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The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Run Fueling

Written by Mandy NelsonNutritional Therapy Practitioner & Certified AIP Coach

Whether you’re training for a marathon or sneaking in a quick 3-miler before work, It’s essential to fuel your body if you want to get the most out of your run. Here is your comprehensive guide to make sure you’re giving your body what it needs to perform and recover!

Hydration is your best friend.

Hydration is crucial for any workout...and for feeling good in general! You can use the hydration equation to determine the amount of water to drink daily:

This is a good starting point for daily maintenance, but keep in mind that you may need more if you sweat a lot or when the temps are warmer.

Including electrolytes, like LMNT, is very important for optimal hydration! When we sweat, we’re not just sweating out water, we’re losing minerals and electrolytes, too. You can drink electrolytes daily, but the day before any long run, speed workout, or race will be especially helpful. 

One to two hours before your run, you should aim for 12-24 ounces of water, but don’t chug a ton right before you head out the door to avoid the uncomfortable sloshing. You can, however, sip another 5-10 ounces shortly before starting. 

If you’re running for over an hour, bringing some water with you (or planning your route by water fountains) is a good idea! The amount needed will vary based on temperature and how much you sweat, but 20-30 ounces per hour is a good place to start. Investing in a handheld bottle, a hydration vest, or a belt can make reaching these hydration goals more achievable. 

Pre-Run Fuel

The night before:

On the night before a long run or race, be sure to pick foods that you eat on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t upset your stomach. Focus on a balanced plate including protein, fats, carbs, and fiber from produce. 

The day of:

If you’re able to eat a small meal 1-2 hours before a run, focus on healthy fats and carbohydrates:

  • This is important because carbohydrates are the easiest energy source for the body to use as fuel. Fats take a little longer for the body to access, but they’re a longer burning, more stable fuel source. 
  • If you think about it like building a fire, carbs would be the kindling needed to get everything started that we burn through quickly, and fats would be the logs that we can rely on for a longer period of time. 
If you don’t have enough time for a meal, then stick to mainly carbs since they don’t take as long to digest as fats. This could be half an apple, a small cup of oatmeal, or energy gels or chews.

Tips For Optimal Fueling:

  • Experiment with your pre-run fuel to find what works best for you. Everyone's digestive system reacts differently, so it's important to tailor your intake to your needs.
  • Listen to your body: If something doesn't sit well with you, adjust accordingly.
  • Hydrate consistently throughout the day, not just before or after your run.

Final Thoughts

It’s not only about what you eat before the run. If you’re running over an hour, it’s important to have some easy-to-digest carb sources - think gels, chews or powders - that you can bring on the road with you! Stop by your local Performance Running Outfitters to speak with the experienced staff who can talk you through the different products and make recommendations. 

Don’t forget about fueling post-run too! To support a healthy recovery, eat carbs to replenish the glycogen stores that were depleted and proteins filled with amino acids that help repair and rebuild muscles.

To learn more about running nutrition and wellness, stop by any PRO store to speak to an expert, or visit Nourish & Flourish Wellness Co to explore your individual health journey and work 1-on-1 with Mandy.

Happy running!


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