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Nutrition for Runners: What to Eat Before a Run

Written by Joaquim Anjos


Posted on December 04 2023

The Importance of Nutrition for Runners

There's no doubt that good nutrition can make all the difference to an athlete's performance. For this reason, it is extremely important for athletes to inform themselves and know what to eat before a run so that their race or training runs smoothly.

In turn, eating during the race, especially when it comes to long run or race distances or those that require a lot of physical effort, is also something that should never be neglected.

Finally, paying attention to what you eat after your races and training sessions is also extremely important as it can make all the difference when it comes to muscle recovery.

Even so, the truth is that many runners still haven't reached their full potential because although they know how important nutrition is, they don't have the knowledge to eat properly before, during and after races.

That said, in this blog article, we'll give you some tips on what to eat before a run, although we strongly advise you to visit a professional or specialist in the field of nutrition to get more detailed and appropriate information for each person.

What to Eat Before a Run

As we've seen, before we start our run, it's crucial to understand the importance of proper nutrition. The food we eat plays a vital role in providing energy, support and endurance. Therefore, knowing what to eat before a run and choosing the right foods is key to achieving success on the road or trail.

Here are 10 foods that can help you achieve your best sporting performance:

Banana: Rich in natural carbohydrates, bananas provide fast-absorbing energy, essential for boosting your performance during a run. It also contains potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps.

Wholegrain oats: An excellent source of complex carbohydrates, oats provide slow-release energy, keeping you sustained throughout your run. It is also high in fiber, which aids digestion.

Greek yogurt: Rich in protein, Greek yogurt supports the maintenance of muscle mass during exercise. Combined with carbohydrates, it is a balanced option for pre-race nutrition.

Apple: A source of natural carbohydrates and easy to digest, apples are a light and refreshing choice. The fiber present contributes to satiety, while the fructose offers a boost of energy level.

Almonds: Containing proteins and healthy fats, almonds provide sustainable energy. The presence of magnesium helps muscle function, which is essential for runners.

Whole grain bread: With complex carbohydrates and fiber, whole grain bread is a long-lasting source of energy. Add avocado for healthy fats, promoting satiety and constant energy.

Quinoa: This superfood is an excellent source of complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. In addition, quinoa is rich in fiber, which contributes to healthy digestion. The slow-release carbohydrates present in quinoa provide constant energy, making it a great choice for balanced pre run meals and snacks.

Sweet Potato: With a moderate glycemic index, sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates that release energy gradually. This helps maintain stable blood glucose levels, providing endurance during your run.

Watermelon: As well as being an excellent source of hydration due to its high water content, watermelon offers easily digestible carbohydrates. It also contains antioxidants that help protect cells during exercise.

Hard-boiled egg: Rich in high-quality proteins, hard-boiled eggs provide essential amino acids for muscle recovery. The yolk contains healthy fats and nutrients such as choline, which are beneficial for brain health.

In addition to these foods, you can also add some pre run snacks like isotonic sports drinks, energy gels, energy bars, water with electrolytes and energy smoothies if consumed around 30 to 60 minutes before the start of the race. These options provide a quick source of energy and help with hydration, but in no way replace the foods mentioned above.

The Perfect Timing for the Pre-Race Meal

Just as you don't want to run on an empty stomach because you might feel exhausted halfway through the race, you also need to make sure you don't do it on a full stomach. After all, nobody likes doing sport in those conditions.

So it's important to make sure you eat on time and in the right proportions. Fyke advises that you eat between 200 and 400 calories an hour or two before your race, focusing on a balanced combination of carbohydrates, proteins, high fiber foods and a small amount of healthy fats. This allows the body enough time to digest and convert the food into usable energy.

Still, the ideal time to eat before going for a run and the amounts of calories to take in vary from person to person, so you should take into account the intensity of the exercise, your body weight and your individual metabolism.

The Importance of Hydration Before Running

If you're still one of those who think that water doesn't make all the difference in the world of sport, we have to inform you of something... You couldn't be more wrong!

In addition to knowing what to eat before a run, you should also bear in mind that adequate hydration plays a fundamental role in the runner's performance and well-being. Understanding the importance of being well-hydrated before you put on your shoes is essential to optimizing your running experience. Here are some key points on why hydration beforehand is crucial for runners:

Prevention of Dehydration: Dehydration can lead to decreased physical and mental performance. Before running, ensuring your body is properly hydrated helps prevent excessive water loss during exercise.

Maintaining Water Balance: The human body is mainly composed of water, and maintaining a proper water balance is essential for vital biological functions. Hydration before running helps to ensure that your body functions efficiently.

Body Temperature Regulation: Sweating is a natural response during running to cool the body down. Being hydrated aids this process, preventing overheating and helping to regulate body temperature.

Improved Endurance and Energy: Running is an activity that uses up a lot of energy. Adequate hydration before running contributes to the availability of energy, improving endurance and allowing you to maintain your performance for longer.

Prevention of Cramps and Muscle Fatigue: Water plays a vital role in muscle function. Pre-run hydration helps prevent cramps and reduce muscle fatigue, promoting a smoother and more efficient run.

Aids Nutrient Absorption: Water facilitates the absorption of essential nutrients by the muscles. Consuming water before running optimizes the delivery of important nutrients, improving the effectiveness of the nutrition process.

Eat Like the Athlete You Are!

Knowing what to eat before a run is more than just a choice of healthy foods; it's a strategy that can determine the success of your performance on the roads and trails. 

Based on your personal tastes and the list previously presented, make your choice of pre-workout foods and set off on your running adventure with all the necessary precautions. Ah!!! And don't forget to drink water often!

So eat like the athlete you are, making conscious and strategic choices, ensuring that every run is an opportunity to reach your maximum sporting potential. Knowing what to eat before a run is more than an advantage; it's the key to getting through each stride with confidence and determination.

Were you already aware of the importance of each of the foods on our list? Share in the comments what your favorite foods are before you start your runs. We look forward to hearing about your preferences!


Now that you know what to eat before you run, define your training plan for a successful sports day.



  • Comment author

    Amei, como sou novata foi bem explícito 🙏 obrigada

    Posted by Oilta fonseca | December 19, 2023
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