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What to eat before running in the morning: 8 eating tips

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If you prefer to run in the morning, you may be wondering: “What to eat before running in the morning?”

Running in the morning has many benefits. 

Not only do you get to fit in a workout before you start your day, working out in the morning encourages you to eat healthier, boosts your energy throughout the day and puts you in a better mood.

So what exactly should you eat before a run in the morning? What’s the best way to fuel your morning run and what should you avoid?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • What to eat before running in the morning
  • What to eat before a run lasting less than 90 minutes
  • What to eat before a run lasting more than 90 minutes
  • What is carb loading?
  • What not to eat before running in the morning
  • Can I run on an empty stomach?
  • Is it good to drink coffee before a run?
  • 8 eating tips summary before running in the morning

Ready?

Let’s get going!

what to eat before running in the morning

What to eat before running in the morning

The length and intensity of your run will determine what you need to eat either the night before or during the morning of your run.

It will also depend on how comfortable you feel with certain foods. For example, you will want to avoid anything that feels too heavy on your stomach. 

The general rule of thumb is that you should aim to eat a pre-run meal for runs lasting longer than 90 minutes, and opt for a pre-run snack for runs lasting less than 90 minutes. 

What to eat before a run lasting less than 90 minutes

For runs lasting less than 90 minutes, aim to eat a light pre-run snack 30 to 60 minutes before your run.

Some runners even run on an empty stomach if they can’t ‘stomach’ food early in the morning. 

If you do opt for a light snack, here are some snacks that are high in carbs to get you started:

  • A banana topped with peanut butter
  • A sports energy bar
  • A bagel topped with butter or jam
  • Half a bagel topped with peanut butter

What to eat before a run lasting more than 90 minutes

For runs lasting more than 90 minutes, aim to have a pre-run meal 3 to 4 hours before your run. 

Carbohydrates and protein should be your main fuel sources for runs lasting more than 90 minutes.

It’s difficult to schedule a carb-rich meal into your morning routine, so many runners prefer to eat the night before a morning run.

Here are some carb-rich meal ideas:

  • Tofu cooked with white rice and side of veggies
  • Oven-baked chicken with white rice
  • Pasta with beef meatballs and tomato sauce
  • Chilli con carne with rice
  • Spaghetti bolognaise 
  • Beef burger with a side salad
  • Chicken and red pepper stir fry

Related: The best protein foods for runners

what to eat before running in the morning

What is carb loading?

You may have heard of the term ‘carb loading’. It is essentially the practice of consuming a higher level of carbs in order to increase your glycogen stores before a long run.

Glycogen is the stored form of glucose. Glucose (sugar) is your body’s main fuel source. Most of the carbohydrates we eat are converted to glucose. 

According to a 1997 study, high carbohydrate diets have been reported to improve athletic performance by 2 to 3% in endurance events lasting more than 90 minutes. 

With carb loading, however, it’s a fine balance between consuming enough carb-rich food and overeating. 

You don’t want to feel sluggish before your run, equally you don’t want to feel hungry!

Carb loading should always be done in the days leading up to a long distance run.

During this period, the foods you eat should be high in carbohydrates and low in fat and fibre and you should focus on getting roughly 70% of your calories from carbs.

Here are some foods that are high in carbohydrates:

  • White or brown pasta
  • White or brown bread
  • White rice
  • Porridge oats
  • Unsweetened, low-fibre cereal 
  • Unsweetened granola
  • White potatoes (without skins)
  • Sweet potatoes (without skins)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Butternut squash
  • Fruit
  • Some fruit juices
  • Sports drinks
  • Beans and legumes
  • Low fat milk
  • Low fat yoghurt

Try and avoid consuming refined carbohydrates during the carb loading period as these can cause temporary spikes in your body’s glucose levels.

Foods high in refined carbohydrates include: cakes, biscuits, sweets, pastries, sweetened cereals and sweetened breakfast bars.

Related: Carb loading for runners: Foods to eat and mistakes to avoid

What not to eat before running in the morning

You will want to avoid any foods that feel heavy on your stomach or that could cause a stomach upset or bloating. 

As with anything related to food and athletic performance, it’s all about trial and error to understand what works best for you.

Foods that take longer to digest should also be avoided before a morning run. 

Here are foods to avoid before a run:

  • High fibre foods 
  • Excessively fatty foods
  • Foods high in lactose
  • Beans and lentils
  • Spicy foods

Related: 4 common pre-run eating mistakes you’re probably making

what to eat before running in the morning

Can I run on an empty stomach?

Yes! In fact, many runners opt to run on an empty stomach as they do not like to eat early in the morning.

It really comes down to personal preference and the type of run that you’ll be doing (e.g. a short or long run). 

If you’re going to be doing a long run, for example, then it is generally recommended to eat before your run by having a carb-rich meal the night before a run.

Whilst there is a lot of research which says that ‘fasted running‘ can have benefits for some runners, it is generally recommended that you eat before a run.

Related: 6 healthy smoothie recipes for runners

Is it good to drink coffee before a run?

Any form of caffeine consumed before a run can increase your energy levels.

In fact, many long distance runners and endurance athletes take caffeine supplements on race day to boost their performance.

To really feel the benefits of your morning coffee, drink your coffee around one hour before your run to allow the caffeine to take effect.

what to eat before running in the morning

8 eating tips summary before running in the morning

Now you know all about what to eat before running in the morning, here is our eating tips summary:

#1 Aim to eat a pre-run meal 3 to 4 hours before a run lasting more than 90 minutes.

#2 Aim to eat a light pre-run snack 30 to 60 minutes before a run lasting less than 90 minutes.

#3 Carbohydrates and protein should be your main fuel sources before a long run.

#4 Avoid foods that are high in fibre, high in fat, high in lactose.

#5 Avoid spicy foods and foods that cannot be digested easily.

#6 Carb loading is recommended in the days leading up to a long run.

#7 You can run on an empty stomach if you cannot stomach foods early in the morning.

#8 A morning coffee can increase your energy levels. Aim to drink your coffee around one hour before your run.

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