Every serious runner has experienced that same sinking feeling – it is halfway through a race, and serious gastrointestinal distress is coming on strong. But what to do? Do you bow out of the race to deal with the stomach issues, or do you soldier on, uncomfortably counting down the mile markers until the race is over? For many, this situation is all too common, and it can take the sport of running from an enjoyable and empowering pastime, to an activity filled with nerves and fear. One of the most important pre-race considerations to make when it comes to keeping your stomach settled and your body energized, is what food to eat before running. Here are three of the best foods to eat before running:
- Carbohydrates – The age-old method of having a plate of pasta the night before a race is actually still considered sage advice. Now, a heaping bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo probably isn’t the answer. However, any processed carb-based foods, like plain bagels, plain white rice, and pasta, are easy on the stomach and generally do not place additional strain on your gastrointestinal system since the whole grain is already pre-broken down.
- Dairy alternatives – Many runners have a hard time comfortably running after they have consumed regular dairy products like cow’s milk, cheese, and traditional yogurt. To combat this, simply replace your usual dairy selections with alternates like almond milk, soy, or rice milk, or Greek yogurt that contains live cultures or is specially blended to help quell stomach maladies. Sugar lactose is often the culprit when stomach concerns surface, so take careful notes on the actual ingredients or naturally-occurring substances in your preferred dairy brand.
- Low-fiber vegetables and fruit – Fiber is really good for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s the ideal nutrient to add to your body before running. In fact, most runners will experience some general discomfort if a high-fiber meal is consumed the night before a race. Low-fiber vegetables, on the other hand, can energize and hydrate your body before a run, and they don’t generally cause stomach discomfort. Try grapes, zucchini, tomatoes, and grapefruit if you are looking for a way to comfortably incorporate fruits and vegetables.
Remember – it is vital that you not only manage your food before running, but that you also eat at appropriate times and hydrate prior to hitting the pavement. Most experts agree that you should eat until you feel “just full enough,” then stop. There is nothing worse than lacing up and starting a run with what feels like a bowling ball in your stomach. You will also want to stop eating at least thirty minutes before the run to provide your body with enough of a head start on digestion, so your stomach will feel light and your body will start to realize some of the energy from the food. Lastly, drink at least 12-16 oz. of water about 45-60 minutes before your run.