What to Eat Before Running

Should You Even Eat Before a Run?

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"I'm worried about stomach issues if I eat before a run. Is it necessary to eat before running? Can you give me advice on what to eat before running?"

When you begin a run, you should feel neither starved nor stuffed. You don't want to eat immediately before running because it could lead to cramping or annoying side stitches. But running on an empty stomach may cause you to run out of energy and leave you feeling fatigued and lethargic during your runs.

 Your best bet is to eat a snack or light meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you start running.

Your choice of a pre-run meal is important, as eating the wrong foods could send you looking for the closest bathroom during your run or just leave you feeling very uncomfortable. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include a bagel with peanut butter; turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread; oatmeal with berries; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. Stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress.

If you've had digestive issues and find yourself stopping to use the bathroom frequently during your runs, here are some suggestions for the best pre-run foods and tips on which ones to avoid.

How Long Should I Wait After Eating to Run?

Like many related running-related questions, the answer is, it depends.

If you eat a very big meal, you should wait at least two hours before running. This is especially true if you eat foods that take a long time to digest, such as greasy, fatty, or fried foods. (In general, it's best to avoid those kinds of foods before running.)

If you eat something smaller, like a light breakfast or lunch, you should be fine to run about an hour after you eat.

But, it also depends on what you're eating. Also, everyone has different digestive systems and what works for someone else may not necessarily work for you.

If you prefer to run in the morning and you don't want to wake up really early to give yourself enough time to eat, try eating a small snack so you're not starting your run with an empty tank. You can have an energy bar, a banana, some toast, or something else that's light and easily digestible. You still should try to finish eating your snack about 30 minutes before you start. Also make sure that you drink some water with it. Most people wake up dehydrated, so morning runners need to re-hydrate before they start their run. If you're running for more than 45 minutes, carry an energy gel or other small snack with you in case you get hungry.

Nothing New on Race Day

If you're training for a big race, it's important that you try out different pre-run foods and practice the timing of it all so you can figure out what works for you. You don't want to have any surprises on race day. The morning of the race, you'll want to eat the same foods with the same timing as you did during your training.

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