What to Eat Before a Run of Any Distance

runners world food for your run

Runner’s World
@runnersworld

Your body usually needs something to kick-start your workout. Here’s a breakdown of what you need depending on the type of run.

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.

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“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.

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“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!

What to Eat Before a Run of Any Distance

runners world food for your run

Runner’s World
@runnersworld

Your body usually needs something to kick-start your workout. Here’s a breakdown of what you need depending on the type of run.

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.

Honey Stinger Energy Gel, 6 Pack
amazon.com

$11.75

“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.

Clif Bar Energy Bar, 12 Count
amazon.com

$10.59

“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!

What to Eat the Week of a Marathon

The time has come! The marathon is upon you. You’ve put in all the work, but it’s important to have a nutrition plan for the week leading up to the race. This will not only provide the perfect complement to your taper, but it will also get you to the starting line ready to run your best. Here’s what to eat the week of a marathon.

5 to 7 days Out: Ease Up on Mileage

During most weeks of marathon training, your muscles never have a chance to fully reload with glycogen. Runners and other endurance athletes simply need to back off on training for a few days, and the muscle enzymes responsible for restocking glycogen will gradually begin to store more carbohydrate, helping build up your energy reserves for race day. Make sure you’re consuming at least 3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight during this time period to meet your needs, and space that carb intake out throughout the day. For example, a 130-pound runner would need to consume around 390 grams of carbs while a 180-pound runner would aim for 540 grams of carbs. And seriously, don’t run too much. The taper exists for a reason. We know it’s hard to relax prerace, but doing so will set your body up with the proper fuel stores for success.

For reference, 400 grams of carbs might look like: 1 cup of oatmeal loaded up with 1 cup of strawberries, 1 cup of milk or soy milk, and 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds for breakfast. For lunch, 3 soft flour tortilla tacos with filling of your choice plus 1 cup of rice and beans on the side. A snack could be an apple plus 30 small crackers with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for dipping and a glass of milk or soy milk, and for dinner: 1 cup of pasta topped with your favorite sauce, with a side of garlic bread.

3 to 4 Days Out: Up the Carbs

Boosting carbohydrate intake to 3.5 to 4 grams of carbohydrate for every pound of body weight will further increase your glycogen stores. That’s 455 to 520 grams of carbs for a 130-pound runner and 630 to 720 grams of carbs for a 180-pound runner. That said—and this is important—that doesn’t mean loading up on calories with carb-rich foods on top of what you already eat; it means taking in the same amount of calories but getting a larger percentage of those calories from carbohydrates. The key is to back off on fat and protein to help balance your calorie intake and avoid gaining weight. Be aware that for every 1 gram of carbohydrate stored in the body (as glycogen), there is approximately 2 to 3 grams of water retained, so you may see your weight creep up a little, but this is normal water weight. It’s only temporary and nothing to worry about.

2 to 3 Days Out: Cut Out Bulk

Limiting high-fiber foods such as bran cereals, whole grains, and large amounts of fibrous vegetables for the final few days prior to a race has multiple benefits. Research from the Australian Institute of Sport shows that eating a lower fiber diet can help lighten the weight of material in the intestines. This may help you avoid the need for an urgent midrace pit stop that would otherwise add time to your race.

2 to 4 Hours Out: Eat!

A prerace meal supplies extra carbs to top off glycogen stores, particularly in the liver, which will help steady blood sugar levels during the race. Aim for 0.5 to 1 gram for every pound of body weight (about 65 to 130 grams for a 130-pound runner or 90 to 180 grams for a 180-pound runner)—but only eat the higher range if you have four full hours to digest. Back off on fats and keep protein to about 15 grams or fewer—both nutrients take longer to digest. A study from the University of Minnesota found that for novice marathoners, eating a high-carb prerace meal was an important predictor of finishing times: Runners who ate ample carbs ran faster than those who skimped.

https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20785351/what-to-eat-the-week-of-a-marathon/