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What to eat before your run

No time to eat a full meal before your run? Try these snack ideas to give you a boost of energy before you hit the pavement

Fuelling for a run can be tricky business. Eat too little and you might hear your stomach growling part-way through, eat too much and you might end up with an upset stomach, cramps or worse. To avoid this, most sports dietitians recommend eating a meal three to four hours before your run so you have enough energy to make it to the end without feeling like you have food still sitting in your stomach. Of course, depending on your schedule that may not be possible, which is when a good snack can be your best option. Choosing the right snack that is healthy and satisfying without being too heavy can take some trial and error, but we’ve come up with a few suggestions to help guide you to the optimal pre-run snack for your lifestyle.

Credit: Minimalist Baker

 

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The size and composition of the ideal pre-run snack depends on both timing and the length of your run. If you’re running very soon after you eat the snack, it should be relatively small and easy to digest, but if you’re going longer you will want something that is a bit more satiating. Typically, you should aim to eat your snack 30 to 60 minutes before your run to allow for some digestion time before you hit the pavement.

Runs that are one hour or less

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For shorter runs, you may not need a snack at all, especially if you’re heading out in the early morning shortly after you wake up. If this is the case, a glass of water and a bit of coffee may be all that’s required before lacing up. If you still prefer to have something before your early morning run, you want to choose something that’s small that will give you a quick bit of energy to get you going. Snacks like these may include:

  • a few dates
  • a bit of fruit, like half a banana or a couple of spoonfuls of applesauce
  • half of an energy bar or granola bar
  • Half a piece of toast with a bit of jam or honey

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If you’re going for an early morning run, what you eat the night before is just as important as what you eat pre-run. Try to make sure your evening meal is balanced and nutritionally dense to provide you with energy for your morning workout. If you’ve got a bit more time and you can wait that 30- to 60-minute window, your snack can be a bit more substantial. These types of snacks are perfect for the after-work runner, and may include:

  • a banana or other piece of fruit
  • a 1/4 cup of dates
  • half a bagel or an English muffin with  a tablespoon of jam or honey
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of dry, low-fibre cereal
  • a handful of crackers, like saltines, pretzels, graham crackers or animal crackers
  • a whole energy bar

 

Runs that are 60 minutes or more

If you’re planning on running for longer than an hour, or if you have a harder session planned, like intervals or a tempo run, having something to eat before your run becomes more important. These snacks should be a bit more substantial, so if possible you should schedule runs like these at a time when you can eat about 60 to 90 minutes before you head out the door. Examples of snacks for this purpose include:

  • a banana with a tablespoon of nut butter
  • a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts
  • a half or whole english muffin or bagel with a tablespoon of nut butter and a tablespoon of jam or honey
  • 1 cup of low-fibre cereal with 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk alternative
  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal with berries or honey
  • 1/2 a peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • 6 ounces of plain yogurt with fruit and or honey
  • A wrap made with sliced turkey, shredded veggies and a flour tortilla (eat this 90 minutes pre-run)

Remember, what you can and cannot tolerate on a run, how much you eat before a run and how far in advance you need to eat is highly dependent on your individual needs. It will take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, but these ideas will help guide you to the right answer.

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