Eating the right food before a run can make a difference and give you the energy to perform your best. But what foods should you eat, and what should you avoid?
Eating food before a run can be a tricky balance. On the one hand, you never want to run on an empty stomach any more than you want to race in the Indy 500 with the needle on empty. However, eating the wrong foods or too much food can cause other issues during a run.
Below, I’ll show just what foods to eat and not eat before a run.
Food To Avoid Before A Run
Greasy Or Fried Foods
If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, indulging in your favorite fried foods as an occasional treat is one thing, but doing so before a run is something else entirely. Greasy foods are high in fat, which takes your body longer to digest, and you bouncing up and down for several miles doesn’t make its job any easier. Greasy foods include breakfast sandwiches or burritos, fried eggs, sausages, and most things on the menu in fast food joints.
Normally, fiber is a good thing, except when you are about to go on a run. The fiber in your stomach will soak up fluid, causing bloating, gas, and cramping and possibly have you racing to the nearest restroom.
While sugar can boost performance, the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports found that athletes who ate meals with a lower glycemic index (GI) performed better than those with a higher GI. High-GI foods can include sugar energy bars, white bread, and breakfast tarts, for example.
The truth is that refined sugar can cause you to feel fatigued after it burns off. For shorter runs, you don’t really need any sugar. The only time you’ll need a glycemic boost is mid-run during longer-distance runs, in which case you’re better off eating an energy gel.
Those fancy protein bars you see in stores can upset your GI system with all of their refined sugars, causing bloating, diarrhea, and gas. They often have sugar alcohol such as sorbitol or maltitol that can have a laxative effect, which is not good during a run.
Spicy Or Pungent Foods
There are several good reasons you want to avoid foods with pungent or spicy ingredients before a run. For one thing, they can wreak havoc on your digestive system, leading to bathroom issues mid-run. They can also cause heartburn, making the trek even more challenging.
Dairy products can also cause issues during a run. Foods such as yogurt can be great post-run snacks, but horrible ideas pre-run. They take longer to digest, and shaking things up in the process isn’t the best idea.
However, not everyone has the same issues digesting lactose. Usually, if you do, you’ll know it. Check out our explainer on should you consume caffeine before a run.
Foods To Eat Before A Run
Foods With Natural Sugars
Foods that contain natural sugars, like bananas, apples, and blueberries, can supply your body with fuel and nutrients. Berries, like blueberries, also have anti-inflammatory properties. Bananas contain potassium which also helps prevent cramps.
Foods such as nuts or nut butter can benefit runners before a run, but the key is moderation as these foods still take longer to digest but, if eaten properly, can provide an energy reserve for longer runs. For example, a tablespoon or two of peanut butter should be just fine before a run.
Oatmeal is one of the best meals you can have before a run. Just be careful not to consume too much, as it is a high-fiber food. About half a cup should be okay.
Whole-wheat bread can also be a great substitute. Many people love eating whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, bananas, and raisins before a run.
Whole-Food Based Snack-Bars
Energy bars such as an RXBAR that’s made with egg whites and dates or KIND’s Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt are great alternatives to sugary protein bars that can give you the fuel you need for longer runs.
If you like eggs, then you’ll be happy to learn they can be a pre-run meal if eaten in moderation. Since egg yolks do contain cholesterol and fat, you want to limit your consumption to about one egg. But, for those people who have gastric issues with egg yolks, you may want to skip this meal.
Fish And Poultry
If you’re craving a meaty meal before running, eating some poultry or fish is the way to go. Foods like a grilled chicken without the skin, skinless turkey, and salmon can provide tons of protein. Salmon packs lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation while supporting good joint, bone, and heart health.
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