Much like how every runner will prefer a different training style and motivational Spotify playlist, whether you eat before a run is a very individual preference. It can be a tricky decision to make, made more challenging with changing schedules, busy lifestyles, varying hunger, and food availability.
Some will swear by ALWAYS eating before a run, no matter the intensity, but others will feel faster and stronger when fasted. Although we can’t make this decision for you, we do have some tips to help you figure this out...
The first things to consider:
Is this going to be a tough speed session, a long training run or an easy recovery jog?
What time is it? Are you running early, midday or late in the day?
Do you usually eat before a run or workout?
In this situation, it’s important to remember the purpose of eating, and how it can help your performance. Are you trying to hold off hunger until you get home? Or do you need usable fuel for the early stages of your workout (and more muscle glycogen for later on)?
If you tend to run early in the morning, low blood sugar from fasting overnight can cause some problems— even on easy runs. Blood glucose is our brain's source of fuel, which is why you may find yourself feeling light-headed, fatigued and irritable when running before breakfast.
As a general rule of thumb, if your workout is an hour or less, going without food probably won’t do you any harm, as long as you’re well hydrated. For anything longer or more intense, it’s a good idea to have eaten a meal 3-4 hours before or a small snack in the last 1-2 hours. You need to have fuel in the tank to prevent fatigue and avoid running on empty (pun intended)!
But don't just scoff down a huge meal and head straight out the door... remember:
For large meals – wait for 2 to 4 hours before running
For light meals – wait for 2 hours before running
For light snacks – wait for 30 minutes to 1 hour before running
If you're after something light, whether it's early in the morning or as a late afternoon snack, a whey or vegan protein shake with your favourite milk or half a banana & a flat white should do the trick.
And for those looking for a bigger fuel up, we don’t think you can do much better than a good bowl of protein oats. Try our classic chocolate oats recipe or runner’s overnight oats. If porridge isn't your thing, our PB espresso shake should give you the energy kick you need.