What to eat before a run: best foods for jogging explained

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Proper nutrition can help make your workout more enjoyable—whether you’re training for a park run or the London Marathon

Knowing what to eat before a run is important.

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Whether you’re training for your local park run or the London Marathon, the right nutrition can significantly improve your training performance and well-being in the process.

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So what should you eat before you run – and how long before you run?

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Here’s everything you need to know.

Running requires energy, which means you need to eat enough carbs (Picture: Adobe)

What should you eat before the run?

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There’s a whole, potentially overwhelming, world of information out there about what to eat before a run.

Familiar terms like “protein” and “carbohydrates” are being passed around with lesser-known terms like “isotonic” and “electrolytes.”

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According to high-performance trainer and author Alex Pedley, it pays to stick to the basics when deciding what to eat before a run.

“What you eat before a workout can affect your performance during a workout,” he told Mazic News.

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“Eating a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat helps fuel your muscles and aids recovery.”

Alex Pedley suggests meals like eggs with whole wheat toast or chicken with brown rice and veggies as ideal pre-run fuel.

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Fueling your run doesn’t necessarily mean you need to massively increase your carb intake (Image: Adobe)

That British Dietetic Association (BDA) – an organization representing British nutritionists – says the amounts you need to eat, particularly as far as carbohydrates go, depend on the length or intensity of your run.

So if you’re running a half marathon or doing 45 minutes of sprint work, you need to increase your carb intake.

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If your run is going to be a shorter distance and less intense, you won’t need to use up much more than you normally would.

Not eating enough carbs can mean you lack energy, tire easily, have trouble concentrating and are slow to recover, says the BDA.

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It’s recommended to consume 3g to 5g per pound of bodyweight per day if you’re someone who stays active three to five times a week.

If you do vigorous exercise for up to three hours a day, five to six times a week, the recommended intake is 5g to 8g per kg of body weight per day.

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And if your training level consists of three to six hours of intense running per day, five to six days per week, you would need to be consuming 8g to 10g per kg per day.

The BDA says most people don’t need to worry about consuming lots of extra protein, as a healthy diet should provide plenty of it.

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However, if you consider yourself an endurance athlete, you should aim to consume 1.2g to 1.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day.

When should you eat before you run?

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While knowing what to eat before your run can help you with your performance, knowing when to eat it can also have a huge impact.

Eat too early and you risk running out of energy, eat too close to your workout time and you could feel or worse, get sick.

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“Eat your meal between one and three hours before your run,” suggests Alex Pedley.

“Everyone will digest food differently, so it’s worth experimenting to see what time frame works best for you.

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“If you eat closer to exercise, choose foods that are easier to digest and contain mostly protein and carbohydrates.”

While eating is crucial, staying hydrated is also important (Picture: Adobe)

For example, Alex Pedley suggests eating a piece of fruit like an apple or banana when you’re less than an hour away from your run but think you need some extra nourishment.

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“But avoid eating anything substantial right before your run,” he warns, “as it can lead to gastrointestinal upset.”

If you prefer to run in the morning, knowing how to fit food is more of a challenge, as you probably won’t have enough time to properly digest before stomping the sidewalks.

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Some fitness experts, like Joe Wicks, suggest not eating before a workout and instead relying on the energy you used up the night before.

But they also say that it comes down to personal preference.

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If you’re not sure if this method is right for you, it’s worth starting small and gradually building up your running routine to see if fasting works for you.

How much should you drink before running?

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While eating is very important when running, drinking is just as important.

“It’s crucial to stay hydrated before and during your run, as as little as 2% dehydration can affect exercise performance,” says Alex Pedley.

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“Drinking 4 to 6 ounces (118 mL to 177 mL) of liquid every 20 minutes is a good amount to aim for.”

He also recommends drinking a sports drink for runs of 60 minutes or more so you can “replace lost glycogen [how muscles store carbohydrates] store”.

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