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Most runners have experienced that pre-run pang of hunger that pops up right when you’re stepping out the door. It’s too late to scarf down the meal, but you don’t want to run on an empty stomach either. Sarah-Jane Bedwell, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for LUNA, has five top tips for avoiding the growling insides right before you lace up.
1. Eat a smart snack one to two hours before the run.
“Focus on carbohydrates,” says Bedwell. “For easy to moderate runs less than 1 hour, 1/2 gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight (about 30 grams for someone weighing 140 pounds) eaten 1-2 hours before should be sufficient (as a part of an overall balanced diet). A pre-workout snack for these runs might be a medium banana or LUNA bar. For runs lasting 1 hour or more, about 1 gram of carb per kilogram of body weight should be consumed 1-2 hours before. An example of fuel for these longer runs might be the medium banana and LUNA bar, or one cup oatmeal topped with 1/4 cup raisins.”
2. Stay hydrated.
Do this by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, as well as at least 8-12 ounces within the hour prior to running. Our bodies sometimes confuse hunger with thirst, which tends to make us raid the fridge rather than the water container. Many times when we think we are hungry, we are actually slightly dehydrated.
Related: 7 Simple Ways To Drink More Water
3. Eat regular meals throughout the day.
“Not only does eating every 3 to 4 hours keep your metabolism and energy levels up,” says Bedwell. “It also helps to prevent overwhelming hunger pangs throughout the day.” Don’t stuff yourself; make the meals small but filling, and try to drink glasses of water with each one.
4. Make protein, fiber and fat part of your meals.
While it isn’t a good idea to incorporate these nutrients into the meal you eat prior to your run, consuming them during other parts of the day slows digestion and helps you to feel fuller for longer. This can then help keep you out of the fridge and on the move.
5. Find the timing of a pre-run snack that works for you.
“When I first started running,” says Bedwell, “if I ate something before a race, I would get sick. Then I discovered that I was eating too close to the start time of the race and that my nerves were getting the better of me. When I started eating about 2 hours before the race, not only did I not get sick, I could actually eat a little more and found that that helped me have more energy and not hit the wall as quickly. While some people can eat something just 30 minutes before a run, others need closer to 2 hours to digest the food and get the most out of the nutrition. Pick the schedule that works best for you and stick with it.”