Way back long ago, I never ate before I went out for my morning run. Then my runs grew. My weekday runs went from five miles to 10-12 miles. As they became over an hour, I had to eat something before or take something along. I just got too hungry and my energy would drop off, especially, on harder midweek runs, speed or hills.
When this began to happen, I wasn’t eating solid foods while I ran because my stomach couldn’t tolerate it. I didn’t want to use my Gu on a midweek run, so I opted for eating before my run.
Running with food in your stomach can be a big adjustment for some runners. Others are blessed with the ability to eat pretty much anything and then run or eat it while they run. I am of the later sort.
Training your stomach to run with food in it, is a process. Your other option is to eat far enough in advance of your run that you’ve digested enough of the food that your body doesn’t have to focus on both fueling your body and digesting at the same time. Not many people want to get up an hour earlier to eat before they go out for a run, at least those of us who run at 5 am already. Nor do we want to get up eat, and go back to bed for an hour.
This double focus, digestion and fueling exercising muscles, is what causes the stomach issues. Your body chooses fueling over digestion leaving the food to sit and slosh around as you run.
Not an extra early riser? Start with eating something small that is easy to digest. I began with one slice of toast. I was able to slowly move this to toast with peanut butter and a banana. Eating a small breakfast before I run is a part of my routine, even before races. I eat things I know wont upset my stomach, especially if it’s before a race. I sometimes try new things during training.
Eating after a run is essential if you want your body to be able to gain something from the run you just did. You should eat within 15 minutes of finishing a run. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but make sure it has both carbs and protein, a 4:1 ratio is recommended. Your body just worked hard and it needs nutrients to rebuild muscles and replace energy stores.
If you miss the 15 minute window don’t freak out, just eat something. After your mini meal make sure and get a full meal within about an hour. If you don’t feed your body after a workout, the workout can be mostly pointless. You’ll still get the mental benefits, but not the physical.