Should I eat before or after I run? You’ve probably thought about this loads of times before you’ve even arrived at the page. We’ve all been there, especially if your an avid runner like myself. I can’t speak for other runners but for me, it’s all about timing and convenience with my meal. However, there is a lot of scientific research out there to suggest that eating before and after you work out can benefit your workout and your body in general.
Should You Run Before or After Eating Dinner or Breakfast?
Would it surprise you to learn that our bodies respond to pre- and post-race eating in distinct ways? This topic is particularly important if you factor in marathon days or if you have a condition that mandates one or the other.
When in doubt, consult your body. Whether you turn out to be a runner who’s able to train after eating or experience shows that the less you eat before you run, the better your performance, you’ll find answers courtesy of learned minds we’ve consulted on a topic that’s literally food for thought!
What feels right to you?
It’s the ideal question to ask when attacking this subject because if you experience any sort of distress when you run after eating, you can skip the rest of this article!
Assuming you don’t have a problem eating before you run, the amount of food you ingest could be a deal breaker.
Mayo Clinic researchers insist that the choice to eat before or after a run is unique to every individual because everyone’s digestive process is distinct.
It takes anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to get the same mix of food through different stomachs and small intestines, so it behooves you to figure out your own gastro-intestinal (GI) timeline.
Your physiology may force you to eat before your run because you find that you become lightheaded, sluggish and ill if you run on an empty stomach and have no energy stores remaining in your system from your last meal.
Alternately, chronic disease like diabetes may leave you with no choice if you don’t want your blood sugar to plummet.
Should I run before or after breakfast?
When to eat when planning a run is based on the runner body itself. Some runners with sensitive stomachs prefer to run first and then have a wholesome breakfast after.
Running before or after, breakfast also depends on the distance running, the intensity of the run and overall health and goals.
Researchers found no major difference in body composition of weight loss for runners who run before or after breakfast, neither suggests performance limitations for the average runner.
Should I run before or after dinner?
If you are going to run for less than an hour, you should run before dinner. One of the reasons why we eat before dinner is to provide fuel for the muscles. But the body already has a stored fuel source (muscle glycogen) that can be used in short-term, hard activities.
It’s probably better to eat after running to recover from it.
If you run too soon after dinner, you will be prone to stomach cramps, stomachaches, or gastrointestinal distress. The mechanical movements of the body that naturally occurs while running can upset the digestive tract.
It’s strongly recommended to wait three to four hours before running after eating a sumptuous dinner. Do run at least 2 hours before bedtime to avoid endorphins to get in the way of your sleep.
All runners’ stomachs are different
Every runner has a different level of tolerance on how they stomach will react after they have their meals. For example, some of the runners will reach for a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich as their pre-workout meal. But this might not work for other runners.
You may have to try and find out what works best for you. Do take note that the closer you get to the workout or the more intense the workout, the less your body will be able to digest. So be sure to choose digestible foods that are low in fibre and fat, and rich in carbohydrates.
Does size matter?
When it comes to pre-run meals, you bet! If you’ve tried to consume a large quantity of food before running, that’s a great way to sabotage your experience. But some foods are worse than others, even in small amounts.
Chow down on dairy, refined grains, high-fat foods, too much caffeine, sugar-laden treats and high-fibre foods before running and the results won’t be pretty.
Eliminate foods in those categories, keep portions small and don’t run immediately after you put down your fork, spoon or toast to get the nutritional boost you need to start your morning, afternoon or evening run.
No time to start preparing anything that requires more than a knife or a toaster? Make up your own pre-run meals and you improve your chances of avoiding gastric distress.
Should I eat before a run?
After eating our food, our food will break down, absorbed and moved to the muscles by the blood. So the food will be useful once it’s been digested and absorbed.
It does take time for our food to become potential energy for the body. While exercising, blood transfers from the digestive tract to the muscles, leaving less blood to aid digestion.
If you plan to eat before you run, it is best to eat before one to two hours beforehand.
So that the food has the time to processed and energy can be available, it depends on what types and quantities of food you eat.
Fatty foods, proteins and fibre usually take longer to digest than other foods. After consuming foods that are high in fat and fibre (fibre is higher in fruit and grains), it can increase the risk of stomach irritation during exercise because it stays in your belly and it does not absorb.
If you consume bigger amounts of food, it can take longer to digest than smaller quantities. So, if you’re going to eat immediately before exercise, it is best to eat a small amount of carbohydrate, like a glass of sports drink.
