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Diet and Workout

What to Eat Before Running in the Morning

The rhythmic sound of your footsteps hitting the pavement in the early morning hours can be both invigorating and soothing. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting your fitness journey, the importance of proper nutrition before a morning run cannot be overstated.

The food you consume before lacing up your sneakers plays a crucial role in providing the fuel your body needs to perform at its best.

In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of pre-run nutrition, with a focus on endurance running capacity, covering topics ranging from the age-old debate of whether eating before or after a run is best, to the significance of carbohydrates and hydration on your overall running performance.

By the time you’ve read through, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions about what to eat before running in the morning.


Is it Better to Eat Before or After a Run?

As the sun begins to rise and the world awakens, runners are faced with a decision: to eat or not to eat before their morning run.

The debate between those who prefer running on an empty stomach and those who believe in pre-run nourishment has fueled countless conversations.

Proponents of eating before a run argue that fueling the body ensures you have adequate energy to sustain the workout. On the other hand, advocates of fasting before a run suggest that it can help the body tap into fat stores for fuel, potentially enhancing endurance, and increasing exercise capacity over time.

According to experts from reputable sources, the choice between eating or fasting before training runs largely depends on the individual’s goals and comfort.

For shorter, low-intensity runs, some runners might feel comfortable running on an empty stomach. However, for longer and more intense workouts, having a light meal or pre-run snack beforehand can provide the necessary energy to perform optimally.


What Not to Eat Before a Run

If you do decide to eat before a run, please keep in mind that not all foods are created equal in the realm of pre-run nutrition. Heavy, greasy, and high-fat foods can lead to discomfort during your run due to their impact on digestion.

Foods high in fat, take longer to digest, potentially causing a feeling of sluggishness. High-fiber foods might lead to gastrointestinal distress, which is certainly not the way you want to kick-start your morning workout.

Instead, opt for easily digestible options that strike a balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Consider a banana with a tablespoon of nut butter or a small bowl of oatmeal topped with berries. These options provide a steady release of energy without burdening your digestive system or causing a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.


What to Eat Before a Race

Preparing for a race involves a different level of pre-run nutrition strategy. For a sustained energy boost, consider a balanced meal that includes a carbohydrate-rich meal for quick energy, proteins to aid in muscle repair and healthy fats for satiety.

A turkey and avocado wrap or a quinoa salad with vegetables and energy bars are excellent choices.

Please remember though that the time leading up to a race isn’t the best moment to introduce new foods to your diet. Stick with the options that have worked well during your training period to avoid any unwelcome surprises on race day.

Building your perfect breakfast routine takes time, but brings with it a huge reward.


How Long Before a Run Should You Eat?

Timing is everything when it comes to the question of what to eat before running in the morning. Eating too close to your run can lead to discomfort while eating too early might leave you feeling hungry mid-run.

The ideal gap between your last meal and your run varies based on the length and intensity of the workout. For a light pre-run snack, consuming it around 30 minutes before the run might suffice. However, for a larger meal, aim for 1 to 2 hours of digestion time.

It’s important to note that each individual’s digestion process is unique. Experiment with timing during your training sessions to find what works best for you. A good rule of thumb is to give your body enough time to digest without feeling overly full.


What If You Don’t Feel Like Eating Before a Run?

Mornings can be challenging, especially if your appetite doesn’t cooperate. If you find yourself struggling to eat before a long run, consider consuming a light pre-run snack that won’t weigh you down.

A piece of fruit, a yogurt cup, or a smoothie made with fruits, vegetables, and a source of protein can provide the necessary pre-run fuel without making you feel overly full.

Additionally, liquid meal replacements can be a convenient solution. They offer a balance of nutrients in an easily digestible form, ensuring your body has the energy it needs for your run.


How Much Water Should You Drink Before a Run?

Hydration is paramount for a successful run, even before you hit the road. Proper fluid intake ensures that your body is ready for the physical demands of running. This kind of fluid intake can come in the form of water or sports drinks.

However, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much water to drink before a run. It depends on factors such as your body weight, the weather, and the duration of your run.

As a general guideline, aim to drink about 16 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before your run. Sip on an additional 8 ounces about 20 to 30 minutes before you head out. This will help prevent dehydration during your workout.


Why Carbs Are Important Before a Run

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, making them an essential component when wondering what to eat before running in the morning. They provide readily available fuel that powers your muscles and helps sustain your energy levels during your run.

The key is choosing the right kind of carbs. Simple carbohydrates, found in foods like fruits or a sports drink, offer quick energy boosts. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates, present in whole grains and starchy vegetables, provide a steady release of energy over a longer period.

When planning your pre-run meal, consider incorporating a mix of both types of carbs into your high carbohydrate breakfast to ensure a well-rounded energy source that provides a gradual postprandial glucose flux.


Tailoring Pre-Run Meals to Your Goals

As you progress from leisurely jogs to more intense training sessions, your pre-run meal choices will naturally evolve.

