With Arizona’s sweltering summers, many people training for race season opt for early-morning runs. If time is limited, these runners may skip fueling up for their workouts.
Running on “empty” leads to early fatigue as a result of muscle glycogen depletion. This may lead to slower times, which affects miles completed during the session.
I encourage runners to eat a good dinner the night before they run. By a good dinner, I mean a meal that contains lean protein, whole grains or healthy starches, vegetables and healthy fat. Use the plate method from ChooseMyPlate.gov as a guide for optimal nutrition for health and performance.
If you typically eat dinner before 6 p.m., I recommend eating a small healthy snack right before your bedtime. A healthy snack could be a fruit, a small handful of nuts, low-fat yogurt, or whole-grain toast with peanut butter. If your morning run is less than 30 minutes, you may not need the early morning fuel if you snacked the evening before.
But if you plan on a longer run, don’t leave the house without putting some fuel in the tank. Generally, before a workout you want to choose food that is low in fiber and fat, and moderate in protein, which can slow the rate of digestion and possibly cause gastrointestinal problems during the run.
Examples of some early-morning pre-workout mini-meals include: a small bowl of low-fiber cereal (ex. Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes or puffed cereals), 4-6 ounces of fruit juice, 8 ounces of non-sugar free sports drink, sports beans or gummies, ½ small bagel, 6 ounces low-fat yogurt, sports or energy bar, ½ large banana or slice of watermelon. Different foods work for different people, so you may need to experiment to find what works best for you.
Don’t forget to hydrate. A lack of hydration before an early run can lead to early fatigue. Aim to drink 8-16 ounces of fluid, 30 minutes to an hour before your morning run. Sports drinks, milk and juices are included.
Once you develop a regular pre-workout eating plan, I’m confident you’ll feel better and much more energized during the run.