While the act of running itself is relatively simple, you’ll likely discover that the actual lifestyle of a runner is quite complex. Our performance on the run is affected my so many things besides running: sleep, hydration, core strength, VO2 capacity, cadence, and most importantly – pre and post run fuel.
Finding the right pre-run snack may take a bit of experimentation. Not everybody’s stomach responds well to certain types of foods, and discovering this through trial and error is never fun.
On the other hand, finding the right post-run snack can feel especially frustrating when no matter how much you eat, you still feel hungry.
Regardless of how far you run or how often you do it, you’ve likely experienced that overwhelming “runger”. The feeling when your stomach seems insatiable no matter how much or how often you eat. This runger often arrives in full force after a long run, and can become a real challenge if you haven’t yet found the right post run snacks.
Luckily, there are a few guidelines we can follow to help find those perfect snacks. Perfecting your pre and post run nutrition is essential not just for your sanity, but for your performance on the run and recovery afterwards.
How to Choose the Right Pre-Run Foods
Eating before a run can be tricky if you don’t time it right. Consuming even the smallest snack immediately before heading out will likely set you up for stomach cramps and intestinal woes. However, eating a small snack or meal more than 30 minutes before a run is a great way to carb load and fuel your body with energy.
When deciding what to eat before a run, look for foods that are simple and high in carbs. You’ll want to avoid dairy and any complex snacks to help minimize your chance of dealing with tummy troubles on the run. Some runners are able to tolerate cream cheese, while others won’t dare try it before a run. Listen to your body and take the time to learn what it responds to the best.
Simple carb-heavy snacks and breakfasts such as toast, bagels, waffles, pancakes and basic cereals are a great starting point. Adding a burst of sugar with a banana or some honey is another great option to load up on fuel.
Here are five quick and simple pre-run snack ideas that will keep you fueled and energized on the run, without causing any stomach issues.
5 Energizing Pre-Run Snack Ideas
- Banana with Peanut Butter or Honey
- Bagel or Toast with Peanut Butter
- Whole Wheat Waffles or Pancakes
- Protein Balls
Here is my absolute favorite Protein Ball recipe!
- 1 cup oats
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
First, mix together the oats, chia seeds, raisins and vanilla in one large mixing bowl.
Next, pour 1 scoop of protein powder into a separate bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of water to the mixture, and cream together with a fork. Continue to add water until the mixture becomes fluffy and creamy. The goal is to moisten the protein powder so it can be stirred into the protein ball mixture, without adding so much water that it becomes runny. Add this mixture to your large mixing bowl.
Finally, in a sauce pan on the stove, heat the honey and peanut butter on low. Shortly after the heat is turned on, the consistency will become a bit thinner and you will be able to stir both together with ease. Continue to heat until you can completely mix the honey and peanut butter – it shouldn’t take longer than about a minutes (be careful not to heat it too much). Add this mixture to your large mixing bowl and stir completely.
Using the palms of your hands, roll out individual balls and place them on a cookie sheet when completed. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit of water to moisten it. If the mixture is too runny, add some more oats. Once all of the protein balls are rolled, refrigerate for at least an hour before putting them in a container.
How to Choose the Right Post-Run Foods
While just about any food might sound good after an exhausting run, it’s important to fuel up with a healthy balance of sugars and protein. After completing a tough workout, your muscles are depleted and in need of some fast-acting energy to begin the rebuilding process.
A healthy mix of sugars and protein will satisfy those cravings while keeping you full and fueled to recover well. Make a point to fuel up with one of these post-run snacks within 30 minutes of returning from a run.
Enjoy a small snack when you return before venturing off to shower or get ready. This snack will help tide you over to prevent that viscous runger, and allow your stomach to recover before taking in a big meal.
Here are some simple and quick post-run snack ideas to speed up your recovery and keep you full!
5 Nutritious Post-Run Snack Ideas
- Apples and Peanut Butter
- Nuts or Dried Fruit
- Greek Yogurt and Granola
- Chocolate Milk
- Acai Bowls or Smoothies
Here is the recipe for my FAVORITE acai bowl.
- 1 packet acai puree
- 3 large ice cubes
- ½ frozen banana
- ¼ cup vanilla yogurt
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
Blend all ingredients together until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Top with your favorite fruits, granola, seeds, nuts or flavors! My favorite toppings are kiwi, bananas, raspberries, granola, chia seeds and honey.
The running fuel possibilities are truly endless! Every runner is different, so taking the time to experiment and learn what your body responds to best will help set you up for success during your next long run or race.
With any pre or post run snack, oftentimes the simpler the better. Quick snacks are usually all it takes for that instant burst of energy before a run or to quench your hunger and keep you from feeling sick after a hard workout.
Be sure to reward your body for all of its efforts each week with healthy, nutritious running fuel. Enjoy!
More snack ideas for runners:
- Fueling Tips for a Successful Long Run
- 10 Easy Healthy Snack Ideas for Runners
- 5 Simple Snacks to Avoid Sugar Cravings
- Your Guide to Long Run Recovery