What to eat before a run
Having a light snack before running is a good way to get through your run. It can give you the energy you needed and keep your blood sugar level from crashing.
You must be thinking that you do not have much time to eat any light snacks before hitting the road. But if you feel that your body hasn’t had any food since the night before.
We would say it is important to consume a light snack before you run for about 30 to 60 minutes.
You can choose the foods that contain carbohydrates and protein. These are the foods below you can have it before you run:
- Banana with a tablespoon of nut butter
- Energy bar or low-fat granola bar
- Small yogurt and fruit
- Fruit smoothie
- Whole grain bagel
If you experience hunger or fatigue without a pre-workout snack, even you had your lunch in the afternoon, then these are the best choices for you, but be sure to eat around one to two hours before you head out:
- Crackers and a cheese stick
- Energy bar or low-fat granola bar
- Half of a nut butter and jelly sandwich
Eating Before Running
Runners of all ages and abilities commonly ask me what they should they be eating before running or during and after a competitive event:
- When should I eat before the 10K: 2, 3 or 4 hours beforehand?
- How many gels should I take during a half-marathon?
- What’s best to eat for recovery after a marathon?
The same runners who worry about event-day fueling often neglect their day to day training diet. Hence, the real question should be: “What should I eat before, during and after I run or train?” After all, you can only compete at your best if you can train at your best.
The goal of this article is to remind you to train your intestinal tract as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. To get the most out of each workout, you need to practice your fueling as well as your running skills. Then, come day of the competition, you know exactly what, when and how much to eat so you can compete with optimal energy and without fear of bonking nor intestinal distress. Here are some sports nutrition tips on eating before, during and after you run that will help you run faster, stronger and longer.
When and what should I eating before running or exercise?
Each runner has a different tolerance with pre-exercise food. I often talk with runners who report they don’t eat before they run because they’re afraid the food might cause intestinal problems. Then, they needlessly suffer through major energy problems during their workouts and events. That’s why they need to practice not only what they eat but also when and how much to eat before they run. From Day 1, I recommend you start training your intestinal tract by nibbling on a pretzel, a cracker or other fuel that will enhance stamina, endurance, and enjoyment of exercise.
You don’t need to wait around for your pre-run snack to digest. You can grab a small snack just five minutes pre-exercise and the food will get put to good use—as long as you are exercising at a pace that you can maintain for more than half an hour. That is, you might not want to eat much five minutes before a hard track workout, but you could likely enjoy a banana before you put on your jogging shoes. Research suggests you can eat an energy bar either 15 or 60 minutes before moderate exercise and gain a similar energy boost.
In general, most runners prefer to wait two to four hours after having eaten a full meal before they head to the gym or prepare for a hard run. The meal will have plenty of time to digest and empty from the stomach, particularly if you don’t stuff themselves with high fat foods (cheeseburgers and fries) that take longer to digest than a carb-based pasta-type meal. The rule of thumb is to consume:
|Time pre-exercise||Grams carb/lb||Calories/150-lb runner|
|5-60 minutes||0.5 g/lb||300 calories|
For a 150-lb runner, 300 pre-exercise calories translates into:
• Two packets oatmeal or a Dunkin Donuts-size (4 oz.) bagel within the hour before your morning run
• 4 Fig Newtons and a banana at 4:30 in the afternoon when you plan to go to the gym after work at 5:30 p.m..
If you will be meeting your triathlon buddies for a 50-mile bike ride at 10:00 a.m., you’ll want 600 calories by 8:00 a.m.. That’s a bowl of granola with a banana and milk, or several pancakes. It’s more than many triathletes tend to eat!
Is It Better to Eat Before or After Jogging?
Eating before or after jogging depends on several factors.
Some joggers prefer to eat before and some after, but you may wonder which is better. While a certain part of this decision should be based on how eating makes you feel before, during and after exercise, several other factors are important to consider.
Depending on your jogging routine, a meal can make or break it.
Eat first if you plan on jogging in the morning; eat after if you plan on jogging later in the day. It all comes down to preference and your hunger pangs.
Timing Is Everything
If you jog first thing in the morning, you may be better off eating first. Your last meal or snack is likely to have digested already, leaving little to fuel your workout. Having a meal an hour or three before you jog in the morning stabilizes blood sugar and gives you energy, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; whereas jogging without eating could result in feeling lightheaded and sluggish.
If you prefer to jog later in the day, you may be able to wait to eat until after you jog. Since your body has been refueled already during the day, jogging before eating again can allow you to go at a faster pace because you don’t have a meal sitting in your stomach.
