What should you eat before you run?
It can be difficult to know what exactly what you should be eating before your run. How many carbs? Or should you go low carb? What about hydration, how much water should you have? In this post, we’ll explain how and what you should be eating to fuel your running performance.
Although your collective diet will have the biggest impact on performance, understanding proper pre-workout nutrition will help ensure you are fully fuelled for your races and help you recover more readily.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for running. The amount you need for each session will depend on its duration, intensity and type.
For workouts longer than 20 minutes, the body relies on carbohydrates as a fuel where there is a clear link between a drop in carbohydrates and exercise performance. Ultra-endurance running is an exception, which utilises fat as its primary fuel source. Carbohydrates are however more than just a fuel. Adequate carbs are also important for recovery and can help spare muscle mass during endurance training.
Aim to have enough kcals from carbohydrates to fuel the whole of your training sessions, on top of your typical requirements (kcals/macros) for the day. Carbohydrates are needed for daily activities too! There will be exceptions to this rule if your goal is weight loss, or the purpose of the session is to instigate metabolic adaptation through training under low carbohydrate conditions (a topic for another day!).
Ok so what should you eat before your run?
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Your pre run meal is crucial to ‘top off’ depleted carbohydrate stores and ensure you have enough fuel your session.
For shorter sessions (under 60mins) a good starting point is to aim for 1g per kg of bodyweight of carbs. For longer sessions < 60mins then look to consume 1-3g per kg of bodyweight of carbohydrates (Nutrition and athletic performance 2016, Hargreaves et al., 2004).
Try and eat a balanced meal 2-3 hrs before your session. This gives you plenty of time to digest your food and avoid any stomach discomfort. Look to include foods that you would typically eat like porridge oats, bagels, toast and cereal for breakfast, or pasta, bread and rice for lunch. Try and avoid foods that are high in fat and fibre to reduce any gastrointestinal (tummy) problems. Spicy or acidic foods may also lead to discomfort during running. The key here is to practice your pre-race meal so you can find a setup that you know works well.
You may also consider a smaller snack such as a sports drink, carbohydrate chews/gel, fruit, or a cereal bar 15-45 minutes prior to your session. This can help top up blood glucose and help ensure you have plenty of energy.
Can’t eat before you train?
If you are training early and a big meal is impractical, fuel your session with a large carbohydrate meal the evening before. In the morning have a smaller liquid or semi liquid snack like a smoothie, shake or yoghurt that can be easily digested .
A 2% drop in body weight due to water loss can hinder both cognitive function and exercise performance. Although there are individual differences amongst athletes, we recommended that you drink around 5-10ml/kg of bodyweight 2-4 hours before exercise.
Eat a combination of foods high in carbs and moderate in protein
Eat foods that are low in fat and fibre.
Your plan will depend on the length and intensity of the session.
If you cannot eat beforehand, fuel the night before and eat something small and easily digestible in the morning
Experiment your fuelling plan in training to figure out what works best for you
Need more help with fuelling your training or sport? Then see how we can help - https://www.boxnutrition.co.uk/sign-up