Should you, or should you not eat before running training? Find out what works best for you and stick to that plan.
Energy supply to your muscles during one hour of running:
The human body has sufficient energy stores for running, for up to one hour: first and foremost, in the form of glucose, which is circulating in your blood stream – most probably derived from your previous meal. Once this energy source runs low during a training session, glucose levels are supplemented from glycogen, a form of carbohydrate stored within your liver and your muscles. Glycogen is broken down to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis, to maintain energy supply to your muscles.
Depending on your running intensity, small amounts of fat from your diet, or even from bodily fat reserves, may also be utilised as an energy source during one hour of running.
Should you eat before your training session?
If you prefer not to take water or an energy drink with you during your run, make sure that you are well hydrated before exercise. Drink at least 1 glass water within the hour before you start running.
Eating before your running training should be well timed: 30-90 minutes before your run is ideal for training. Don’t overdo it, your stomach will make you regret it if you overindulge just before a run!
Training in morning:
If you do not eat late at night, it may be wise to eat something small at least 30-60 minutes before you start running, to ensure sufficient energy levels for the onset of your training session. Carbohydrates are easily released from items such as a small banana, a small fruit yoghurt, a slice of toast with honey, a few crackers with marmite or honey, a small bowl of breakfast cereal or porridge with milk.
However, if eating early in the morning makes you feel queasy, but you still feel you need a little bit of an energy boost, 100-200 ml of an energy drink or a rehydration drink may suffice.
Training later in the day:
Try to plan your meals during the day so that you consume your carbohydrates in the meal before your training, preferably 1 hour or longer before training.
Pre-training meals that usually work well include: energy or muesli bars, smoothies, a protein or meal replacement shake, a sandwich, a baked potato / sweet potato with cottage cheese or scrambled eggs on toast.
Avoid the following foods pre-exercise, as they could result in indigestion and bloating: gassy cold drinks, rich, creamy, oily or deep fried foods; high fibre gassy veggies such as cabbage, onions, lentils or beans.
The most important thing to note is: what works well for another person may not work well for you. Try a few of the suggestions and stick with the options that work for you – listen to your body.
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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.