So, you’re getting ready to head out for a run, and you’re not sure what to eat. You know, last time you went out, and you felt terrible, but you can’t quite remember what did you have that made you feel so bad? It was nothing unusual. Well, I’m Jesse Funk, and I’m here today to share with you what to eat before because this is Runner’s High, the long-distance running show.

Before we get too far into what to eat, I think it’s probably prudent that we talked a little bit about what not to eat. And that’s kind of the whole crux of it, right? If we know what foods to avoid, then we know what we can actually eat and get away with. Well, it’s going to be a pretty short list of things to avoid, but it’s going to encompass a lot of things. 

Number one, greasy foods. Greasy foods are going to be terrible for you before a run, generally speaking, because that extra grease creates GI distress. So, when you have gastrointestinal distress, that’s when you have issues. So, we want to avoid any kind of food that creates any kind of GI distress. So, besides grease, and extra fat, what causes you GI distress?

Most likely, it’s also going to be a really high amount of fiber because that gets things moving, or it’s going to be something very, very spicy. Now, it probably depends on you how much spice you can tolerate, but I’m kind of on the medium level. I just try to avoid it all together before I go out to run. 

Now we can get a little bit more into what actually to eat before run. It partially depends on when you’re going out for the day. If you are going before work and you’re waking up early and going to do it before breakfast, personally, I always stick with either nothing depending on how long they’re on is, or something very small, maybe a snack bar or an energy gel, something you already know is kind of tried and true doesn’t bother you and isn’t going to be that many calories.

Now, if you’re actually going to try to eat breakfast, before you go, most of the things we would eat for breakfast are probably fine; eggs, toast, bananas. Typically, most runners don’t have any issues with any of those. I personally don’t do very well with bananas and running. So, that’s something I found out, but is not the case for the majority of people. 

The largest component of figuring out what to eat before you run it actually has to do with you personally and experimenting over time. So, I can give you the general guidelines of avoid grease, avoid spices, avoid lots of fiber. But some people do really well taking say, toast, a bran muffin before they go run. Well, you’re gonna have a fair amount of fiber of those things, and they don’t bother them at all. I’m actually one of those people, I can take a fair amount of fiber and it doesn’t bother me before I go run. But you may be entirely different. 

Along with that experimentation, one of the things you want to try is seeing if you can increase the amount of food you eat before you run, so that you have a higher tolerance over time. I know if I go back to thinking in high school, before a race in track, my go-to was to eat nothing. And this was a terrible strategy. Sometimes when you’re waiting for the two-mile, which if you’ve ever run high school track, you know is near the very last event.

You’re waiting for hours eating nothing and you actually could be digesting a few calories here and there to make sure that your carbohydrate stores and your glycogen stores are topped off, but I didn’t know better. 

So, over time, I’ve tried eating a little bit more, eating this and that, and found that there’s kind of a window for me where I can eat a certain amount of food, almost regardless of what it is, and go run, but a little bit because I’ve trained that over time, I’ve increased the amount of food. So, you might try that along with your experimentation to see what can I tolerate, how much can I tolerate, and can I increase that so that I can actually get the calories in that I need for the duration of the run?

That being said, there are a couple things to take into consideration, like how long is your run, what’s the intensity of your run, and you know how much fuel you’re going to need depends on those things, as well as how volatile your stomach is going to be. 

So, the harder you’re going to run, the more likely it is You’re going to have a higher volatility with more food on your stomach, meaning you’re more likely to throw it up. A good example of this was actually my friend in college. For whatever reason, our coach thought it would be a great idea to have breakfast right before our two-mile time trial at the beginning of the season.

Not only are people in the worst shape they’ll be all year because it’s the beginning of the season, but you’re doing high intensity as hard as you can go for two miles. I was wise enough not to eat too much but a fair number of my teammates ate a normal breakfast, and eggs ended up on the track by the end of it. That just goes to show you that experimentation is important. But you also have to take into account your own current fitness level, and what you’re doing that intensity of the run, that you’re out to do. 

One of the things we haven’t talked about yet, and I want to make sure you keep in mind is how long after your eating are you going run? It matters more. So, what you eat if you’re going out immediately, but say you ate lunch, and you’ve got after school track or a two to three hour window before you go out and run; it’s going to matter a little bit less because you’re already going to have started that digestion process. Now, all the food’s not going to be gone.

I can count a number of times in high school, where I ended up vomiting and having tater tots come out of my nose. Super pleasant, I guarantee you, you don’t want to experience that. So, the duration of time after you eat does matter. But it kind of depends on again, what you ate, and the intensity of that run. 

Before I give you this last bit of advice, don’t forget to hit subscribe and stay tuned to the channel as I share with you my almost 20 years of competitive learning experience to help you become a better runner. Now, if you want to know this last piece, it’s actually not necessarily what you eat before the run, but what you were eating while running.

And this has to do a little bit with the tolerance of putting food on your stomach while you’re running. Now I remember a story about Dean Karnazes, who’s an ultra-marathoner actually going out on his training runs and picking up a pizza to run on the way. This kind of violates a lot of what we talked about greasy foods, too much food, but it was something that he could tolerate. 

Now, you’re typically not going to need to eat if your run is less than a roughly an hour and a half. If you’re going to be out for longer than that. It’s definitely important to take in water or some kind of hydration and then food. Keep in mind that if you’re eating while you’re exercising, or if you haven’t digested all your food, you’re only going to be able to digest roughly two to 300 calories an hour while you’re working out.

Our metabolism slows down during physical activity, so you aren’t going to be able to take in as much and digest as much while you’re actually running. Well, stay tuned for the next episode of Runner’s High where I share more tips with you and don’t forget to hit subscribe.