How to handle the morning run
The morning alarm clashes with your warm, cozy bed. You manage to lift those groggy legs from what you wish could be the endless slumber. There is little time to waste as you have a full schedule for the day. Is it really necessary to add breakfast to the morning running routine?
Eating before a morning run is a question that many ponder. As with many aspects of running, eating before a morning run often comes down to personal preferences. There are, however, some key common factors to consider when deciding if you will benefit from a pre-run shot of glucose after the long overnight fast.
What Is the Workout?
The type of workout will make a big difference in deciding if you will require something to eat before you start. You may not have enough glycogen stored away to keep you fueled for the run. Depending on the length and intensity of a run, the size of your breakfast may vary.
An early morning shakeout or recovery run of 30-60 minutes may not require any additional carbohydrate. For a run longer than an hour but at a relaxed pace, you may only desire a small breakfast bar or couple slices of toast. However, if a speed workout or a long run is on the schedule, you may find it beneficial to wake an hour and a half early or more for a small meal. Consuming a 300-500+ calorie breakfast will fuel you for the greater glycogen demand these types of tougher runs require.
When Did You Eat Dinner?
The timing of your evening meal can also influence your need for a morning snack. A runner who eats dinner at 5:00 p.m. with no other evening snacking may find his legs a little heavy on the morning run due to depleted glycogen stores from the long fast. He may even wake with an uncomfortable grumble in the stomach. If the same runner eats dinner at 8:00 p.m. or consumes a late-night carbohydrate-rich snack, he may find himself very comfortable on the morning run.
Don’t Skip Completely – Just Eat Soon After
The idea is to never skip breakfast completely. Research suggests that, for the average person, running a relaxed-pace morning run without carbohydrates in the stomach will not limit performance. The research also suggest that eating carbohydrates will not enhance performance in this scenario. These concepts also apply for the shorter duration, easier runs. However, no matter the intensity or duration, your body will be screaming for replenishment post-run. It is very important to consume breakfast soon after your morning run.
It may be tempting to jump in the shower and rush off to work or school to tackle that busy schedule. This is where training and performance can suffer. Recovering from a run plays a significant role in improving performance. Your body wants to get the muscle glycogen resynthesis process going. Feed your muscles with a post-run carbohydrate-rich breakfast. Adding a small source of protein to the meal will nicely complete your recovery meal.
Does Running Rob You of Your Post-Run Appetite?
It is not uncommon for a morning run to suppress a hearty appetite. Some may not feel like eating for hours. First off, try to force yourself to get something down during that critical metabolic window, especially after a hard run. If you know you struggle to choke down a post-run meal, I encourage finding a liquid meal replacement beverage. Even a Slim-Fast, Ensure, or good old chocolate milk will do. Not eating before a run followed by a lack of breakfast after you run will lengthen your recovery. Follow your liquid meal with a mid-morning snack to complete your refueling needs.
Testing the Water
In determining the best morning run strategy for you, consider the time you ate your last meal or snack, the type of run you plan to tackle, and have a post-run refueling plan. Do you plan to test opting out of the pre-run snack since you had a late meal? Try carrying a small breakfast bar or a small bag of animal crackers with you on your next morning run. If you feel as though you need an extra something to get you through, enjoy your prepared snack.
Deciding when and how much to eat before a morning run is often a matter of personal preference. Become familiar with the way your body feels and adjust based on what you feel works best. Listen to your body, but by no means neglect your post-run refueling needs.
Jackie Dikos, RD, lives and cooks for herself, her husband and her son in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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