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What to Eat before Running? Top Foods for Runners

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Does a brisk jog tire you soon? Do you find an energy drop after just 10 minutes on the treadmill? If yes, then it’s time to grab the right food to fuel up your daily run. Often runners, beginners and pros alike, wonder what to eat before running? They constantly search for that one super pre- run snack which would provide them with the ultimate energy to power through a run drill or a workout. And if you are a runner, seasoned or otherwise, you understand what we mean, don’t you?

In this article, we shall discuss the top foods that help you run better and faster.

Keep reading to know more about:

  • What to eat before running
  • 6 Golden Rules for Eating Right
  • The List of Food for Better Running
  • Pre-run Snack Ideas
  • What to eat before Workouts
  • FAQ for eating Right

What to Eat before Running

Our body requires high-octane energy to run its best. This is because, during a run, the constant pounding impels the body to consume a lot of the energy. And in the absence of the adequate energy chunk, you cannot finish your run comfortably.

Speaking in nutrition lingo, you need some high-carb, low-fat, low-fiber meals and snacks to improve your stamina and enhance your performance. Nibble on food that is familiar to your stomach and is easily digestible. Give some time to your stomach to digest your meals before lacing up your running shoes.

 what to eat before running
Rules for Eating Right

As a runner, if you are looking for energy-boosting foods then concentrate more on carbohydrates. Eat smaller carbohydrate snacks with a high glycemic (GI) index score. In simple word, the glycemic index is the measurement carried out foods containing carbohydrates and their impact on the body. It is a number that tells how fast a food converts into glucose. Faster the rate, greater the impact on the blood sugar level and thus higher chances of an abnormal insulin spike. Frequent surges in the blood sugar level could damage the nerves and lead to diabetic conditions. Foods with Sports dietitian Jan Dowell, M.S., R.D. recommends to eat up to 150 calories if you are running within 15-30-minute of your meal and as much as 300 calories if you have an hour or more to digest.

So, what is GI?

In simple word, the glycemic index is the measurement carried out foods containing carbohydrates and their impact on the body. It is a number that tells how fast a food converts into glucose. Faster the rate, greater the impact on the blood sugar level and thus higher chances of an abnormal insulin spike. Frequent surges in the blood sugar level could damage the nerves and lead to diabetic conditions.

Sports dietitian Jan Dowell, M.S., R.D. recommends to eat up to 150 calories if you are running within 15-30-minute of your meal and as much as 300 calories if you have an hour or more to digest.

Find out how to way past the marathon wall the nutritious way!

6 Golden Rules for Eating Right as a Runner

Sports dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede suggests six rules to eat right as a runner. She says that eating wrong before a run can cause you to experience early fatigue, restrict recovery, and, the worse, compel you to take unwanted bathroom breaks.

how to sprint
Eat Healthy Food

From her knowledge and experience as a dietician, Bede has devised a six-rule plan to eat right as a runner. Here are the rules to help you run better. Take notes!

Rule 1 – Avoid Eating (sometimes)

Bede says that it’s harmless to go on a run empty stomach, provided you are hydrated and the workout is light. Before intense workouts, eat foods with energy content.

Rule 2 – Eat Simple

Keep your pre-run meals and snacks simple. Eat foods that are easily digestible. Eat carb-rich food as such foods pump up the energy level and doesn’t lead to an upset tummy while running.

Rule 3 – Time it Right

Snack at least 30 minutes before the run to dodge GI distress while on the run. You need foods that replenish the energy level after the run. So, have a protein-rich snack within 20 minutes of completing the run for energy restock and quick recovery.

Rule 4 – Keep Hydrated

During workouts and exercises, the body demands fluid to regulate its temperature, to lubricate joints, and flush out waste and damaged cells from the body. Your daily water intake should be half your body weight. You can replace the boring taste of water with fresh fruits and vegetables at times. Know about hydration tips for runners!

Rule 5 – Maintain Balance

Daily exercises should be augmented with a balanced diet. Add 55 percent of carbohydrates, 25 percent of protein, and 15 to 20 percent of unsaturated fats to create a balanced meal. Eating right in the right quantity will keep you energized on your runs and boost your immunity as well.

