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Should You Eat Before A Run?

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'26.2' - The Marathon Training Website:

Should You Eat Before A Run?


This is much-debated question among runners.


One argument says you need nutrition to fuel your run, the other says itís harder to run if you are digesting food. So which one is correct?

I find it depends on several factors:

  • The time of day

  • How far (or how long) and type of run

  • What you eat

  • Your own ability to run after eating


Time of Day

If you are running first thing in the morning, you will probably not have eaten for 10 hours or more. Unless youíre going for a very short run, I recommend you do have a light breakfast about an hour before you run. This could be something like green tea (or coffee if you must!) with a slice of toast. A small bowl of fruit also makes a very nutritious meal. Banana, orange grapes are all fairly easy to digest and are loaded with carbohydrates.

Later in the day like lunchtime or in the evening I much prefer to go for my training run before eating. First of all we tend to eat more at these mealtimes, and also we will have eaten previously in the last few hours.



Distance & Type of Run

If you are gong for a fairly short run of say, less than 40 minutes, you can probably get by with your stored energy reserves. If you are doing longer then you should consider a brief snack about an hour before setting out (Some people can get away with less).

If you are doing a harder workout such as speedwork or a tempo run then you might want to skip eating prior to the run. I find itís really hard on the digestive system if you eat and then try to run fast for any extended period.

If youíre going to race (marathon excepted) I recommend you skip the food!

What You Eat

 This is fairly obvious Ė some foods are much harder to digest. This is true for all of the food groups. I find vegetables like cucumber require a longer time but this may be fine for others. Even bread can be harder on some people, so as I mentioned above, if you have breakfast before running one slice of toast should be all.



Dairy products can cause digestion problems so keep these to a minimum before you head out.


So, is it OK to eat before running?

Yes if you consume only a relatively light meal, - and the earlier the better. This is truer for morning runs. During the day you should have consumed enough to food to fuel your runs and you donít need to eat before you go. The exception can be a long training run of two or more hours. A nutrition snack before will definitely help.



Produced by Marius Bakken, an Olympic runner and marathon coach. Marius' program has a wealth of training information including

  • A 120 page guide,

  • 8 different training schedules

  • 25 instructional videos.

Here's what Grete Waitz's husband & coach has to say about Marius' program:   "Marius Bakken has used his unique experience as a world-class runner to put together one of the most comprehensive marathon products I have seen.  Marius' experience and knowledge of modern training techniques will benefit  runners, from the beginner to the experienced marathoner."

- Jack Waitz, husband/coach of 9 time NYC marathon winner Grete Waitz

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