The alarm rings, and you snooze it once, maybe like me you’ll snooze it twice, and then you’re up. Running shoes flung on, quick cup of coffee or not depending on how many times you’ve snoozed, and then it’s out the door to smash your session. You’re an unstoppable force of nature… until the dreaded wall.
Running in a fasted state has its benefits, but that’s a whole other beast to tackle in another post. Now, we are talking about those sessions where a snack or full meal pre-workout is beneficial to prevent running on fumes where your usual 6min/km pace feels like you’re pushing the sub-2hour marathon pace. What and how much you eat depends on the session, so let’s break them down:
The type of session determines meal composition and size
Carbohydrates are the bodies most efficiently used form of energy and is utilised in both aerobic (chilled and slow) and anaerobic (high intensity, oxygen deprived) exercise. Fats on the other hand take twice as long to mobilise and need plenty of oxygen to use (not ideal for high intensity sessions). So choosing the composition of your morning meal is an important determinant of how you’ll feel on your run. The more simple the carbohydrate and composition the easier the meal is to mobilise and digest. When you start to add protein and fat to the meal you slow down the digestion and release of glucose into your blood (good for longer runs and general health). Let’s break it down a bit more though.
Power/Speed Training: If you’re needing some immediate energy for a fast, intense session. Eating before a session like this is beneficial in that what you eat will result in readily available glucose in the blood. This means you’ll be able to push harder without feeling fatigued and you’re more likely to get more benefit from the workout.
60min moderate: If there’s a run to do in a fasted state, this type of session would be it, especially if your last meal was fairly large and carbohydrate rich. The weekday chilled or recovery runs where you’re not out to break any records but just to build your base and keep the legs moving. In saying that – a small snack before you fly out the door is always helpful to kick start your metabolism. This may help prevent low blood sugar levels later in the day and the resulting hanger.
Long Run day: Now this is where you can start getting creative – you’re going low and slow meaning there’s no problem with mobilizing fat stores for energy, and brekkie can be slightly bigger and include more than mostly simple carbohydrates.
Okay, but all that’s still not that helpful… Let’s get quick cooking!
Breakfast in a flash
The Insta-Worthy Brekkie Banana Split
Slice that bad boy down the middle, top it with two tablespoons of yoghurt (Greek is the best), a teaspoon or two of nut butter and tuh-duh! Obviously, you can get creative with toppings – granola, berries, edible flowers… You already have the protein from the yoghurt and peanut butter so go light on nuts/seeds if you’re looking for a slightly more fast-acting source of energy for that high intensity session. Protein and fats will slow down the release of glucose into your blood which for general satiety is great, but not so much when you’re about to repeatedly sprint up a hill and your muscles are begging for some immediate fuel.
The Weird but Wonderful Peanut Butter Provita Stack
Lets be honest here – peanut butter on ANYTHING is a winner. Now, take that morning rush, three Provita’s (or two rice crackers), a smear of peanut butter on two of them, a drizzle of honey (or if you have time some sliced apple/banana/berries), and smoosh them into a 3 tiered stack to dip into your morning coffee. Its basically a rusk. You’ll thank me later. The crackers and honey/fruit are an simple carbohydrate with readily available glucose, and the peanut butter helps lubricate dry crackers and provides a nice dose of protein (peanuts contain all your essential amino acids) to help rebuild your tender muscles post workout.
(allergic to peanut butter? Shame. But this also works REALLY well with hummus. Hummus + honey + crackers = YUM)
The Superfood Supersnob Chia Pot
This is one for the long hauls. Mix ¼ cup of chia seeds with 1 cup of oat or rice milk (cause almond milk is bad for the environment, and who drinks dairy these days?), 1 tablespoon of cacao, 1 tsp of maca powder, maple syrup or honey to taste, and a dash of cinnamon and salt. Voila, pudding for brekkie. Mix this up while the kettle boils and you’re getting dressed so it has time to thicken a bit. Chia seeds are a great source of complete protein and omega 3 fats which help aid in post long run inflammation and muscle repair. They are also fiber powerhouses so will keep you full on the long day out – no hanger for you.
Make this a double whammy by subbing the ‘milks’ for your cuppa coffee for that cocoa-caffeine kick.
Recipes at: Minimalist Baker
The Super Lazy One Mouth Wonder
Energy bars, dried fruit and nuts/trail mix. These are also great as a quick handful to have as you’re dashing out the door. If you’re meal prep King/Queen then you can try your hand at making your own date balls or breakfast bars to grab and go, but this is the lazy team so you’re more likely to buy which is cool. When buying bars/balls try look for the natural ones with wholefood ingredients. It may all be sugar but at least if it’s a dried fruit base you’re still getting a bunch more vitamins, fiber and nutrients versus a more processed version, but you do you, no judgement! Last resort? Gels… but really, who can stomach that stuff in the morning.
Eating before a run is all very personal, so find what works for you and get out there and smash that session! We at run are all about community and love to hear from you. Share your pre-run morning routine or meal in the comments below!