What should I eat before I run?
It’s an age-old question faced by many runners both new to the sport and those who have been training seriously and are looking to fine tune their training diet.
While you won’t find one specific super food that works for every runner, by providing some simple guidelines on nutritional requirements and timing, this article will help you find the perfect food for your pre-run snacks or meals.
Step 1: Timing Your Pre-run Meals
The most critical variable in the equation is timing – how long before your run can you, or should you, eat.
Here’s the deal:
Like most aspects of training, finding the optimal time to eat before a run is an individual preference.
I can run within 15-20 minutes of eating almost anything short of a full meal and have no stomach issues whatsoever.
Conversely, my wife can’t muster a step out the door if she’s eaten anything within 2 hours or the run. You need to find work works for you.
Conduct an experiment
To find your optimal timing window, try eating a medium sized snack 90 minutes before your next run (see the last section of this article for what constitutes a medium sized snack).
If your stomach handles it well, try moving the same snack forward 15-20 minutes.
Likewise, if you experience stomach issues, push back the timing of your snack 15-20 minutes.
Keep moving forward or backward 15-20 minutes per run until you find the closest time you can eat before you start experiencing stomach or cramping issues.
Now you have a concrete number for how close to your run you can eat, which is the first step in determining your optimal pre-run meal or snack.
This is important:
In general, the harder you have to run, the further back your snack should be from this time threshold. Likewise, the larger the meal or snack, the further you’ll have to push back from your closest pre-run eating time.
Step 2: Determine the Nutritional Demands of Your Run
I think most runners severely over estimate the number of calories they burn and the amount of carbohydrates they need to complete runs under 90 minutes.The body has enough glycogen stored in the muscles from your normal diet to run at marathon pace for right around 2 hours.
This means that you don’t need to load up on carbohydrates or calories before most of your normal training sessions, but might want a little extra fuel for harder workouts or long runs
Demands of a Normal Easy Training Run
A 155 pound runner will burn between 600 and 700 calories on a 60 minute run depending on their pace and effort level.
To see how many calories you burn while running, you can try our running calorie calculator. Since you already have enough fuel in your muscles to run for 2 hours, and you might only burn between 600-700 calories, you don’t need a huge snack or meal before you head out the door.
For normal easy run days, a small snack 30-90 minutes before your run is all you need to stave off hunger and provide a small boost to your blood sugar levels.