How to get energy before running

Have you ever been on a run and found your stomach rumbling? It is not a good feeling! This is why it is important to know how to get energy before running. 

Having a plan for the kind of food you need to get energy before running is smart - especially if you are participating in a race. Many runners swear by a favourite meal that they have tried before which gives them the energy they need in a reliable way. 

If you are training for a marathon, half marathon or another long distance run, you should experiment with a few different breakfasts during your training period. This will help you to work out which food suits you best.

Here is everything you need to know about how to get energy before a run.

Your pre run meal is only a small part of the picture

The breakfast or lunch you have before your race will certainly give an energy boost before running. However it cannot be a substitute for a long term running nutrition plan

As part of your training schedule, you should consider carb loading - this is where you eat plenty of carbohydrates as part of your diet. Over time, that will mean there are greater energy reserves available in your body and gives you more to draw on. You won't get all of that from just one meal.

How to get energy before running long distance events

Long distance running events such as marathons and half marathons are very energy intensive. You should choose a breakfast which will provide you with plenty of carbohydrates, preferably of the complex kind. Complex carbs break down slowly and release energy over the course of several hours. 

Many long distance runners choose breakfasts like:

  • Porridge with banana
  • Toast with natural honey
  • A bagel with peanut butter
  • Muesli with some fresh blueberries
  • A bowl of rice

These kinds of foods will slowly release energy and keep you going till the finish line.

Learn more: Read our marathon nutrition guide

Energy food before running a fast race

If you are participating in a fast race such as a track event, a park run or perhaps a 10k, you will usually want a lighter meal than a marathon runner would need. Choose a meal which is easy for your body to digest and which releases energy more quickly. Fast race runners often choose meals such as:

  • A handful of cereal
  • A banana with peanut butter and honey
  • A cereal bar
  • A single slice of toast with jam

Gels and energy drinks before running

With both fast races and longer distance events, many runners swear by carrying energy gels or drinking specific brands of energy drink. Again it is a good idea to try some of these out before race day itself to see which products work best for you.

Get a quick energy boost before a run as part of regular training

Generally speaking, if you are just doing regular training it is not necessary to have a specific meal - try and fit the run around your usual meals and snacks. That said, if you are feeling tired or fatigued and need an instant energy boost before running consider something like:

  • Sweets - if you are about to go for a run, these can be a guilt free way of getting an energy boost
  • Bananas, which are a source of carbohydrates and complex sugars
  • Consider taking an energy drink before running for a quick burst of calories

How far in advance of a run should you eat?

Everybody digests food at a different speed and you will know your body best. However, you need to provide yourself with plenty of time to digest food in advance of the run so you do not get cramp or stomach upset. 

Most runners aim to eat around three to four hours before they go running, especially for marathons and races. On the other hand you do not want to eat much further ahead than this in case you start to feel hungry during the race itself.

Food you should not eat to get energy before running

As noted above, everybody is different and the kind of meal that works for you may not work for everyone else. That said most runners avoid certain kinds of foods and drinks before a run .

These include things like :

  • Too many caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee
  • High fibre vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli or aubergines
  • High fibre fruits like mangos, pineapple or oranges
  • Heavy proteins such as red meat or bacon since these can take longer to digest
  • Cheese
  • Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas
  • Spicy foods

What to eat before a run for energy

The kind of food you eat before a running event can have a significant impact on your performance. Ultimately this is about listening to your body and learning how it likes to get energy before running. With a little trial and error you will soon figure out the most effective meal for you.