Runs in the afternoon or evening are a little different because it's likely you've been eating throughout the day and have full liver and muscle glycogen stores. If you're a runner who has digestion problems and doesn't like to eat too soon before you run, eat a well-balanced, carbohydrate-rich breakfast (for afternoon workouts) or lunch (for evening workouts) at least 3 to 4 hours before your workout.
For easy runs, you probably don't need anything more. For harder workouts or long runs, consider consuming 1 to 2 cups of sports drink and/or a small snack, such as an energy bar in the final 1 to 2 hours before you run.
All Runners' Stomachs Weren't Created Equal
The final consideration is what your stomach is able to tolerate. This varies from runner to runner. For instance, many of my fellow runners reach for a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich as their pre-workout meal.
In my younger days I thought, "This is what all runners eat, so I must eat this." I quickly learned my digestive system doesn't agree with that choice. Although I enjoy both peanut butter and bananas, I now know I cannot have them within three hours before running.
You may have to use trial and error to find what works best for you. Remember: The closer you get to the workout or the more intense the workout, the less your body will be able to digest. Choose easily digestible foods that are low in fiber and fat, and rich in carbohydrates.
The following are some examples of good pre-exercise meals and snacks:
3 to 4 hours before; up to 2 g carbs per pound of body weight
1 to 2 hours before; up to 1 g carb per pound of body weight
Cereal with milk or yogurt + toast + 1 cup juice
Granola bar or sports bar
Bagel with peanut butter + 1 cup of sports drink
1.5 cups dry cereal + 1 cup sports drink
Sandwich with lean meat + fruit +1 cup of milk
Low-fat crackers with peanut butter