Should You Eat Before A Run? Here’s What A Dietitian Has To Say

This post is from sports dietitian + athlete — Lydia Nader [@fuelwithnader]. Get to know Lydia more by listening to her on The CHAARG Podcast — episode #85, all about marathons!

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Eating before a workout is a mixed bag of recommendations. Some say you have to eat before a workout + others say it is better to be fasted. When your goal in training for a half marathon is to be stronger, fitter + healthier, the answer to that question is yes, you need to eat before runs + workouts.

Why? Because as a runner, you use lots of energy. The energy runners use is called glucose.  When you eat food or drink a sugary beverage, your body breaks it down to glucose. This glucose is used as energy in our muscles + organs. That energy is what you can use in a workout or a run. Yes, we have stored energy, but our organs + muscles can only store so much energy. 

If you want me to get specific, ask me about carbs in muscles, liver, + in the bloodstream… as well as how much energy [re: calories] are needed based on your body weight in the CHAARG Run Club slack channel that all members have access to once training starts June 1 ; ). Below is a great table sharing a variety of snacks + meals I recommend eating based on if you want to eat 1-2 hours vs 3-4 hours before your workout!

You may be thinking: “Why is there always a protein source with each of the pre-run recipe ideas?” When you run, you are stretching + contracting the muscles in your body. It is stress on the muscle + there can be breakdown of the muscle. But not to worry, you can protect your muscle by eating a little protein before a run or workout. You can also begin the muscle building process during the workout rather than just waiting until you are done with the run! Talk about maximizing your training! : )

My biggest piece of advice: Find YOUR best pre-run food. This is part of *training your gut*, which is discussed further here. Everyone’s stomach is different + can handle different types of carbs. Some runners can’t handle fiber before a run, whereas others love high fiber bread before a run.

Practice your pre-run fuel + test out different foods, ++ start with a slow amount of carbs + build on it. Don’t get scared if something happens, like having to run to the bathroom. That just eliminates a food or amount of carbs that you know doesn’t agree with you before a run. Cross it off, + try something else. You will find that perfect snack or meal + you will feel more confident going into runs once you find that snack!

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Check out CHAARG Run Club + CHAARG 5K programs throughout the year to take your training to the next level! 

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