For casual morning runs, your body might perform well with a light snack—a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit—to provide a quick source of energy. However, when gearing up for races or longer runs, a more substantial meal is in order.

Consider a balanced meal that encompasses carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Whole grains, lean proteins like turkey or tofu, and a medley of vegetables can sustain you throughout the run. Experiment with different combinations during your training sessions to uncover the meals that provide optimal performance and satisfaction.


Pre-Run Breakfast Ideas for Runners

A balanced breakfast sets the tone for a successful morning run. It might be a good idea to consult a balanced diet chart to help you create a successful morning meal plan.

When thinking about what to eat before running in the morning consider these breakfast ideas that provide a mix of nutrients to fuel your workout:

  1. Oatmeal Power Bowl: A bowl of oatmeal topped with sliced bananas, a sprinkle of chia seeds, and a dollop of almond butter offers a combination of complex carbs, potassium, and healthy fats.
  2. Greek Yogurt Parfait: Layer Greek yogurt with granola, mixed berries, and a drizzle of honey. This option provides protein for muscle support and antioxidants for recovery.
  3. Whole Grain Toast with Eggs: Scrambled or poached eggs on whole grain toast deliver protein and whole grains for sustained energy release.
  4. Fruit Smoothie: Blend your favorite fruits, a scoop of protein powder, and a handful of spinach for a nutrient-packed pre-run drink.
  5. Nut Butter Banana Wrap: Spread almond or peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla, add sliced bananas, and roll it up for a convenient and energy-boosting wrap.

Snack Ideas when running in the morning

When a full meal isn’t practical before your morning run, consider these light and quick snack options:

  1. Banana with Nut Butter: A simple yet effective option that combines easily digestible carbohydrates with healthy fats and protein.
  2. Rice Cakes with Hummus: Top rice cakes with hummus for a balanced snack that provides both complex carbs and a touch of protein.
  3. Energy Bars: Opt for a low-fiber energy bar with a mix of carbs and a moderate amount of protein for a convenient on-the-go snack.
  4. Trail Mix: Create your own mix with nuts, dried fruits, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips for a combination of healthy fats and quick energy.
  5. Homemade Protein Balls: Make your own protein-packed bites using ingredients like oats, protein powder, nut butter, and honey.

Common Pre-Run Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid

Proper pre-run nutrition is a fine balance between providing your body with the energy it needs and avoiding potential discomfort during your run. Here are some common mistakes to steer clear of:


It’s natural to want to fuel up before a run, but overeating can lead to discomfort. A heavy meal can cause sluggishness, cramping, and even nausea. Aim for a portion that satisfies your hunger without leaving you feeling overly full.

High-Fat Foods

While healthy fats are an essential part of your diet, they’re not the best choice right before a run. High-fat foods take longer to digest, potentially leading to an upset stomach or a heavy feeling during your workout. Opt for foods that are easier on digestion, like carbohydrates and lean proteins.

New or Unfamiliar Foods

Race day or a challenging training run is not the time to experiment with new foods. Introducing unfamiliar foods can lead to unexpected digestive issues, leaving you regretting your choice. Stick with foods that you’ve tested and know work well with your body.

Skipping Hydration

Hydration is key to optimal performance, even before you start running. Failing to hydrate adequately before a run can lead to dehydration, affecting your energy levels and overall performance.

Sip water throughout the morning leading up to your run to ensure you’re properly hydrated.

Too Much Fiber

While fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, high-fiber foods can cause digestive distress during a run. Fiber-rich foods take longer to digest and can lead to bloating, gas, and discomfort. Save your fiber-rich meals for after your run to promote recovery.

Sugary Treats

While quick sugar hits might offer an initial burst of energy, they can also lead to crashes later on.

Foods high in refined sugars can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash that leaves you feeling drained. Opt for more balanced options that provide sustained energy release.

Inadequate Timing

The timing of your pre-run meal matters. Eating too close to your run can lead to cramping and digestive discomfort.

On the other hand, eating too early might leave you feeling hungry during your workout. Experiment with different timings during your training runs to find what works best for you.

Neglecting Protein

While carbohydrates are a primary source of energy, don’t overlook the importance of protein. Protein helps with muscle repair and recovery, ensuring that your muscles are ready for the demands of your run. Include a moderate amount of protein in your pre-run meal or snack.

Not Listening to Your Body

Perhaps the most important rule of pre-run nutrition is to listen to your body. Everyone’s digestive system is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.

Pay attention to how different foods make you feel and adjust your pre-run nutrition based on your body’s signals.



As the dawn breaks and the world is bathed in soft light, your early morning run now awaits. Armed with the knowledge gained from this article, you now possess the tools to make informed decisions about your pre-run nutrition.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for you might differ from what works for others, and that’s perfectly fine. The key is to listen to your body, experiment with different foods and timing, and fine-tune your pre-run routine to support your goals.