I’ve spent the last decade researching and experimenting with what to eat not only on race day, but for my weekend long runs as well. Everyone is so different when it comes to nutrition. There are so many things to factor in like your weight and gender, not to mention how you process fuel. I have definitely found what works for me, personally, but it’s also my job to figure out works for my clients as well.
As a running coach, one of the most common questions I get is “How much and when should I eat before I run?”
The answer isn’t that simple because everyone is different, but as a general rule to start with, I recommend eating a healthy carbohydrate dominate breakfast one to two hours before your long run or endurance race. For me, I use the size of my fist as a guide to “how much” I should eat. If I eat more than this, I run the risk of having GI issues mid-run and if I eat less, then I can feel sluggish and exhausted toward the end of the workout.
Another question I get is “Should I fuel for my shorter mid-week runs?”
Again, everyone is different, but I like to concentrate on post run nutrition for these. I have found that not eating before a short or easy run and focusing on what I eat within 10-30 minutes post run is the method that works best for me. There is no evidence that fasting before you run will improve your fitness, but there is some that indicates that it may help you metabolize fat in a different way, which could benefit you toward the end of an endurance race. Read more about that HERE.
So, what should you eat? There are hundreds of ideas, and you might have your own tried and true recipes, but I’d love to share with you what works for me. I eat smaller meals that include whole food which are primarily made up of nutrient rich carbs, with a small amount of healthy fat and protein. I avoid packaged foods with chemical additives, and try to prep my food ahead of time to avoid grabbing junk food. I like things that can be made ahead of time like overnight oats, bars, and pancakes so I don’t need to fuss with making something before I head out the door.
Here are some of my favorites
No Bake 5 Ingredient Energy Bars – I love prepping these ahead of time and love that there is no baking involved. These are my go to energy bar, especially in the hot summer months. They are packed with things like beet juice ( which is great to eat before you run). Add a few chips to give you that extra glycogen boost.
Caramel Chocolate Pecan Turtle Overnight Oats – I add in a tablespoon of natural peanut butter and some chia seeds for extra protein and omegas. This recipe feels like I’m eating a dessert, even though it’s really low in sugar. Delicious!
Slow Cooker Granola – Make this ahead of time in the Crock Pot and store in the fridge. I have a small bowl with Almond milk pre- long run for a balanced breakfast.
No Bake Salted Caramel Latte Cookies – Another no bake recipe that I love. Even though this is a “cookie” it has all whole, healthy ingredients and if you want you can add some optional chips for an extra boost. I find that a little caffeine before a run is also helpful. If you don’t drink coffee you could use decaf.
Horchata Smoothie -Sometimes I just do not feel up to eating on those early morning runs, so a smoothie does the trick. I like the flavor of this one and you can add boosters like chia and hemp seeds to add extra nutrition.
Overnight Maple Raspberry Chia Pudding – This is a great light meal. It doesn’t contain any heavy ingredients, so, when my stomach is giving me trouble, this is my meal of choice!
Reduced Sugar Blueberry Muffins – This and pancakes are my two favorite pre-race meals. It’s a little more dense than some of the others, so it leaves you feeling really full and satisfied. You could add boosters such as chia and hemp seeds to this as well.
4 Ingredient Crepes – Make these ahead of time and place in the microwave for 10 seconds or eat them cold– delicious either way.
Individual Baked Oatmeal Cups – If I can keep these away from my family, then these work great. Everyone loves them and their gone in a day. A must try!
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Herbed Ham and Cheese Muffins – It’s like eating a sweet and savory breakfast in one small package. They can be placed in the frig or freezer for up to a week. Yum!
Sweet and Salty Cherry Pineapple Quinoa – If you don’t mind a cold meal, then you’ve got to try this. It has tons of flavor and perfectly balanced.
Steven’s Homemade Energy Bars – Love how east these are to make and how they have everything you need to run long. You could really get creative with this recipe adding in so many different combinations of add ins.
No Sugar Added Homemade Electrolyte Drink – You could drink this all on it’s own, or for added electrolyte’s before you head out. I’m addicted to this drink. Also wonderful post run!
Crunchy Thai Style Quinoa – Again, you have to like a cold meal, but the salty flavor of the peanut, mixed with the tangy lime is so delicious.
Whole Grain Pancakes – I make a huge batch on Sunday, let them completely cool and then freeze them in a zip lock bag. During the week, I’ll take one or two out and microwave for 15-20 seconds.
What do you eat before your long run?