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training guide

What to Eat Before Running: 2024 Ultimate Diet Guide

Are you ready to hit the road for a run? Stats show that running is the most popular sport in the UK, with approximately six million people in England running regularly every month. 

Make sure your pre-run meals adequately power your training session, ensuring optimal performance. Knowing "what to eat before run" is essential whether you're a seasoned marathon runner or a novice runner.

From your meals to pre-run snacks and energy gels, your pre-run nutrition can make a difference in your performance. Don't let any common myths about food affect your preparation for an effective fuelling strategy.

Let’s dive into the essential pre-run meal ideas and meal options for endurance athletes in 2024.

HIGH5 Energy Gel

Understanding Pre-Run Nutrition: Why is it Important?

Ever tried running on an empty stomach? It's like a car without gas. To be a better runner and get the most out of your run, you've got to fuel up right. Pre-run nutrition is all about giving your body the energy it requires for an optimal running experience. 

Proper pre-run nutrition helps you in the following areas;

  • Enhance endurance
  • Boost muscle performance
  • Prevent stomach issues 
  • Improve mental focus
  • Support recovery

The upcoming sections include valuable insight into what to eat when to eat, and what to avoid for a great run. 

What to Eat before Run Summary

Below, we have added a summary to introduce you to what to eat before running to maximise performance and recovery in 2024:

  • Pre-Run Nutrition: Opt for easily digestible carbs to fuel your runs, avoiding high fibre foods and the wrong foods like fried foods. HIGH5 Energy Gels can enhance endurance and prevent stomach issues.
  • Hydration Strategy: A sports drink is crucial for staying hydrated and maintaining energy. HIGH5's Zero Hydration offers the perfect balance for runs longer than an hour.
  • Pre-Run Snack: Choose snacks high in carbs but low in fibre, such as bananas or oatmeal, complemented by a HIGH5 Energy Bar for sustained energy without discomfort.
  • Carb Loading: For longer distances, focus on complex carbs for steady energy release. Incorporating a product like HIGH5 Energy Drink can aid in effective carb loading.
  • Best Foods: Whole grains and fruits, alongside HIGH5 products, provide the optimal mix of nutrients to hit your half marathon goal pace with ease.

Should you Eat Before Running in the Morning? Tips for your Pre-Run Breakfast

High5 Eat Before Running

For early birds who prefer to kick start their day with a morning run, the question of whether or not to eat beforehand is common. The answer is clear: fuelling your body is crucial. Whatever distance you’re running, 5k, 10k, half marathon, or a full marathon, what you eat before a run always remains important.

However, your body has unique nutritional needs when you're gearing up for a run in the early morning. You don't want to burden your stomach with heavy or difficult-to-digest high-fat foods, but you need the energy to fuel your run.

Here are some tips to help you have a nutritious meal before running in the morning;

  • Avoid experimenting right before running, and consider eating only the food you trust suits your body. 
  • Consider incorporating a high-carb meal or a high-carb snack into your pre-run routine to optimise your morning run. Think of them as energy boosters, preparing you to conquer the trail. 
  • Alternatively, if you have to run right after breakfast, opt for a light pre-run snack to give your body a gentle nudge rather than a heavy push. 
  • Energy bars, in particular, are a great choice. They provide the necessary carbohydrates and proteins for sustained energy.
HIGH5 energy bar
  • Drink plenty of water and hydrating fluids (500 ml combined) two hours before running to stay hydrated. You can then take your energy drinks and water every 15-20 minutes during the race.

So, before you lace up your running shoes and head out into the dawn, don't forget to give your body the fuel it needs for a successful and energising morning run. It's a small step that can significantly impact your running experience.

What to Eat Before a Run in the Morning?

We often get asked a lot of common questions about what to eat before a run in the morning. Like other runners, you may also have the following questions about your pre-run meals for a morning race:

  • Is coffee before a run good?
  • Moderate coffee consumption before a run can enhance alertness and performance. However, excessive caffeine intake may lead to dehydration, so balance is key.

  • Is toast good before a run?
  • Yes, whole-grain toast with nut butter or avocado is a good pre-run option. It provides complex carbohydrates and healthy fats for sustained energy during your run.

  • Are eggs good before running?
  • Eggs are a good source of protein and essential nutrients. While they may work for some runners, it's essential to consider personal tolerance, as heavy meals may cause discomfort.

  • Are bananas good before a run?
  • Yes, bananas are an excellent pre-run snack. They are rich in carbohydrates for quick energy, potassium to prevent muscle cramps, and are easily digestible, making them a runner's favourite.

    With these answers in mind, you can tailor your pre-run meal to suit your needs. Besides your breakfast, you can have some pre-run morning snacks, too. 

    9 Pre-Run Snack Ideas for Morning Runs

    Pre-run snacks can perfectly complement your morning meals to prepare you for the race day. If you're not up for a full meal or have a race early in the morning, consider these healthy snack options:

    • Banana 
    • Oatmeal
    • Yoghurt 
    • Boiled eggs
    • Smoothie 
    • Whole wheat toast or bagel 
    • Peanut butter
    • Berries 
    • Protein shake 

    Most runners take a medium-sized snack 60–90 minutes before the race. It helps accumulate the energy you need for a long run without giving you stomach cramps.

