What you eat before you head out on the road can have a huge impact on your ability to hit your paces and enjoy your run. It's important to experiment with lots of different products, flavors, and varieties of foods to figure out what gives you a boost without upsetting your stomach. Here's what you need to know about fueling up for your next run.
Focus on Carbs
Before your run, stick to high-carb, low-fat, and low-fiber foods. Carbs are your body's preferred source of energy; they're the macronutrient your body can most quickly turn into energy. Because fat and fiber take much longer to digest, they can upset your stomach. There are plenty of packaged foods— sports bars, energy gels, and sports drinks—which are engineered to energize you on the road without upsetting your stomach. But whole foods can also be a good source of energy. Bananas, steel-cut oats, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, pretzels, whole-grain waffles, peanut butter and banana sandwich all make great pre-run meals.
Leave Plenty of Time
Each person's digestive pace is unique; but allow at least 20 minutes to digest your food before you head out for your run. On the road, your body shunts blood to the leg muscles you need to run. If there's food in your stomach that needs to be digested, it will then compete for that blood flow, and you're likely to get cramps, nausea, or end up dashing for the bathroom. In general, the more you eat, the more time you'll need to digest your food.
Don't Forget to Hydrate
Dehydration can have a huge impact on how you feel while you're on the road, and how easy or hard it feels to meet your pace targets. There's no set amount of fluids that each runner should consume. Nutritionists generally recommend that you drink half your body weight in ounces each day. So if you weigh 180 pounds, try to drink 90 ounces of calorie-free fluids throughout the day. It's best to sip small amounts throughout the day. Chugging down huge amounts right before your run is a recipe for a sloshy stomach, and emergency pit stops. It's okay to stick with plain water. If it's hot outside, you're a salty sweater, or you will be running for more than an hour, a sports drink can help you replenish the sodium you lose through sweat, and also restore your glycogen stores.
Tailor Your Meal to Your Run
How much you eat depends on what type of workout you are planning to do. If you will be running for 60 minutes or less, it's okay to run on empty. If you will be running for longer, or doing a more intense workout, like a speed session, then it's important to fuel up before you go. If your fuel tank is full, you'll have more energy on the road, so you can run faster, and ultimately take your fitness to the next level. If you're running for an hour or more, aim for 200 to 400 calories before you go. Again, stick with low-fat, low-fiber foods that are primarily carbs. If you are out for more than an hour on the road - say you're doing a three-hour long run while training for a marathon - you'll want to also refuel while you're on the road. Have 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour that you're on the road.