What & How Much You Should Eat Before a Jog
Many runners, both newbies and experienced ones, are in search of that perfect pre-run snack or meal.
Nutritional demands and timing are crucial when it comes to fueling your body properly for a jog.
What you eat pre-run and during the run affects your performance and can prevent mid-workout fatigue if you get it right.
Eating well and staying hydrated helps you avoid cramps and feeling weak mid-run.
Nutrition-dense foods can also help you recover faster.
A pre-run meal can make or break your jogging session, so make sure to set yourself up for success.
1. The Optimal Time to Eat Before a Run
How long before a run you should eat is different for every runner.
Experts recommend conducting a simple experiment: an hour and a half before your run, eat a medium-sized snack.
If you have no stomach issues whatsoever, then move the snack 15-20 minutes forward or backward until you find the optimal timing for a pre-run meal without any unpleasant sensations in the digestive system.
2. Nutritional Requirements
The truth is your body has enough glycogen stored in the muscles and liver to complete runs around 2 hours or shorter.
For longer runs or harder workouts, you are going to need a little extra push.
Try an online Runner’s Calorie Calculator to determine how many calories you burn while running.
You will get the number of grams for protein, carbohydrates, and fats you should aim for.
This estimate will give you a general idea about how to plan your pre-run meals.
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For Normal, Easy Run Days
A quick and easy 30-40 minutes run doesn’t require a pre-run snack. Even if it’s a morning run and you haven’t had any breakfast – it’s not a big deal if it’s an easy-paced 3 to 4 miles distance.
On the other hand, if you know you need some fuel to ward off hunger and run safely, make sure to eat a small snack 30-90 minutes before an easy run. Aim for 15 grams of carbs.
A tablespoon of nut butter or half of a banana should be enough to do the trick.
Food Choices for a Sprint/Interval Training
When your workout is quite intense your body needs quick carbs to provide an immediate energy boost. Eating right before an intense sprint is crucial.
Simple carbs can quickly be turned into energy so they are a superior fuel source, especially for athletes.
A carb-rich meal the night before will up your glycogen stores preparing you for high-intensity activities. Potatoes, rice, pasta or quinoa with protein and veggies are the nutrients your body craves.
Fueling for the longer Runs
In case you are planning a longer run or a workout lasting longer than an hour and a half you are going to need some extra fuel since it requires more energy.
Your personal optimal timing is what you should keep in mind, but the general recommendation for most runners is to consume a small meal or a medium-sized snack 90-120 minutes before a run. Aim for 50 to 60 grams of complex carbs.
Opt for oatmeal, a banana or bagel.
If You Are an Early Morning Runner
Your glycogen stores in the muscles might be reduced since you haven’t been eating for 6-8 hours.
A small snack high in carbs and low in protein with very little fat is the go-to to kickstart your workout.
It’s ideal to consume it 30-60 minutes pre-run.
Still, there will be enough glycogen for an easy run even if you skip breakfast.
3. Find the Foods That Sit Well With You
Again, you will need to do a bit of experimenting to find out what foods work best with you.
While some food might do the trick for one runner, it may not sit well with another runner’s stomach.
It comes down to individual preferences – there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Nevertheless, remember that easily digestible foods usually agree well with every athlete’s digestive system.
This means avoiding high fiber and fatty foods as they tend to digest longer and might upset your stomach.
Prepare a smart blend of complex and simple carbs with a bit of protein and you are good to go.
Before the Run
For an appropriate nutritional choice eat whole grains, beans or potatoes 2-3 hours before you plan to jog.
A piece of fruit is an easy-peasy pre-run snack.
Carbs are the essential source of fuel that provides you with energy to complete a run.
And no, this doesn’t mean you can squeeze in a bowl of pasta.
Make sure to opt for healthy carbs like quinoa, oatmeal, rice, and other whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit.
It’s a good idea to consume them within a few hours of your run.
During the Run
You might need to fuel mid-run when you are running long distances.
Bananas, raisins, grapes and energy bars will help you recharge your body.
Bear in mind that it is better to fuel mid-run if needed than to go overboard with the meal since you will need to wait up to 4 hours to skip on gastrointestinal distress.
4. Pre-Run Snack Inspiration
Try to eat real foods whenever possible instead of opting for bars and energy gels.
They are less processed and will provide you with more nutrients.
Yet, some of the energy supplements can be a good source of convenient energy.
Good pre-run fuel includes:
- Turkey on whole-wheat bread
- Cereal with cold milk
Before a long run:
- A small bowl of oatmeal with banana slices (small snack)
- White bagel (half of it) with peanut butter(medium snack)
Before a sprint/interval workout:
- Plain Greek yogurt with a banana or blueberries and a handful of dry cereals (medium snack)
- Half a banana (a small snack)
5. Foods to Avoid Pre-Run
- Apples, pears and other high-fiber fruits
- Broccoli and other high-fiber veggies
- Too much coffee
- Cheese, red meat, bacon
- Spicy foods
Nutrition has a major impact on your workouts. Putting time and effort into properly fueling your body will optimize your jog and provide peak performance.
And that’s worth the trouble, right?