General tips on fuelling before a run
By Pete Cooper, co-founder of Coopah
We all know that, to maximise your energy and avoid fatigue, it's important to fuel your body before a run. But should you have a full meal? Sip a smoothie? Just chow down a banana as you head out the door? In this post, we've got a few general tips for eating effectively before a workout. Of course, remember that everybody is different, and you may need to experiment a bit to find what works for you!
Meals and snacks should be mostly made of carbohydrates (aka carbs)
Let's talk about carbs! 4 facts to know about this vital macronutrient:
- Carbs serve as fuel to keep you going. They give you energy!
- Carbs digest faster than proteins and fats.
- Carbs help prevent your blood sugar from getting too low on the run.
- Carbs help spare your muscles’ glycogen stores so they don’t get too low (glycogen = stored carbs = stored energy). When your glycogen gets too low, you can hit the wall.
Carbs are either simple or complex
- These are quickly digested and don’t have fibre.
- They’re easily broken down by the body.
- They provide a short-acting burst of energy.
- Examples include sugar, honey, maple syrup, and some of the carbs in fruit and milk.
- They’re well-tolerated right before a run.
- Choose more simple carbs if you’re running in less than 1-2 hours.
- Complex carbs take longer to digest and provide more long-lasting energy.
- These include whole grains, vegetables, and legumes.
- They might not be as well tolerated right before a run.
What to avoid
- Avoid high fibre and high-fat foods 1-2 hours before a run. These take longer to digest and could cause cramping.
- Avoid high protein foods if you’re heading out the door in less than an hour.
- Make sure you’re starting your run well-hydrated, as dehydration can lead to stomach cramps. Drink 8-16 ounces of water before you go out for your run.
- Caffeine can give you extra energy but it may also upset your stomach; don’t try it for the first time on race day!
If you have a hard time eating before a run
- Start small – have something like a bite of banana or a cracker.
- Train your stomach to get used to taking in food and liquids.
- Try fluids with carbs (like sports drinks) or soft foods (like applesauce) instead of solid food.
- Make sure you’re not dehydrated as this can make stomach problems worse.
- Practice makes perfect! It is worth taking the time to find out what works for your body.
- A nutritionist can help you come up with a fuelling plan that works for you!
- The more time you have before your run, the more food (and variety!) you can eat.
- The rule of thumb is no more than 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour before exercise - 1 g/kg if running in 1 hour, 2 g/kg if running 2 hours, etc. You can use this to your advantage to figure out what to eat and when on race morning.