    Alternatively, a small meal can consist of simple yet nourishing components, like a piece of whole-grain toast with a smear of nut butter and a banana. This combination provides a mix of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, offering sustained energy while being easy on your stomach.

    What to Eat One Hour Before a Run? Choosing the Right Nutrients

    Energy Gel with Slow Release Carbs

    Do you have your race scheduled for any other time other than morning? Ensure you eat a healthy breakfast with adequate carbohydrate intake to energise yourself. You can also take energy gels with slow-release carbs in the morning to preload your muscles. 

    If you have approximately one hour before your scheduled run, it's the perfect window to provide your body with the right fuel to optimise your performance. The key to success here is selecting the right type of carbohydrates.

    Complex Carbohydrates: Your Ultimate Energy Source

    Complex carbs, often found in foods like whole grains, are your go-to choice. Why? Because they offer a steady and sustained release of energy. This gradual energy release is precisely what you need to power through your training runs at your absolute best. 

    These carbs act like a slow-burning fuel that keeps your energy levels stable, helping you avoid the sudden crashes associated with simple sugars. The result? Improved endurance and stamina during your run. The British Dietetic Association recommends getting 50% of your energy from carbs

    The following foods are rich in complex carbs. However, if you are eating them one hour before the race, make sure to eat only the items that work best for you. 

    • Whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat bread)
    • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
    • Fruits and vegetables (banana, apples, berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes)
    • Nuts and seeds (almonds, flaxseeds, chia seeds)

    Try to incorporate them into your pre-run meal a little longer than an hour before your run. This will set you on the right track for success. This well-balanced approach ensures that your muscles are well-prepared for action, giving you the energy and strength to tackle your run enthusiastically. 

    Whether it's a long-distance jog or a sprint, complex carbs serve as your trusty companions on the journey to peak running performance. They ensure that you cross that finish line with a sense of accomplishment.

    PreRun Nutrition for Specific Goals and Needs

    Pre-Run Nutrition for Specific Goals and Needs

    If you have specific dietary requirements or goals in mind, then you must plan your pre-run meal accordingly. This section highlights meal planning ideas for specific goals and needs. 

    What to Eat Before a Run to Lose Weight?

    If you want to shed a few pounds while you run, design your pre-run nutrition strategy accordingly. The idea here is to balance providing your body with sufficient energy for the race day and being mindful of calorie intake.

    For weight loss-focused runs, consider focusing on simple carbs – they offer a quick and easily digestible energy source. One surprising option that fits the bill is gummy bears. These colourful, chewy treats aren't just for satisfying your sweet tooth; they can be your secret weapon for extra fuel without excessive calories.

    Remember, weight loss during your run is achievable, but keeping overall carbohydrate intake in mind is essential. Be mindful of portion sizes and make informed choices to achieve your fitness goals while enjoying your runs.

    What to Eat Before a Run for Energy? Boost Your Energy Levels

    When you find yourself just minutes away from your scheduled run and need a quick and efficient energy boost, your choices can significantly impact your performance. In such a time crunch, the key is to opt for light snacks that are energy-packed and easily digestible.

    Simple and Complex Carbs

    Simple carbohydrates, like a handful of energy gummies or a ripe banana, are ideal for a quick energy boost at the start of the race. They provide readily available fuel for that initial burst of speed. 

    Complex carbs in whole grains like oatmeal or whole wheat toast offer sustained energy over the race's duration. Incorporating this carb mix into your pre-race meal readies your muscles for the challenge ahead.

    Energy Gels

    These handy packets are designed to provide a rapid energy infusion. They are like a turbocharger for your run, delivering quick-acting carbohydrates that your body can absorb swiftly.

    Energy Gel Mixed Flavour

    Energy gels come in various flavours, making finding one that suits your taste preferences easy. They're also compact and easy to carry, so you can have them on hand for those impromptu runs or as a last-minute energy boost.

    Keep in mind that while energy gels are perfect for short-notice energy needs, it's essential to use them wisely and in moderation.

    Quick Energy Snacks for Short Runs

    HIGH5 Energy Gummies

    Energy gummies are a source of simple sugars that your body can swiftly convert into energy, giving you the boost you need for your run. Plus, they're easy to portion, making it simple to control your calorie intake.

    However, it's essential to maintain a balance. While simple carbs like gummy bears are suitable for short and moderate runs, longer runs may require a bit more fuel, so it's a good idea to incorporate some complex carbs for sustained energy.

    What to Eat 30 Minutes Before a Run to Avoid Stomach Issues?

    When you have only 30 minutes before your run, securing a quick energy boost becomes paramount. During this short timeframe, it's crucial to select small, easily digestible snacks while actively avoiding fried or spicy foods. This precaution is key to avoiding stomach pains when running and ensuring you're fully primed for your upcoming run. A general rule is to avoid eating a few minutes before running to prevent stomach issues while running. Instead, you can have sports gels.

