I’ve had a few people ask me what I eat before I run/workout. The answer varies quite a bit depending on the type of exercise and duration. In his book, Thrive (I know, I know, I talk about it all the time), Brendan Brazier says that the food we eat right before a workout is less important than the food we ate following out last workout. When we refuel properly after a workout, our body will have energy stored and ready to rock for the next one.
That being said, it can be really helpful to have a pre-run snack to top up energy levels. I usually run in the morning because its just a great way to start my day and I find I have the most energy in A.M. I usually have a little snack before I head out the door, just to get me going and to keep hunger at bay until breakfast.
During the week, most of my runs are less than 90 minutes and of moderate to high intensity. The easiest fuel to burn on these runs are simple carbohydrates. So before these shorter, higher intensity runs, I like to eat easily digestible simple carbohydrates. Ideally, I consume something with both frucose and glucose. Glucose, which can easily be obtained from fruit delivers quick energy to the body. It will get ya up and out the door. Dates are a great source of glucose (and they’re delicious). I love to have a couple dates with a cup of tea before I run. I also use them to refuel on longer runs. The problem with glucose is, you’ll use up most of your stores within the first 20 minutes. This is where fructose comes in. Fructose will give you a slower, more steady release of energy. Agave nectar is a fantastic, easily digestible source for fructose.
On the weekends is usually do at least one long workout. During longer lower intensity workouts (90 minutes-4/5/6 hours), the primary fuel source is fat. This is a crucial part of endurance training because it’s when your body learns how to use your body’s fat efficiently. Even the leanest athletes have a nice supply of fat to rely on. For these workouts, its critical that you give your body a little fat. Now, I’m not talkin’ a burger and fries. The ratio of carbs, fat, and protein should be about 3:1:1. The fat and protein should also be easily digestible–so probably not from animal proteins. Hemp seeds and hemp protein, chia seeds, and nuts are all great choices but they need to be combined with a carbohydrate source.
Okay, enough with the sciency stuff and on to the good stuff–eating. Here are some foods I like to eat before workouts:
Less than 90 minute, moderate-high intensity:
- Fruit–unadulterated fruit: banana, dates, apple, orange, handful of dried mangos or cherries
- Agave nectar: a little squirt in my tea or on my fruit
- Green tea
- small energy bar
- Nada: If I don’t feel particularly hungry and I’m going to be out for 60 minutes or less, I don’t always feel the need to eat before. I just make sure I have a good recovery meal afterwards
- small bowl of oatmeal with piece of fruit, squirt of agave nectar, and a form of protein/fat such as hemp, chia, flax, a few almonds or walnuts
- small bowl granola
- energy bar