What to Eat before a Morning Long Run
Fall is just around the corner, which also means that – in my opinion – the best running season is also just around the corner. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that running outside in the cooler temperatures is much more enjoyable than running when it’s blistering hot!
Fall is also a great time to set yourself some new fitness goals, as it triggers a sense renewal. That said, some of you may be setting yourself some new fitness goals in the form of running, signing yourself up for some of the upcoming races that are being held throughout the GTA. There are a few fantastic organized races in the next few months, so now is your time to check them out. (If you’re considering signing up for a run, but are yet to ‘pull the trigger’ give this post a read.)
When it comes to training for an upcoming run, no matter the distance, overlooking your nutrition means you are missing an important piece of the puzzle. There is a lot of confusion and questions about what to eat before a long run; it’s important to note here that what works for one person, may not work for someone else. Everyone’s digestive system reacts differently to various foods, as well as what happens when the body is physically pushed in new ways – like during a 15km long run. For that reason alone - and this is especially important if you are new runner – you should always test out foods and meals during your training to avoid any race day mishaps or emergencies.
When I was training for my marathon last year, my long runs would start at 7am every Sunday, come rain, wind or snow. (Well, there were a few days the snow was just not worth it, but you get the point.) If you do the math, that meant I was waking up around 5:30am every Sunday to prep and eat my breakfast, and allow my body to start digesting, before heading out the door for my long run. So, as you can imagine, preparation was key! I could not start my run without eating something, so making sure I ate a meal that was going to sustain me throughout my entire run (sometimes, getting up to 25, 30, 35km) was incredibly important. (Note: if you are logging lots of miles, make sure to pack food or running gels to take throughout your run.)
What to eat before a morning long run?
Before going on a morning long run, you want to top off your glycogen stores with easy-to-digest carbs combined with a little bit of protein, fat and fiber for sustained energy. It’s important to opt for carbs that have a low-glycemic index, meaning instead of spiking your blood sugar, they slowly release glucose for steady energy that won’t make you crash.
Avoid a breakfast that’s high in fat, protein and fiber as these nutrients take longer and are harder to digest. You want to make things easy for your digestive system since you’ll be diverting all your blood to your hard-working muscles! What you eat depends upon how much time you have until you're heading out the door. For a sunrise run you might just opt for a spoonful of nut butter with a hydrating drink. If you have an hour or two to digest, you'll want to opt for more sustenance.
Most importantly, use your training runs to trial a few different options, so you get to know what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Go-to pre-race carbs
Here is a list of some fantastic carb options to include in your breakfast before a long run:
Oats (My favourite)
A warm bowl of oatmeal is my favourite pre-race fuel, especially if you are running throughout the winter. It’s super fast to make, and incredible satiating. I like to top mine with fruit, for a sugar boost and a touch of fiber, and nut butter or raw nuts/seeds for some fats.
Sweet potatoes are a fantastic option for a pre-run breakfast, as they are high in carbohydrates, but also loaded with potassium to help keep muscle cramps at bay. Of course, sweet potatoes are difficult to prepare in the morning before an early run, so instead, try cooking them the night before. If you need something a little more exciting in the morning, check out my Sweet Potato, Carrot & Fig Muffins.
Like sweet potatoes, bananas are a great source of quick-releasing carbohydrates and are also high in potassium and magnesium. They are great to throw on-top of your oatmeal, adding them to smoothies, or making a PB & Banana sandwich!
Smoothies make a fantastic pre-run breakfast because they’re fast, nourishing and since they are blended up, your intestines don’t have to work so hard to break the food down. The best part is you can modify it based on what you like or can digest easily. Don’t forget to include some protein, fats and carbohydrates in your smoothie to make a balanced meal. (Check out my Tropical Anti-Inflammatory Green Smoothie if you’re in-need of some smoothie-inspo.)
When in doubt, or in a time crunch, toast makes a great carb source to have before a long run. (Just make sure you’re using high quality bread.) Toast is easy to digest and can be topped with nut butter, grass-fed butter or a poached egg to make a nourishing meal.
I hope that was helpful, and if you are planning to participate in a new race in the fall, then happy training!