Eating and Running

Food and drink provides the energy runners need to run, but consuming the wrong things before a run can lead to less than enjoyable miles.

As a runner, you’ve likely had a few days where you regretted what you ate before you ran. Most runners will have a TMI story about the time they ate the wrong thing before a run and were left clutching their stomach on the side of the road (or worse).

You probably won’t be able to completely eliminate bad workouts due to tummy troubles, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood.

Keep a Journal

Because what you eat stays with you for up to 50 hours, what you eat even on the day before your run can have an impact. Like the running log you keep (you have a running log, right?), it’s worth tracking what you eat when you are in marathon training mode.

Having a log of how you felt on the run, and a similar log of what you ate in the hours and days before that run will allow you to identify which foods cause you trouble and which foods don’t.

Figure out what works well

Pho? Good.

Pho? Good.

On run days I stick to these “known commodities”. For example, chicken pho for lunch works well as does a burger from McDonald’s (as long as I stick to water or milk and skip the pop).

An mid-afternoon snack of a chocolate bar or a couple of cookies provides fuel when I run prior to dinner. I also drink some Q Energy Drink or water during the day, but I limit my fluid intake in the two hours prior to heading out.

If you know what sits well, you can plan to eat that on your run days and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

ID the trouble-makers

Along with knowing what works for me, I also discovered a few things that don’t work well. Keeping track of food/drink intake helped me realize that consuming carbonated drinks even many hours before a run made for some very unpleasant workouts.

Pop? Not so good...

Pop? Bad.

Armed with that intel, I’ve completely eliminated carbonated drinks for at least 24 hours before any runs. The difference has been immense.

I also noted that spicy foods like burritos and stir frys have an effect for up to a day or more after eating. Like the pop, I try to avoid that now on run days where possible.

I had always thought that eating food close to runs (especially when I ran after dinner) was the cause of cramps and other tummy discomfort. Through tracking my eating and running, it became clear that eating and running wasn’t all that bad. Instead, what and how much I drank had a bigger impact.

Too much water, milk or other liquids like coffee led to all sorts of problems. But eating a pasta dinner an hour before I ran with a small glass of water instead of milk was fine.

Find out what really messes you up and put those on the “avoid list”.

Add food and drink to your training routine

Your training schedule tells you when and how long to run. Knowing what foods are compatible with training will allow you to plan your eating and drinking into your training schedule too. It really doesn’t take much time when you already know what works and what doesn’t.

It’s pretty simple on run days for me. I stick to a lunch that I know won’t cause issues and I avoid pop and limit fluids later in the day. As a result, it’s been weeks since I had a tough run and my performance overall has improved.

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