Preparation is essential for runners. No matter what you are, a professional athlete, sportsperson, or a fitness enthusiast, it is best to prepare yourself before the start of your fitness schedule. Doing the rounds as part of your endurance training, appropriately fueling your running sessions helps reduce fatigue, build stamina, and speeds up your recovery.
What to eat before I run? It is a common question asked by most runners – be it amateur fitness freaks, aspiring sportspersons, or those who’ve regularly been running and are curious to fine-tune their diet to boost their on-track performance.
While there’s no specific superfood as such that guarantees optimal results for every runner, taking care of certain basics in terms of nutritional needs, intake timings, and specific goals can help you figure out the perfect pre-run meals or snacks.
On the other hand, eating the wrong food before running can lead to reduced performance and even specific health issues such as stomach cramps and nausea.
Role of Exercise in Our Life
Exercise or physical activity helps improve your health, build stamina, and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Exercise and physical activity can have several immediate as well as long-term health benefits.
Above all, exercise is proven to improve the quality of life. Studies suggest that just 30 minutes of adequate physical activity a day can help you feel these benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that to stay healthy, people between the age of 19 and 64 should aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.
[Read: Best Exercises and Tips]
If you exercise daily, you can:
- manage your weight better
- lower the risk of stroke and heart attack
- regulate your blood cholesterol levels more effectively
- regulate lower blood pressure well
- reduce the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes
- reduce your risk of falls
- build stronger muscles, bones, and joints
- reduce the risk of osteoporosis and joint disorders
- feel more energy and sleep better
- recover better from illnesses or injuries
How Important is it to do it the Right Way
While anyone can exercise at will, doing it the right way needs some thoughts and considerations. Doing exercise the right way is vital to ensure you get the maximum benefits out of your workouts along with keeping injuries, overstraining, and other adverse effects at bay.
In particular, if you’re looking for strenuous physical activity such as running, it is vital that you do it in the right way to avoid severe injuries, muscle tear, cramps, etc.
For those suffering from certain health disorders such as asthma, diabetes, or neurological ailments, regular exercise becomes a must to ensure better management of the condition. In such circumstances, doing exercise the right way becomes a matter of priority.
While exercises and workout routines help you burn fat, build lean muscles, increase stamina, improve flexibility, build endurance, and gain strength, following the right approach can lead to a wide range of health problems. And not just doing things in the wrong hurts, overdoing is equally devastating since it can lead to muscle strain and severe injuries.
Put together, by avoiding over-exercise and doing things in the right way; you can mitigate the following complications:
1. Heart disorders
As per a research conducted at the Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, too much running on the road, track, or treadmill may increase your risk of various heart disorders such as coronary artery calcification, severe diastolic dysfunction, and potential large-artery wall stiffening.
Read: How to Improve Heart Disorder
2. Chronic fatigue
Doing exercise in the wrong way may damage your musculoskeletal system, including the muscles, ligaments(1), tendons, and in severe cases, bones too.
3. Menstrual complaints
Too much or incorrect exercise drains your body. When you exercise, your body pushes itself into a survival mode. Consequently, some of the less-important body functions such as menstruation are shut down to preserve energy. Women who overdo exercise or follow the wrong approach generally tend to experience menstrual issues.
4. Sleep disorders
When exercise is done in the wrong manner, your adrenaline stops functioning correctly, hence your mind remains disturbed on the days you work out, and you tend to have a disturbed sleep cycle.
5. Chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation(2) is another adverse effect of incorrect or too much exercise. For example, running in the wrong manner or for extended durations improves the oxygen utilization to over 10 to 20 times as compared to when your body is at rest.
An increased oxygen consumption exponentially increases the production of free radicals in your body, which tends to cause oxidative damage to your muscles and tissues. As a result, you suffer from chronic inflammation.
6. Reduced performance
Pretty much clear, over-exercising or following the wrong approach over time tends to degrade the overall performance of your body in the longer run. It can be considered as a cumulative consequence of all the side effects associated with doing exercise in the wrong way.
If you have concerns regarding the way you are exercising, it is recommended that you consult a specialized fitness trainer.
Eating Before Exercising
Fortunately, by consulting a fitness trainer, or merely by understanding the nature of body and your exercise regimen (running, weight training, etc.), you can quickly figure out what you must be eating before working out.
As such, timing is everything, so it’s essential that you time the pre-run meals to perfection.
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1. Timing matters
Similar to all significant facets of training, finding an appropriate time to have a meal before running is your preference.
While some people can go for a run within 10 to 20 minutes of having some snacks or a small brunch and face no stomach complaints whatsoever, some people need to wait for hours before making it to the treadmill.
You should figure out what works best for you.
Here’s how to do it:
To figure out your ideal timing window, start with eating a mid-sized snack 60 minutes before running. If it goes well with your stomach, try pulling the same meal forward by 10 to 20 minutes and see how your stomach reacts.
If your belly feels the load, push the same meal back by 5 to 10 minutes.
Keep varying the timing up or down by 5 to 10 minutes till you get the nearest time to eat before experiencing any types of stomach issues.
2. Find out the nutritional needs of your running session
You should evaluate the number of calories you burn and the number of carbs you need for completing your run.
Accordingly, you can decide the number of carbs and calories you should load up for a running session. The nutritional needs may vary depending upon the pace and distance of your run. Remember that your body stores a fair amount of glycogen from your daily diet that is used during the workouts, so remember not to overload with calories and carbs.
You can use a calorie calculator to figure out the number of calories you burn. Given the glycogen stored in your muscles from each diet, the need to fill up-front won’t be more than some 500 to 600 calories before running even long distances akin to marathons.
3. Morning Runners
In individuals who run early morning, the levels of stored glycogen in the muscles is relatively lower as compared to those who run during the latter half of the day since you’ve not had anything for some 6 to 8 hours.
You still don’t need to load much of carbs or calories early morning unless you’re up for a long-distance run.
4. Figure out foods to eat before running
An essential part of finding an excellent pre-run diet is to figure out a food that goes well through your digestive tract.
- Bananas are an excellent choice for a pre-run meal, though it may give hurt burn to a few people – so choose wisely.
- Avoid high fiber or fatty foods that stay long in your belly before getting digested.
- Prefer a good mix of complex and simple carbs with a small boost of protein to make you feel full.
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A Few Options Worth Trying
- Energy bars get digested easily. However, avoid diet protein bars, as they have low or no carbs.
- Energy bars such as a granola bar are natural, light, and filled with carbohydrates.
- Bananas are great for runners and offer the right blend of potassium and carbs.
- Oatmeal is rich in fiber and makes a great pre-run meal for those who can’t eat too close to a workout or running session.
- Toasts with jelly and peanut butter make a great medium snack option before running.
- Wheat bagel along with cream cheese or peanut butter provides a significant boost of protein.
- Granola and yogurt make a great blend of complex and simple carbs.
These are some great tips on what can make a great pre-run meal to boost performance, prevent cramps, and stay energized. While having a meal before running is a highly personalized aspect, these simple tips can help you figure out the optimum pre-run snack or meal for yourself.