Fuel: Before, During and After a Run

Are you unsure of what and when to eat in relation to your new running program? Well here’s a few tips to help you out.

Before a run:

Eat something light at least 30 – 60 minutes before you run. If you are doing a quick 3 miles you may not even need anything. Some people (not me) throw their running clothes on as soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning and head out the door. Those people don’t need to eat anything. Maybe a sip of water or coffee and go.



I on the other hand, need to have a full cup of coffee (helps me “go”) and either a Cliff bar, slice of toast with peanut butter or a half of a banana before I run. If my stomach is even a little upset I just have a bite of banana and that’s all. I would rather be a little hungry while running than have stomach issues.

If I’m running more than 6 miles, I have oatmeal, it lasts longer and doesn’t upset my stomach. Experiment with different foods to see what works for you. Generally plain foods work best, (bananas, plain bagel, Cliff bar). No breakfast burritos!

During a run:

For 6 miles (1 hour) or less you don’t really need to eat anything. The rule of thumb is every 45 – 60 mins you should reload. Some people recommend eating a little bit every 15 minutes, but that is way too much for me. I gauge when I am going to take in fuel (and I say it like that because “eating” a Gu or Shot Bloks, is not really eating) by how I feel. If my stomach is even a little bit queasy then I wait. If I feel good at mile 6 then I have a Gu (a gel energy source). I prefer Gu brand over PowerBar because it is thicker. Most are pretty nasty, you have to find the least nasty of them all. If you truly cannot tolerate the gels, there are energy replacements that come in gummies and jelly beans. They all provide simple carbohydrates to supply energy, prevent muscle fatigue and keep sugar levels even. I like gummies and jelly beans but the packaging needs improvement. They need to be in resealable bags so you can save what you don’t eat. I have never eaten a whole package during a run. Be sure to follow up with water after eating any of the energy replacements, to help with digestion.


Never drink Gatorade or any electrolyte drink with a gel, gummies or jelly beans, it will wreak havoc on your GI tract.  As a matter of fact I never drink electrolyte drinks during a run for fear of GI issues. If I’m running a half marathon I plan my Gu according to water stops. Water stops are usually every 2 miles (2,4,6, etc.), so I will take a Gu at either mile 5.5 or 7.5 depending on how I feel, then stop at a water station to wash it down.


After a run:

You should eat within 30 minutes of a run for optimum muscle recovery. Drink plenty of water. Post run meals should consist of 50% carbs, 25% protein and 25% healthy fats.

My favorites after a long run are: Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat toast with glass of 1% milk or 2 eggs (1 yolk) fried, pepper jack cheese on whole wheat toast with avocado and spinach.


After a short run (3 or 4 miles), I have either peanut butter toast or a bowl of cereal.

It’s easy to over eat when you start running, because you are always hungry and feel like you deserve to eat  little extra. Sometimes you just need to drink more water to feel full. I have heard many new runners complain about gaining weight since they started running. Be careful, eat healthy and stay hydrated!

Remember, I am writing from personal experience. I am not a nutritionist. I constantly read about what works and what is recommended then I adjust it to my needs. You should do the same.

What to remember: Eat Light (if at all) before a run, Stay Hydrated during a long run and Refuel with carbs, protein and healthy fats (in moderation) after a run.


I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions feel free to contact me via email at denipe01@gmail.com or leave a message in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Keep running!

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