Those who know say “food is fuel”, and the best foods to eat before running can properly fuel you up for those short or long stretches of pavement or track pounding you’re about to embark on. When exercising, you don’t want to run out of power, but you also don’t want your body parts to start cramping or to start getting side stitches because you ate too much or ate the wrong type of food.
However, knowing what foods are best to eat before running is never easy. As running’s become one of the most popular sports (according to Running USA, last year 10,844,200 men and 8,180,800 women finished running events in the US), more people are becoming concerned about what is the best way to nurture their bodies in order to better perform and max out their chosen food’s benefits during exercise (for more specific nutrition information related to workouts, check out our feature on the 10 Foods to Eat Before a Workout to Make Every Drop of Sweat Count).
However, prior to letting you know which are the best foods to eat before running, let us tell you first that under no circumstances should you eat and go running right away. Although everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to eating and training, and you should trial what’s best for you, your best bet would be to eat a snack or light meal 30 minutes to two hours before you start running, so as to allow your body to start the digestive process and give you enough fuel to get moving. After eating a large meal, waiting for two to four hours should be enough for your food to be fully digested and for you to be ready to run.
Now, if you’ve been doing some reading, you probably already know that you’re supposed to stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods. That’s easy, you may have thought. All you have to do is stay away from stuff like broccoli, beans, large servings of carbs, cream-based foods, fries, and burgers. During your reading, you’ve also probably found out that the best kind of “fuel” you can choose to pump into your body is something “high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein”. What? Not so easy. How can you translate these requirements into the best foods to eat before running? Here’s where we’ve come to help you:
Oatmeal and fresh fruits
Oatmeal is a great ally during exercise because it will store in your body and gradually release its sugar into your blood system as you run. If you decide to put fresh fruit into your bowl of oatmeal as well, it’s better if you chose the ones with a low glycemic index, like strawberries, apples, cherries, pears, grapefruits or oranges. If you’re going for a short run, however, you might want to chose fruits with a high glycemic index, that contain sugar that will quickly be absorbed into your blood, like kiwis, watermelon, or peaches.
Keep reading to find out which are the 4 best foods to eat before running.
Pasta, white rice, bagels
It’s good to include some refined carbohydrates in your pre-run snack because this type of carbohydrates will store in your muscles and will also be ready for you when you start your run, helping the body burn fat and spare muscle protein. They’re also easier on your stomach, as your body breaks them down so much easier than other foods!
Low fiber fruits and veggies
In case you really want to eat plain fruits and vegetables before running, you might want to go with stuff like tomatoes, olives, grapes, grapefruits, and zucchinis. All of them are low in fiber.
Dates, raisins, nuts, you name it! Dried fruit is a great choice, especially in the middle of a run. Why? They’re very high in calories and they’re easily digested into glucose, exactly what your body needs to keep on going and going. And they’re all so small you won’t even notice you’re eating anything!
Last but not least: always remember to stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids. Ideally, you should drink 16-24 oz. of liquids an hour before you start exercising or running. If you’re running in the morning, never forget to bring water with you. Although, don’t get carried away with fluids, or you might have to make a pit stop in the middle of your run!