Deciding what to eat before running in the morning is usually more challenging than expected. Often, runners have very limited time to fully digest a meal or snack before heading out for a morning run.
Typical recommendations suggest eating at least 2 hours before running – but when each minute is precious in those dark, early morning hours, waking up two hours before a morning run sounds absolutely ridiculous.
Should you eat before a long run?
Eating before a long run is significantly more important than any other run. While most runners will benefit from the right type of fuel before any run, it especially necessary before a long run.
Without adequate fuel, runners are likely to bonk, hit the wall, or lose energy entirely during a long run. Fuel not only provides sugars to be used as energy for the body, but for the muscles as well. While most runners can easily make it through short, easy runs with their reserve stores, long runs eventually use these up.
Do you need to eat before a morning run?
The answer depends on a variety of factors, especially the type of running – intensity, distance, etc. – as well as each individual runner. Short, easy runs lasting less than 30 minutes usually don’t require any fuel.
However, most runners discover that they feel better, have more energy, and are capable of sustaining faster paces when they eat at least a small snack or meal before running in the morning.
When should you eat before running in the morning?
Learning what to eat before a morning run or long run is just as important as understanding when to eat it. Timing your meal or snack correctly plays a large role in whether or not you experience digestive distress on the run.
Most experts recommend consuming a full meal about two hours prior to a long run. However, in the morning, a light snack or smaller meal is the norm. Eating 30 minutes prior to a morning run is usually enough time to digest a snack or light meal.
Another way to set yourself up for success on your morning run is to increase your intake of carbohydrates the night before. Aim to include some whole grains, pastas, breads or beans in your dinner or nighttime snack. In addition, increasing your water intake the night before will help your body stay hydrated over night so you wake up ready to run.
Pre-Morning Run Timeline
- 12 hours prior: increase carbohydrate and water intake for dinner
- 10 hours prior: drink some extra water before bed
- 30 minutes prior: small snack or breakfast with water
What to Eat Before a Morning Long Run
It can be overwhelming to look through a long list of food suggestions if you don’t have many of those specific items in your pantry. Sometimes, it is helpful to determine categories of foods to aim for to help narrow down your options.
When deciding what to eat before running in the morning, aim for a mix of easily digestible carbs with a little bit of protein. Complex carbs provide a steady, slow release of energy, while simple carbs provide an initial, quick boost of energy.
Carbs such as breads, potatoes, fruits, and oats are a great choice. Add a bit of protein with things like nut butters, cheese, seeds or powders – however, there’s no need to go overboard with protein before running.
9 Things to Eat Before Running in the Morning
Oftentimes, simple is best when it comes to picking what to eat before a morning run. Fancy breakfasts and snacks typically come with extra fat, protein or fiber that can be hard to quickly digest. Stick to simple, quick snacks or small meals before running, and save those fancy meals for a post-run treat.
Here are 9 ideas to help you decide what to eat before a long run or morning run.
- Oatmeal – hot, baked or overnight oats
- Fruit smoothies
- Fruit with nut butter
- Toast with avocado or nut butter
- Crackers with hummus or cheese
9 Foods to Avoid Eating Before a Morning Run
Another strategy to help decide what to eat before running is to rule out foods to avoid. These types of foods are best avoided before a long run – especially a morning run that occurs withing 30 minutes of eating.
Foods that are high in fat, fiber, protein or artificial sweeteners are all difficult to digest. These types of foods can send runners into digestive distress without adequate time before a run. Here are a few foods to avoid when selecting a pre-run breakfast, snack or meal.
- High fiber fruits such as apples or pears
- Excessive seeds such as chia or flax
- High fiber vegetables such as broccoli
- High fat meats such as bacon or red meat
- Heavy dairy such as excessive cheese or creams
- Spicy foods
- Fried foots
Deciding what to eat before running in the morning often involves a bit of trial and error, as every situation is different. Each body responds differently depending on the type of diet you are used to as well as how often you run after eating.
These ideas provide a great place to get started. As you gain experience with eating before a run, you’ll be able to incorporate some variations, or even come up with new ideas.
However, when all else fails, simple is best. Something as simple as a piece of toast or a banana with peanut butter is often all it takes for runners to fuel up before a morning run.