    They provide carbohydrates that your body can promptly absorb. They are an excellent solution to enhance your performance, especially when you're on the verge of hitting the road. Energy gels act as a quick source of energy, giving you the extra push you need to make the most of your run, even with limited time for preparation.

    What Not to Eat Before a Run? Foods You Must Avoid

    When it comes to pre-run nutrition, understanding what to avoid is just as vital as knowing what to embrace. Steering clear of high-fat, fried, and spicy foods is essential to prevent discomfort during your run. These culprits can potentially lead to digestive issues and hamper your performance on the track.

    Also, avoid excessive dairy products and high-fibre foods that may cause digestive discomfort. Experiment to find what works best for your individual needs. In addition, consume water before running to ensure proper fluid levels, but avoid excessive amounts to prevent discomfort during your workout.

    Rather than opting for these choices, you must focus on nutrient-rich alternatives. These options are gentle on your stomach and provide a consistent release of energy, ensuring that your run remains smooth and energising. Choosing easily digestible foods prepares you for an enjoyable and successful run.

    What to Eat Before Runs of Different Lengths

    Your nutrient requirements slightly change with the type and length of the race you aim to run. From running workouts to marathons, here’s what you need to eat before running different lengths.  

    What to Eat Before a Running Workout?

    Preparing for a running workout demands specific nutrition, particularly during training sessions. Unlike your pre-race meal, which focuses on energy, training runs require more. They're about endurance, recovery, and staying hydrated.

    A valuable tool in your pre-running workout kit is the sports drink. Formulated to replenish lost electrolytes and keep you hydrated, they're crucial during intense training sessions. As you sweat, you lose vital minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Sports drinks replace these electrolytes and prevent dehydration. They also often include carbohydrates for sustained energy.

    For shorter or less intense runs, sports drinks may not be necessary. Adjust your choice based on your workout's intensity, with the primary goal of optimising performance during training runs.

    What to Eat Before Running a 5k?

    If you opt for a low-intensity run such as a 5k, you may not need as much carb loading as needed for longer distances. Before a 5k, consume a balanced meal 2–3 hours prior to running. Focus on complex carbohydrate intake and lean proteins. If eating closer to the run, opt for a smaller snack, like a banana or energy bar. For those aiming to maximise their 5K performance through nutrition, our optimal 5K eating plan offers tailored advice to meet your race day needs.

    For more information on what to eat before running a 5k, see our complete guide

    What to Eat Before Running a 10k?

    Preparing for a 10k race is a significant milestone in your running journey, and the approach to fuelling your body remains much the same as it does for a 5k race. The key is to ensure that you maintain optimal levels of energy throughout the 10-kilometre distance. Our detailed guide about what to eat before running a 10k highlights everything you need to know about fuelling up before a 10k. 

    What to Eat Before Running a Half Marathon?

    A half-marathon is around 13.1 miles long. Apparently, the dietary requirements of endurance athletes vary depending on the distance they run. However, studies show that except for two food clusters, there is a very insignificant difference in food choices between distance runners

    This implies that the general dietary requirements are slightly similar among distance runners. However, if you are running a half-marathon, you must focus on your unique requirements. To fuel your body adequately without overloading it, read our detailed guide on what to eat before running a half marathon.

    HIGH5 Energy Gel

    What to Eat Before a Run - Conclusion

    Whether running a 5k, 10k, half-marathon or a full one, what you eat before a run can significantly influence your performance. Use this guide to make well-informed dietary choices about your pre-run meal. By this, you fuel your body for the challenges ahead and keep your digestive system harmonious.

    Moreover, incorporate HIGH5 energy gels in your training and running routine to better tackle the miles ahead with confidence and determination.

    So, lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement, knowing that your pre-run nutrition sets the stage for a successful journey. Keep working hard, and Happy running!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What’s the best thing to eat before a run?

    The best pre-run meal consists of a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Opt for easily digestible foods like a banana with almond butter, yoghurt with granola, or a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter.

    Should you eat 30 minutes before a run?

    Yes, you should eat 30 minutes before a run if you feel the need to. Ideally, eat a small, easily digestible snack 30 minutes to an hour before running. This allows your body to absorb the nutrients and provides a readily available energy source without causing discomfort during your run.

    Is it better to run on an empty stomach?

    Running on an empty stomach may work for some, especially for shorter runs. However, a small snack can enhance your performance and prevent fatigue for longer or more intense workouts.

    Is it OK to eat right before running?

    Eating a full meal right before running may lead to discomfort. However, a small, easily digestible snack 30 minutes to an hour before running can provide a quick energy boost without causing digestive issues.

    How do you get energy before running?

    Consume a mix of carbohydrates and proteins before running. Opt for snacks like energy bars, fruit with nut butter, or yoghurt with granola to fuel your muscles and sustain energy levels.

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