, peeled and chopped into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Scant 2 cups vegetable stock
- Scant 2 cups almond milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- Sea salt and pepper
- ½ cup hazelnuts
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- A few sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
Heat the oil or water in a saucepan over medium heat, then sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent. Add some seasoning, the parsnips and thyme sprigs. Turn the heat down very low and cover the saucepan. Sweat the parsnips until they’re almost soft, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. Add the stock and milk, and stir to combine. Split the vanilla pod down the middle lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using the back of your knife. Add the seeds and the pod to the saucepan, bring the soup to the boil, then take it off the heat and scoop out the vanilla pod. Carefully pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the soup back into your saucepan and check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and lemon juice to bring out the flavors. Serve in warmed bowls or mugs, sprinkled with the hazelnuts and cranberries, a sprig or two of herbs and a drizzle of good-quality olive oil.