Rule 6 – Eat Healthy

Include whole grains, raw vegetables and fresh fruits to your diet. Limit the high-sugar, high-fat junk foods. Eating the right kind of food will keep your body healthy by improving heart health, lowering cholesterol and blood sugar level, and support metabolism.

The List of Food for Better Running

what to eat before running
Food for better running

Your pre-run snack depends on the intensity of your workout. Here’s a list of foods to help you run faster, check out!

  • Oats

Low in GI level and high in fiber, oats help to regulate blood sugar levels and keeps you feeling fuller as well as energized.

  • Bananas

Loaded with potassium, bananas are a good source of energy. They reduce muscle cramps, regulate blood pressure, and adjust fluid levels in the body.

  • Beetroot

A nutrient powerhouse, beetroot is rich in vitamin B and C, and beta-carotene. But it’s the nitrate content in beetroot that is believed to help in enhancing performance level. Nitrates improve blood flow, which in turn increases oxygen delivery to the muscles.

  • Salmon

A protein-rich source with high omega acid content, salmon help in muscle repair. Well-replenished muscles and a healthy heart vital to running faster, and salmon is a super food that aids to both.

  • Spinach

Nutrient deficiencies lead to early fatigue and exhaustion. Hence, a sharp nutrient balance should be maintained in your body for it to keep ticking and running. Enter spinach- a superfood rich in vitamins A, C, E, K and importantly, iron. Red Blood Cells (RBC) in the blood carries oxygen through the body which acts as the fuel. And iron helps in the production of RBCs.

What to Eat before Running – Pre-run snack ideas

 Rules for Eating Right
what to eat before running

If you don’t have the time for proper digestion to happen before a run, then select any of the following options-

  • Energy bars with high carb content
  • Natural energy bars like granola bars, etc.
  • Bananas
  • A small bowl of oats topped with bananas or blueberries
  • Fruit juices or smoothies

In case, you have two hours to digest your meal before starting your run/exercise, then go for a slightly heavier snack like:

  • Toast with peanut butter and jelly
  • Wheat bagel with Peanut butter or cream cheese
  • Yogurt and granola

What to eat before Workouts

What to eat before running
Eat Light and Healthy

For improving your speed through shorter quality workouts, try out the given food items before running. Below food suggestion is great for one-hour workout sessions.

  • 1 cup of low-fiber cereal with ½ cup skim milk (195 calories)
  • 2 (3-inch) fig cookies (198 calories)
  • 1 cup of berries with ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese (160 calories)
  • 3 graham cracker squares with 1 teaspoon of honey (98 calories)
  • 6 ounces low-fat fruit yogurt and 1 medium peach (275 calories)

And those were the foods to be eaten and rules to be followed to prep up for a good, fatigue-free run.

Let’s do a Q and A round for a rapid understanding

Q: Should I be eating the same for all my runs?

A: No, intense training sessions and races leads to muscle break and so, demands high energy. Therefore, load up on the carbohydrates. On the contrary, low-intensity exercises, such as jogging or walking, burns fat. Therefore, go for a protein snack.

Q: How long to wait for a run after eating a meal?

A: The standard digestion time is at least two hours. After a heavy meal, wait for three to four hours before running along. Now, each individual has their own digestion level and time. So, while following all the rules in the book, listen to your body as well. If you are blessed with good metabolism then eat closer to your workout else eat a few hours earlier.

Q: What to eat before running?

A: According to the kind of runner you are, here’s how you should plan your before-running meals-

  • If you can wake up two hours prior your run then a hearty breakfast consisting of oats, whole grain toast topped with eggs, granola, bagels or breakfast muffins and freshly made smoothies could be eaten.
  • If you prefer to hit the road straight out of the bed, then opt for a small snack with quick releasing energy such as energy balls, fruit or a small flapjack.
  • And if you are a pro-runner who follows strategies like ‘training low’ then reduce the carbs portion in the pre-run snack.

Q: What to not eat before running?

A: You need the energy to keep up the pace. Do not stuff yourself heavily and avoid foods known to cause gastrointestinal problems. Foods very high in fiber, excessively fatty foods, unusually spicy foods, drinking too much caffeine, Alcohol are some of the foods to avoid.

Hope we have answered aptly to your What to eat before running? curiosity.

So, eat happily to run happy!

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