Reasons Not to Eat Before a Run
There are several reasons why some choose not to eat before they run. One is the belief that exercising on an empty stomach will enhance the body's use of fat as a fuel source, allowing one to burn more body fat. Physiologically this is true for low-intensity exercise. However, trying to work out at a high intensity on an empty stomach will only lead to failure.
Once your body has burned through its glycogen stores, the only response is to severely decrease the intensity of the exercise since the rate of fat burning isn't fast enough to supply energy for high-intensity activities. Additionally, it's important to remember that just because you burn more body fat during exercise doesn't mean you will lose body fat overall. You still need to achieve a caloric deficit by the end of the day.
This leads to another point. Some people exercise on an empty stomach, thinking they're burning more calories and fat. Often they then "reward" themselves at the end of the run by eating more calories than they would have if they had eaten a pre-run snack. In some instances, a pre-exercise snack will give you the energy you need to work out longer and harder, thus burning more calories overall.
Finally, some runners don't eat before a run out of fear of sloshy stomach, bloating or diarrhea. These are common ailments for runners because the running motion creates a lot of jostling inside the stomach. Instead of avoiding food altogether, use easy runs to train your stomach. Find out which foods cause distress so you can avoid them, and which foods settle well so you can incorporate them into your pre-workout or pre-race meals.
Training the stomach can be just as important as training your muscles. While you may not be able to eat before every run, practicing good pre-exercise nutrition is a great way to not only maximize your workouts, but also prepare your stomach for race day.
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