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Should You Eat Before or After a Run?

A dietitian shares everything runners need to know about timing your nutrition around runs.

Running is a very affordable form of cardio you can do anytime, anywhere. Lacing up your sneakers and heading out for an invigorating run five to 10 minutes a day can actually lower your risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and just about any cause—research says so. If you decide to make running a go-to form of exercise, you may be curious to know whether you should eat before or after a run. We have you covered with everything you need to know about acing and timing your workout nutrition.

Proper nutrition is a crucial part of your overall fitness routine.

woman pouring smoothie into glass

Working out on the treadmill or pavement is just one part of the equation if your goal is to see noticeable results. Pairing your cardio sessions with the right meals and snacks is key, but when you eat them is also important.

"Food is fuel for your body. If we properly fuel our bodies with appropriate nutrients, we can get more out of our workouts and improve performance," explains Jordan Hill, MCD, RD, CSSD, a lead registered dietitian from Top Nutrition Coaching. "On the flip side, if we're not fueling properly, we will be at a disadvantage and likely be putting our bodies at risk for injury and illness."

This brings us to ask the question, when is the right time to fuel up?

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Should you eat before or after a run?

Woman Eating Apple Outside

According to Hill, it's an excellent idea to fuel up before hitting the pavement to rack up your miles.

"Typically, if your run is lasting 45 minutes or longer, it is advantageous to eat something before and after a run," explains Hill. "After a run of this length, it's recommended to consume a combination of carbohydrates and protein."

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Now, we're not suggesting that you have a three-course meal right before you're ready to get in those strides! What Hill is recommending is some simple carbohydrates that you can absorb and digest quickly about 20 to 30 minutes before your run. Some examples of what you can munch on include pretzels, toast, fruit, and even gummies.

"Carbohydrates are our main energy source and the go-to nutrient we use for energy during exercise," Hill tells us.

When your run is complete, it's important to have a little bit of protein along with carbs. "A carbohydrate and protein combo is recommended after a run to restore the carb stores that were spent during the run and help your muscles recover," explains Hill. "This could be in the form of a meal or hearty recovery snack."

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Hill recommends shooting for 0.3 g of protein per kg of body weight and two to three times that amount for carb intake. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, shoot for 20 g of protein and 40 to 60 g of carbs.

Plan to add a little extra before, during, and after your run if you plan on running 90 minutes or longer.

There is a list of dont's. Hill cautions to avoid fiber and fat before your run to avoid stress on your gastrointestinal tract.

"If you want [to recover] properly and reduce inflammation post-run, aim to incorporate anti-oxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and focus on unsaturated fats vs. saturated and trans fats," she suggests.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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