Intensity and Duration
If your jogging session will last for more than an hour, you should eat before you start. Have a meal about three to four hours before you plan to jog or a snack an hour prior. This will give your body the energy it needs to sustain a long bout of exercise. An intense jog also necessitates eating afterward to refuel your body, build muscle and replace your glycogen stores. A short jog allows you to eat before or after, depending on your preferences, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Meal or Snack?
Most joggers say that eating a heavy meal makes it more difficult to perform. On the other hand, too little to eat could make it harder to finish your jog. Choosing the right size meal based on how soon you will be jogging will make your workout more effective and reduce the chances of cramps or being slowed down. If you don’t plan to jog for at least three hours, a meal is a good option. A snack is enough to fuel your jogging session if you are ready to go in less than an hour after eating, says Go Ask Alice!
What Foods to Eat
Before a jog, foods that digest easily will give you the energy you need to complete your workout, but are less likely to result in cramps. Good choices include crackers, bagels or bread. A longer jogging session requires additional carbohydrates, which you can get from bananas and yogurt.
Skip high-fiber foods, caffeine and fatty foods, which may make you uncomfortable while you’re jogging as your body directs blood away from your muscles and toward your digestive system, causing muscle cramps, recommends Health.gov.
If you wait to eat until after your jog, choose foods like a peanut butter sandwich, string cheese and crackers, nuts and fruit, yogurt or a regular meal with protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. These choices will replenish your energy stores.
The Best Foods to Eat Before and After a Run
An effective training schedule isn’t made up of runs alone. If you want to improve both your endurance and your race times, it’s essential to think about what you’re putting into your stomach.
By eating the right foods at the right times, “your body will recover and be able to perform the way you want it to,” says Lauren Antonucci, R.D., a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition and director of Nutrition Energy. “Plus, you’ll reduce your chance of injury and illness.”
Here’s how to fuel up before and after your training runs to maximize results.
Before: For a morning jog of no longer than 30 or 45 minutes at a relaxed pace—that is, one you could talk through—a glass of water might be all you need ahead of time, provided you had a decent dinner the night before. But if last night’s meal wasn’t filling, or if you ate it early, downing a banana will replace glycogen stores in your muscles to stave off sluggishness. If you’re heading out in the afternoon, have a snack with about 50 grams of carbs in it—like a granola bar—an hour or two beforehand, suggests Monique Ryan, R.D., author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.
After: There’s no need to take in calories immediately, but try to eat a snack or your next meal within an hour or two. Skipping a solid post-run meal could lead to lethargy or sugar cravings later in the day—or down the road, even sickness or injury. It’s also a good idea to get some fiber and some protein to continue helping your muscles rebuild from prior hard training days.
Before: It doesn’t matter whether you’re tackling hill repeats or a fartlek—any kind of speed work will zap your energy stores, so some pre-run chow is a must. “This is not the time to skimp on calories,” says Antonucci, who advises taking in 200 to 400 calories (depending on your size and how long before the run you’re snacking) of easily digestible carbs, such as toast with jelly. And Ryan suggests replenishing your fast-twitch muscles with a sports drink or gels between intervals. It’s been shown to improve performance up through the last rep.
After: Unlike with those easy runs, you’ve got no time to waste after speed work. “It’s absolutely crucial to eat something within 30 minutes,” says Antonucci, to supply your muscles with fluid, carbs and some protein. Aim for a 4-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein (ultra-easy source: chocolate milk) to best aid recovery.
Long Training Runs
Before: It’s most beneficial to eat a full meal three or four hours before you head out to slog through many miles. But “there’s ideal, and then there’s practical,” Antonucci says. If the idea of setting your alarm for 3 AM sounds, well, insane, just have that meal an hour or two ahead of the run. But adjust the menu if breakfast gets close to the outing: Go for something easily digestible, like a banana with peanut butter and a high-calorie sports drink. “Even more important,” says Ryan, “is to have a good hydration and fueling plan for the run.” Try to take in between 150 and 300 calories per hour during extra-long bouts—with gels, sports drinks, or whatever snack that you can carry and your body can handle.
After: As with speed work, make sure to eat within half an hour of your finish. Go for 200 to 300 calories and try to include an avocado or walnuts, which have been shown to reduce inflammation caused by all that pounding the pavement. Then sit down to a bigger meal a few hours later and continue snacking every two hours or so for the rest of the day, suggests Ryan: “Your muscles can’t bounce back from one feeding; eating more often jump-starts recovery.”