I do the majority of my runs in the morning before I get ready for school (and before my main breakfast). It is important to have something small to eat before a run to give your body fuel. But how much should you eat? Does it matter how long the run is?
Over the past decade I have kind of figured out what works for me based on the length of run I am going to go on. I am not saying proportions will work for you, but they may give you some ideas on how to fuel your morning run.
*Also, I am NOT a registered dietician so please keep that in mind. Yes I took a lot of exercise nutrition classes at the University of Iowa, but I am not a registered dietician. All of the information regarding the nutrients and calories in the foods I am going to mention can either be found on the box or the USDA website.
Getting the right amount of food is important for a couple reasons: if you eat too little (or not at all) you may start to fatigue much sooner and not have the energy to finish your run, or if you eat too much you make end up with some uncomfortable stomach problems. Neither are a good thing.
The following ideas are for runs that are 10 miles or 90 minutes or less:
I like to be running by 5 am on a school day, so I don’t typically get up much sooner than that to eat. My go-to for a quick fix of carbs is a banana. One banana has about 20-24 grams of carbohydrates and is low in fiber. Another great quick pre-workout meal is a handful of blueberries or even 3/4 cup of dry cereal (Wheaties have 22 grams of carbohydrates).
If you don’t want to consume solids before your run take a few sips of juice or a sports drink (but not the whole bottle!).
If I am running more than 10 miles I need to eat a bit more than that. I save my long runs for the weekends so I have a bit more time to get in a better pre-run snack.
About 60 minutes before a long run I will have a piece or two of toast (whole wheat/whole grain), some peanut butter, and a sliced banana.
I have also had oatmeal before a long run with some honey mixed in and blueberries. I buy the non-flavored oats because typically the pre-packaged, single serve packets are loaded with sugar.
Another option for fueling up is an energy bar. Although the trick with energy bars is to pay attention to the sugar. Try looking for energy bars with 45-50 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of protein, and LESS than five grams of fiber.
If I know I am going to be running for more than 90 minutes I will also refuel during my run with a packet of GU and some electrolyte replacement (NUUN).
I hope this helped you and gave you some ideas about how to fuel up before your next run!