Newbie Runner FAQ: What, When and How Much to Eat

Eat to Fuel Your Workouts

Regardless of your weight-loss or training goals, you need to consume enough of the right types of food to power your workouts. This may sound simple, but there's still some confusion about when and what to eat before a run.

"Your pre-workout meal is really important," Coleman says. "This is going to be unique to each person. Some people can eat a steak and run a marathon; other people can't even think about eating prior to running."

Your pre-run meal should be based on how much time you have before your workout, what foods work best for you and your individual goals.

"Your activity level determines how many calories you need before and after your workout," says Gill. "The longer your run, the more pre- and post-run fuel you'll need. What changes the amount of food you need before a workout is how much time you have. If you're getting ready to run and only have 30 minutes to prepare, have something that's easy to digest because it's going to give you fast fuel to get you through your run. If it's been a while since your last meal, say you run first thing in the morning or at night about 3 to 4 hours after lunch, you'll want to have some easily digestible carbs to give you energy to get through your run."

If you're eating within 45 minutes to an hour before your workout, choose foods that are easily digestible like fruits, which provide simple sugars, metabolize quickly, and give you an energy boost.

Stay away from foods that are high in protein, fat and fiber, as these are not as easy to digest, and will sit in your stomach.

Here are some great pre-run snacks:

*Fruit (fresh or dried)

*? a sandwich

*Smoothie (with water or coconut water as a base instead of milk or other dairy options)

*Whole-grain toast or whole-grain tortilla with almond butter and fruit

More: What to Eat Before and After Your Morning Run

Eat for Recovery

Just as pre-workout nutrition is essential to help you get through a run, the foods you eat after a workout can help you get stronger, recover faster, and be more inclined to get back out there for your next workout.

"Your post workout meal is the ideal time for starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, or beans," says Coleman. "This will help refuel your glycogen stores and help you recover for the following day."

Keep in mind that your pre- and post-run fueling needs will vary depending on the duration of your workout, your activity level and your weight-loss goals. While a marathoner may require a post-run meal to replenish glycogen stores, a beginner who runs 30 minutes or less will require less food. This is why it's important to assess what works best for you and another reason you may want to consult a professional.

Here are some post-run snacks that Gill and Coleman recommend:

* Apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter

* Toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit (apple or banana)

* A protein shake with mixed fruit

* A Smoothie

* Oatmeal and nuts

* Chocolate milk

More: Recovery Foods That Ease Muscle Soreness

The Bottom Line

When you increase your activity level, your appetite will most likely increase as well. While it's important to eat enough to support your efforts, it's all too easy to overestimate the amount of calories you're burning and overeat as a result.

The best thing you can do to eliminate the guesswork is to consult a professional or use reliable tools to establish a meal plan and calculate your caloric needs.

By starting a running program, you're taking a positive step towards health and longevity. Make sure your nutrition supports your new active lifestyle. All the resources are there for you if you're willing to put in the work.

So grab a pre-run snack, stock up on healthy fuel, then gear up and get out there.

More: A 10-Week Plan to Run 5K for Beginners

Active logo Sign up for your next race.

About the Author

Discuss This Article

Follow your passions

Connect with ACTIVE.COM