Runners — we’ve all been there.
You wake up early in the morning, and you’re ready to get your run moving. You know you have limited time before you have to get ready for work, and the last thing you want to do is waste precious minutes eating before your run.
There are plenty of reasons our early-morning brains can convince us to forgo fueling before a morning run, but none of those reasons are good.
- 1 Why Do You Need to Eat Before a Morning Run?
- 2 What to Eat Before Running in the Morning
- 3 Final Word on What to Eat Before Running in the Morning
- 4 FAQs About What to Eat Before Running in the Morning
Why Do You Need to Eat Before a Morning Run?
You may have heard about fasted cardio, or working out on an empty stomach. While this can be done safely, it can also cause your glucose levels to dip, resulting in low blood sugar. This isn’t a great feeling in a gym, but when you’re a few miles from home, it can be downright dangerous.
Try to give yourself at least half an hour between your pre-workout meal and stepping out your front door. If you’re running long distances (60 to 90 minutes or more), bring a glucose-packed snack with you in case you need a mid-run energy boost.
For shorter runs, this usually isn’t necessary. Glycogen stores tend to tap out around two hours, and it’s a smart idea to ward off a dip in energy before it occurs.
What Should You Avoid?
Super simple carbs — like pretzels, muffins, white rice, white toast — aren’t usually a good fit prior to a run.
If you aren’t willing to give up your morning bagel before you run, check out these dietitian-approved tips for creating a better pre-run meal that will provide you with more than a stomach full of empty carbohydrates.
You’ll also want to avoid options like an energy bar or an energy gel, as these are often quick to spike your blood sugar and leave you cramping and tired halfway through your run. Instead, shoot for a high-fiber balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats known for fueling distance runners to the proverbial finish line.
Runners with Sensitive Stomachs: A Word of Caution
Use common sense: try out new breakfast recipes on a training run, not on race day. Just like you wouldn’t chug a new-to-you sports drink before hitting the starting line, you shouldn’t try a new breakfast on a day that you want to perform your best.
If you feel iffy about a new breakfast, it can be smart to try it out before a treadmill run, or on a run that keeps you close to home (or near a restroom). Whether you’re marathon training or simply working on longer distances, upticks in training can also cause GI upset.
When paired with figuring out what your body needs before a run, you’ll want to be sure you have a contingency plan in case your stomach starts to get upset.
What to Eat Before Running in the Morning
Ready to try out a new fuel source? We’ve got you covered. Check out this balanced carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fat recipe to keep you running strong.
Combine 1/2 c. plain rolled oats, 1/4 c. milk (or almond milk, if you’re dairy-sensitive), and chopped fruit of your choice in a mason jar, let sit overnight. Enjoy first thing in the morning.
Peanut Butter And Chia Toast
Top whole-grain toast with a tablespoon of peanut or sunflower butter, sprinkle with chia seeds, enjoy.
Apple And Almonds (or Almond Butter)
Thinly slice an apple, and either top with almond butter (make sure there’s no sugar added), or enjoy a small handful of almonds on the side.
Sweet Potato Toast With Peanut Butter and Chopped Pecans
Have a little extra time on your hands? Slice a peeled sweet potato into 1/4″ rounds, brush with olive or coconut oil, bake at 350 for 30 minutes (or until tender), top with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a sprinkle of chopped pecans.
Post-run: Don’t Forget to Hydrate
If you aren’t into drinking water with your pre-run meal, it’s key to hydrate once your run is over. For runs shorter than an hour, a glass of water is perfect to refuel. For runs over an hour, be sure to enjoy a sports drink with electrolytes (or make your own) to allow your body to begin the recovery process necessary after longer runs.
Final Word on What to Eat Before Running in the Morning
If you’re not eating before your morning runs, give it a try. Give yourself half an hour before your run to digest, and aim for a healthy balance of proteins, fats, and carbs. Don’t try anything too spicy or indulgent — keep it light and simple.
FAQs About What to Eat Before Running in the Morning
Do I have to eat before my run?
It’s a smart move. If you don’t eat before your run, you’re more likely to experience cramping and low blood sugar (as well as poor run performance).
How long before my run should I eat?
Eat at least 30 minutes before your workout.
What should I include in my pre-run meal?
Aim for a balance of healthy carbs, proteins, and fats. Keep portion sizes small — the same amount as you would have for a mid-afternoon snack.