6 Must-Know Food Tips for Runners

When you start exercising regularly, you might have to revamp some of your everyday eating habits in order to feel your best while you're working out and avoid unwanted bathroom stops. Here are some general rules.

1. Go on empty (sometimes). What you eat before you hit the road or the gym all depends on when you're exercising and what kind of workout you're planning. Many people don't have the time (or the stomach) to eat and digest food before a workout, especially if that workout is taking place in the early morning. For an easy workout of one hour or less, going without food or drink probably won't do you any harm. (Just make sure you're staying hydrated.) But for any event that's longer or more intense, preworkout fuel is critical. Go out on empty and you'll fatigue sooner, plus you'll have a much tougher time meeting your goals.

BEWARE: The Truth About Running on Empty

2. Keep it simple. So what's the perfect preworkout meal? Familiar foods that are easy on your system, low in fat and fiber and high in carbs will boost your energy without upsetting your stomach.

More: 18 Energy-Boosting Fruits

3. Time it right. When it comes to fueling your workout, timing is everything. Before your workout, you'll want to have something that will give you a boost of energy without leaving you with an upset stomach on the road (like these 16 Prerun Snacks That Won't Derail Your Diet.) So focus on carbs and foods that are low in fiber and low in fat. In general, the bigger the meal the more time you'll need to digest. Each person is different, but you'll want to eat at least 30 minutes before you head out so you don't have GI distress when you're on the road. Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout, have a protein-rich snack to repair muscle tissue and carbohydrates to restock your spent energy stores. This will kick start the recovery process so that you can bounce back quickly for your next workout.

More: 9 Portable Protein Snacks

4. Drink up. Hydration is important, and not just when you're exercising. Fluids regulate body temperature, move waste from your body, ensure that your joints are adequately lubricated, and help flush out the damaged cells that can lead to inflammation. And proper hydration can help control cravings, which is important because it's often easy to mistake thirst for hunger.

More: The Recipe for Better Hydration

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