Should I eat before my morning run?
This is rated top 3 questions I am asked as a dietitian and runner! In this blog post, I've tried to keep it short, simple and to the point, giving you the answers your need. So have a read, and think about how this may apply to your current life and training schedule.
The human body is an amazing machine, and it will adapt to any scenario we put it through, as a means of survival. Your habits, what you do day-in-day out will determine how your body functions and responds, and I don't just mean to training. How your body responds to the foods you eat and the time you eat aswell! Let's take breakfast for example, if you are a regular breakfast eater (I will admit I am 100% a regular breakfast eater), and your daily habit for years has been to eat breakfast within the first 1-2 hours of being awake, you will notice that if you miss that meal, you will feel hungry, or you may even start to feel hungry long before that breakfast meal is eaten. Now, on the flip side, if your habit has been not eating breakfast, you will not be hungry. In fact, the thought of eating may repulse you. So, if we have trained our body's physiological response by our habits over the years...how do we know if we trained them the right way? The best way, to accommodate our training, run schedule? Well for a lot of us, this can use some tweaking, so my suggestions...let's see what the research says!
According to Dietitians of Canada & The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, if you do not have time for a meal 2-3 before your activity or sport, then you should have a snack. If you are working out in the morning, because that is when you have the time, you are likely to NOT be eating 2-3 hours before...so you can consider having a small snack. But why? Is there a benefit to working out in the fed state? Sure there is! Especially if you are all about performance and efficiency! If you are not fueling enough before a workout, you may not see the results or improvements from your training, and you may even loose muscle mass or strength and endurance that you have been working so hard to achieve! So to help you answer the question...
Can't I just workout without eating? This will depend on a few things...
1. What and when you ate last. Did you have a huge meal the night before? Did you eat late into the evening before you went to bed? If you did either of those...then chances are your morning workout will be adequately fueled. 2. How intense your workout is. If you are going for a walk, a light jog, or an easy strength session, then you can likely wait to fuel with breakfast after your workout. However, if you are running intervals, have a gut-turning tempo run, or HIIT type of class, then your performance may be hindered if you do NOT have a snack containing some carbohydrate.
3. How long your workout is. Workouts lasting 40 minutes or less of moderate to low intensity, can likely be fueled by the glycogen in your muscle and liver, and you'll be good to eat after.
The long and the short of it is, you may need to adjust your current habits (ie, how you've trained your body based on when you eat) to better suite your workout schedule, performance goals and run plan, and not just keep doing the same thing, over and over again...expecting a different result...that is the definition of insanity I believe?
The million dollar question. What is the ideal pre-run morning bite?
A carbohydrate based food will provide you with that quick fuel that you need. The portion you have will vary based on your hunger, your trained habits and of course your individualized nutrient needs, but these items are a good place to start:
An energy bite or ball because they are quick and convenient! Get a copy of my Master Guide to Energy Bites for recipes and how-to-steps for this quick snack solutions.
1 piece of toast with peanut butter- honey is optional but delicious
Fruit (like an apple, pear, banana- 1 piece is good)
Yogurt 3/4 cup
A small muffin
Small bowl of cereal with some milk
Chocolate milk- about 1 cup (this is also great post workout too!)
Just a reminder this meal you have before an early morning workout is not necessary your full, nourishing, balanced breakfast, it is meant to be quick fuel to maximize your morning efforts and stave off hunger. You can and should follow-up with a post-workout meal to complete your morning routine. And though this post is not focused on post-run recovery, I will suggest that you include a post workout protein/carbohydrate combination like an omelette and fruit, hard boiled egg and toast, Greek yogurt parfait, breakfast egg sandwich, or a greens smoothie with protein to name a few options.