Should You Fast or Eat Before a Run?

As a runner, the decision of whether to eat or not before a run can be a difficult one. It's often dictated by our schedules, the availability of food, our level of hunger and anxiety about a training session or race.

I've trained with many athletes throughout the years and noticed that the eating practices of runners differ just as much as running style. Some of my training partners always eat before a run, no matter how short or easy.

Others, I've noticed, don't seem to eat a thing, even before a long run. I even trained with a girl back in high school who would always eat a snack during our warm-up.

The bottom line: Pre-exercise nutrition will vary from person to person, workout to workout and season to season. Fortunately, there's a checklist of things to consider the next time you're trying to decide whether to grab quick snack before heading out:

1) The type of run: Is it a hard workout, a long training run or just an easy recovery run?

2) The timing of the run: Is it early in the morning, mid-day or late in the evening after a full day of work?

3) What your stomach can tolerate: Do you usually eat before a run or are you trying to train your stomach to tolerate a pre-run meal?

More: How to Fuel for Your Workout

It's also important to understand the roles that a pre-run meal can play and how it may affect your run. The pre-run meal provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Refill your liver glycogen after an overnight fast and minimize the effects of hypoglycemia
  • Provide accessible and usable carbohydrate/fuel for the early stages of the workout
  • Maximize muscle glycogen stores for use in the later stages of the workout
  • Top off your fluids and help prevent dehydration
  • Settle your stomach by absorbing some of the stomach juices and hold off hunger until the workout is completed

More: 5 Common Pre-Race Nutrition Blunders

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