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What to Eat Before a Run

Posted by George Parker on
What to eat before a run

The food you put in your body has a significant effect on how you run. I didn’t fully appreciate the benefits of nutrition until my 30’s. But since then, food is as important to me as weekly mileage. If you are fine-tuning your meal plan, a good starting point is what you eat before you run. 

You want to eat before a run to top-off glycogen stores that have depleted overnight (or throughout the day if you run in the afternoon or evening). Aim to eat 30-60 grams of complex carbohydrates. Full glycogen stores will significantly help on long runs, speed work, and tempo workouts. 

You need to eat the right foods 30 minutes to 2 hours before your run to give your body time to digest. You do not want a bunch of food sitting in your stomach diverting blood from muscles to aid digestion. For morning runs, 30 minutes is your target meal window if time is short. Start by drinking 12-20 ounces of water to hydrate and get your body’s systems going. Consume healthy, complex carbohydrates, not simple carbs found in the sugars of candy and cookies. Avoid saturated fat and large portions of protein right before you run. Fats and proteins will digest slower in the stomach, taking away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from muscles. 

Here are some suggested meals to eat before you run. The bolded items are my personal favorites:

+2 hours 1-2 hours 30 min - 1 hour
  • Protein smoothie made with milk/plant milk, protein powder, banana, and mixed berries
  • Eggs and Toast with fruit preserve
  • Whole-grain cereal with milk and a side of fruit 
  • Bagel or Toast with peanut/almond/nut butter
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal topped with berries and nuts 


  • Granola Bar, Lara Bar, Protein Bar, BOBO bar
  • Apple, Banana, or Orange


Let’s not forget about caffeine, which is an everyday staple in runners’ morning routines. Caffeine improves alertness, mood, and aerobic activity. However, it takes 45-60 minutes for caffeine to fully kick into your system, so time your intake accordingly. To get the full benefits from caffeine, you need 2 to 6mg per kilogram of body weight. So, a 140-pound runner needs 130 to 380mg of caffeine. Coffee, energy drink, pre-workout powder, or tea, to name a few, are acceptable sources of caffeine.

If your workout extends longer than 60 minutes, you will benefit from topping off your glucose stores with 30-60mg of carbohydrates from a sports drink, gel, or light snack. For runs less than one hour, water should be enough to fuel your activity.

Lastly, there are some special considerations for marathon fueling. To start, do not “carbo-load” the day before the marathon. Instead, “carbo-load” the week leading up to the marathon. Your body needs time to ingest the carbohydrates and convert them to glycogen stores. On race morning, do not eat anything new. Stick with the same pre-race meal routine you have developed over the past several months of training. Try only to eat 2 hours before the race to ensure complete digestion. Hydrate in the morning, drink your caffeine and give yourself time for a  bowel movement before the race. As you head to the starting line, stay hydrated by sipping water or a sports drink to keep your glucose levels topped off before the race. Then, run!

 Best on wishes chasing your running goals,

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