Earlier this week, I touched upon the importance of eating properly before running in the mid-summer heat. And really you’ll find, if you haven’t already, that pre-run meals can have a big impact on the success of your runs, no matter what time of year.
But as I type this, my online thermometer reads 93 degrees with a heat index of 108 and 61% humidity in Gainesville. This kind of weather kills people, and some are even suggesting that even moderate exercise in these conditions may, in fact, be detrimental to one’s health.
So before I go on, I must insist that if you are a beginning runner or at all unsure of your physical conditioning, you should, in my opinion, be running inside or sometime other than the hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For those of us … headstrong … enough to brave the temperature extremes that North Florida has to offer, well, let’s toss around some ideas for pre-run meals and snacks.
Now as I said before, I am a graduate student on a graduate student’s budget, so I must be frugal with my purchases, and I try to make each grocery purchase go a long way.
The benefit, here, is that if I can provide myself with nutritious and fueling pre-run meals and snacks, then most likely, you’ll be able to do the same on your budget. So again, we’re going to use my refrigerator and pantry and find some pre-run meal ideas based solely on food that I have.
Let me also just add that I am not a nutritionist, nor am I an expert on the science of nutrition. I do, however, know nutrition basics, and I would definitely suggest you read through the guidelines provided by the CDC to familiarize yourself with food groups, protein/carbohydrate/fat ratios etc.
Without further adieu, my refrigerator and pantry:
Now if you’re like me, you aren’t planning your pre-run meals hours in advance, nor are you calculating the exact caloric necessities of the upcoming run. Instead, you’re probably squeezing in a quick pre-run snack or, at most, preparing a quickly made meal that will digest in an hour or less.
To keep it simple, I’ve created three meal categories: foods that should be eaten an hour or more before a run, foods that can be eaten about a half an hour before a run and foods that can be eaten 10 minutes or less before a run.
Let’s take a look at what I found in the fridge and pantry:
One Hour Plus:
Sandwiches (PB, ham, cheese) – Sandwiches are a great pre-run fuel food. They can provide you with carbohydrates, protein, fat and sugar. Sandwiches also have the potential to sit like a rock in your stomach, so I would definitely recommend erring on the cautious side and waiting at least an hour to run after eating one.
Oatmeal – Another great pre-run fuel, and another food that you’ll want to give plenty of time to digest before running. Go easy on the sugar if you’re planning on running afterward as you might find yourself crashing mid-run.
Pasta – Many long-distance runners eat pasta the night before a race or long run to carbo-load. Pasta is a tried and true pre-run fuel and another food that is easy to make and cheap.
Cereal – Cereal is a food that sounds like it should be an efficient pre-run food, but in practice I have had some negative experiences with it. Cereal often causes me to sugar crash, leaving me feeling tired and weak. Milk is also something that I am cautious about drinking before a run, as I have had some negative (and messy) experiences with pre-run dairy consumption.
Half an Hour:
Eggs – My usual breakfast – three scrambled. I find eggs to be great fuel for running, and I can usually run relatively quickly after I eat them. If you use salt on your eggs, make sure that you’re keeping hydrated, too.
Soup – Canned soup is cheap and easy and quick to make. It can also be very high in sodium, so I always look the reduced-sodium kind. Again, you’ll want to make sure you’re keeping hydrated if eating soup before a run.
Cheese and Crackers – Depending on how many you eat, cheese and crackers can be eaten a variety of times before a run. I like to have just a few as a pre-run snack and energy boost. If you run after eating too many, you’ll feel like you have a football in your stomach.
10 Minutes or Less:
Fruit – Perhaps the ultimate and ideal pre-run snack. I usually grab a handful of fruit before heading out the door. It’s easy on the tummy and provides quick energy. If you’re in Gainesville, Ward’s Supermarket is the place to go for fresh and affordable fruit.
Nuts – Nuts are known as an incredible source of energy, and I find that a handful of nuts before a run can provide more long-term energy than fruit can. I haven’t had any problem eating nuts right before running, though I keep the amount to about a handful or two.
One last thing I’ll say about eating before running is that it’s not an exact science. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different pre-run foods and drinks. I’ve eaten everything from chocolate to beer before running. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t, but you’ll never know unless you try.