If you’re planning a long run, it’s time to get serious about your pre-run fuel. If you’re like most runners, you’ll likely plan your endurance run for a weekend morning. Upon waking, blood sugar levels are often at their lowest, so to feel energized, you’ll need to eat something. The pre-long run breakfast can take a bit of trial and error, but in general, aim to eat carbohydrate-rich foods about 1-2 hours before you start running. And it’s not just when you eat; it’s what you eat that matters, too. While running, the body diverts blood away from the GI tract and toward large muscles like the hamstrings and quads, sometimes leading to stomach upset. To avoid issues, limit fiber and fat, as these micronutrients are slow to digest and can leave you feeling bloated or in need of a bathroom.
When choosing pre-run foods, try to mix simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates can be found in things like fruit and juice and give your body a quick boost. Meanwhile, foods like oatmeal, toast, and sweet potato contain complex carbohydrates which provide longer lasting energy.
Ready to dig in? Try one of these 6 breakfast before your next long run.
1. In the mood for something warm and comforting? Try oatmeal with raisins. Mix a packet of instant oatmeal with hot water and a ¼ cup of raisins. Depending on how well you tolerate dairy, you could use milk instead of water. Nutrient breakdown: 200 calories, 50 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein. A ½ cup of reduced-fat milk adds 60 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein.
2. Looking for a drinkable breakfast? Blend a smoothie made with 1 cup coconut water, 2 medjool dates, and a small frozen banana. Nutrient breakdown: 270 calories, 70 carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.
3. Like your breakfast sweet? Top two slices of cinnamon raisin toast toast with a tablespoon of honey and a small sliced apple. Nutrient breakdown: 300 calories, 70 grams of carbohydrate, and 9 grams of protein.
4. More of a savory fan? Top a baked sweet potato with cinnamon and 1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt. Nutrient breakdown: 200 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 14 grams of protein.
5. A classic pre-run breakfast is a bagel, but to avoid overloading your digestive system, choose one on the small side (around 3 ounces). Top the bagel with ½ small banana and a tablespoon of almond butter for a mix of carbs and protein. Nutrient breakdown: 400 calories, 80 grams of carbohydrate, and 14 grams of protein.
6. If you have a sensitive tummy and traditional breakfast fare isn’t working, it might be time to get creative. Some runners swear by easy-to-digest baby food purees. An applesauce pouch generally contains 60 calories and 15 grams of carbs.
If you’re gearing up for a hot and sweaty long run, consider an all-natural fruit popsicle (about 100 calories and 20 grams of carbs, depending on the brand). While the sugar content can be a bit high, this sweet treat is still a great way to take in some carbohydrates and calories.
*All nutrition data is calculated from information in the USDA food composition database. Numbers are approximate and may differ depending on brand and serving size.
Megan is a writer, RRCA certified running coach, and new mom living and training in rural upstate New York. She competed in DIII track and cross-country at Wesleyan University and now focuses on the half-marathon and marathon distance.
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