Eating Before A Morning Run


If you decide to train in the morning, sooner or later you will ask yourself this question: shall I eat before I run? It’s very hard to give a final and 100% right answer, as it simply depends on your body.

[su_quote cite=”Dr. Ingo Froböse”]When training on an empty stomach, fat metabolism only remains active until the body’s sugar reserves are used up[/su_quote]

Doctors say that we definitely should eat something. “When training on an empty stomach, fat metabolism only remains active until the body’s sugar reserves are used up” explained Dr. Ingo Froböse at the Centre for Health of the German Sports University in Cologne. After the sugar reserves are used, the performance plummets and the body starts forcing to stop.

Eating a small meal, even a single banana, may help because you fuel yourself with some extra strength. But then another issue pops up – the time or the distance of a run. One single banana or an energy bar will not last long if your exercise takes 1 hour or more. Eating little before 3-4 hours of running will definitely not help much. When trying to determine how much fuel to take in before a long run (longer than 75 minutes) begins, the general rule is to consume approximately 1 gram of carbohydrate for every 0.5 kg of body weight and then multiply that number by the number of hours you have before you will begin your run.

Let’s say you weigh 90kg, and you have 1 hour before the run will begin.
90kg x 1 = 90
90 x 1 hour = you need to eat 90 grams of carb to fuel your run.

In your case, you have only half an hour. So your equation will look like this:
90kg x 1 = 90
90 x ½ an hour = you need to eat 45 grams of carb to fuel your run.

So what does 45 or even 90 grams of easy-to-digest carbohydrate look like? It might be a ½ a bakery bagel (~30 grams) and eight 200ml sports drink (~15 grams). It might be an English muffin (~25 grams) topped with two tablespoons jam (~30 grams). If you want to eat a gel chased with water instead, that will give you about 25 grams of carbohydrate. For some additional easy-to-digest carbs, you could add in a fruit juice or half a large banana; either will supply you with approximately 15 more grams of easy-to-digest carbs.

So, I think I proved that eating before a morning run is important, but then why did I write at the beginning that it is not easy to answer this question 100% right? Races in the Philippines start often in the middle of the night, at 3am, 4am, sometimes 2am. A race at more “human” time like 6am is very seldom. If a race starts at 3am we must wake up early enough to be able to travel to the starting point. Waking up at 1-2am is common for many runners. Does it make much sense to eat so early considering the fact we just ate a dinner a few hours ago? In my opinion it doesn’t. Better to load a bigger amount of carbohydrates for dinner (pasta is the best for it). Our body will not burn all this during the short sleep. We will be well fueled.

Eating again so early in the night after a dinner has one main dark side: toilet. It’s not common to talk about this, but surely it’s an important issue. Every runner wants to make sure he/she will avoid the problem of finding a toilet during a race. We all know well that often it ends in the bushes with leafs held in hand. So it is very important to go to the toilet before the start and of course being successful there. And this is the main reason I dissuade others from eating before a run. Better not to risk.

If you are afraid you will lose your energy during a race, better get a few energy gels inside your pocket. Eat half of a gel after every 30min. Drink a little water for a better digestion. This little amount of gel will not push you into the toilet (be careful: some people get stitches!), but it will give a big energy kick instead.

Whatever you decide – small breakfast, energy gel or nothing at all remember to test it at least two times during your long runs. You must be sure of the effect you get. You and your body must be ready, and mostly, must be familiar with the food you take. Otherwise, you may face a big disappointment somewhere along the track.


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