What to Eat Before Running

By Jennifer Restuccio a Recent ASU Nutrition Student


So, as you can imagine, I have no idea what I need to do to be able to run this marathon which is about one year away at the time of writing this. So, I did some research. I was fascinated with the science behind sports nutrition.

Your pre-run meal can either make or break your workout. A perfectly planned pre-run meal will fuel your body with exactly what it needs to power through those tough moments. Eating before running helps control hunger and ensures optimal blood sugar levels.

My big question is, “What should I eat before running?”.

The goal is to keep it simple. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before your workout. You want to consume foods that you digest easily and quickly.

The perfect pre-run snack is a reasonable volume, low in fiber, low in fat, has some protein, and is high in carbohydrates. The main thing you need right before a workout is carbohydrates.

In addition, make sure you stay hydrated before a run. It’s best to drink at least 20 ounces of water 1-2 hours before running.

Keep in mind that if you are running for less than 60 minutes at a relaxed pace, you might just need a glass of water beforehand.

Here are some examples of snacks you can eat 30-60 minutes before a run. Eat a banana, a slice of toast, half a cup of dry cereal, or half of a sports energy bar.

Personally, my favorite pre-run snack is a baked sweet potato about 45 minutes before my run.

What you eat before running is important, but it’s also important when you eat. You don’t want to be running on empty, and you also don’t want to be running on a full stomach (YIKES).

If you run on a full stomach you might experience a cramp in your side.

Runners call that a side stitch. Side stiches can happen from eating too much before a run, too soon before a run, or drinking too much water before or during a run.

If you’re eating a full meal, it should be eaten 3-4 hours before running.

Eating a meal 3-4 hours before running is especially important for long-distance runners.

An example of a pre-run meal is 5 scrambled egg whites, 1 whole egg, two slices of white toast with jelly, and 1 banana. Or you could try 1 white bagel with 2 slices of turkey and about 30 grapes. Notice that these meals are substantially larger than the snacks mentioned above and contain moderate amounts of protein.

If all of this confuses you, don’t worry. I’ve broken it down into 2 basic rules.

The bottom line:

Snacks = 30-60 minutes before running, high carb

Meals = 3-4 hours before running, high carb, moderate protein


As it turns out, the gargantuan task of running a marathon doesn’t require an equally formidable meal prep strategy.  Don’t over think it, keep it simple, and take it one step at a time.







Looking for more fun articles? Check out the Fill Your Plate blog for new articles every week. For fun recipes to cook with the family, be sure to check out the Fill Your Plate recipe section.

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