(updated April 2018)
I’ve talked in previous posts what you might want to consider eating for breakfast before you head out for a run… But what if you’re running middle of day or, more commonly, later in the day?
Ideally you’re eating a carbohydrate rich snack that contains about 2-2.5 grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight about 2-4 hours before you do a hard or long run (about half that if it’s an easy workout), along with some protein and healthy fats.
However, if you’ve got less than an hour, or even only a few minutes before you begin working out, you at least need to ensure you’re eating 15-25 grams of carbohydrate that will digest quickly and easily – so that means a snack low in fat, protein and fibre. Here are my top 8 snacks you can reach for anywhere within the hour before you head out the door.
Yes, seriously – cookies. But here’s the thing – not just any ol’ cookie will do. Most in fact, will not. However, I’m talking about Power Cookies, a cookie I specifically created to be a good option to reach for pre-run – it contains 18 grams of carbohydrate per cookie. It also contains a small amount of fat and protein, so likely more to the side of one hour prior will work better than minutes before. However, that said, the first time I utilized a Power Cookie pre-run, it was mere minutes before heading out the door (I had 2 in fact as I thought they were rather delicious) and my 5km easy run turned into 23km. The power of Power Cookies 😉
2. Homemade Energy Bar
Energy bars that are lower in fat and protein generally make for ideal pre-run snacks. Similarly to the Power Cookie, they need to be eating more to the one hour pre-run then just before. You might try a client favourite – Honey Almond Energy Bar (36 grams carbohydrate per bar along with 8g protein and 11g fat, so best to just have half if it’s close to run time). Or try these Chewy Granola Bars. My Tart Cherry Energy Bars are also a popular choice pre-run (recipe in my Eat 2 Run Recipe Book).
3. Oat based Muffins
Along the same lines of the power cookies and energy bars, oat-based muffins can work really well pre-run also. In fact these Mini Banana Muffins are the perfect size to have just one within an hour pre-run (14 grams carbohydrate). Or you might try Chocolate Beet Muffins (bonus – both chocolate and beets are effective ergogenic aid, enhancing oxygen flow to the working muscles). Or try these Pineapple Carrot Power Muffins or these Apple Cinnamon Muffins, or these Zucchini Muffins.
The banana is a favourite among runners for good reason – it’s really easy to digest and absorb quickly. If you’ve only got a few minutes before you have to head out, a banana provides about 25 grams of carbohydrate (no fat or protein to slow digestion) and can be the perfect thing to grab pre-run. If you have more than just a few minutes, dip your banana in almond butter and/or chia seeds. Or if you’re eating 2-4 hours pre-run, make it part of your pre-run meal, such as a sliced banana atop a bowl of Fully Loaded Oatmeal or Overnight Oats (recipes in my Eat 2 Run Recipe Book).
5. Dates (medjool dates)
If you don’t care for bananas, or simply want to switch things up, try dates! Nicknamed natures candy, they are truly delicious (the fresher they are, the more like ‘candy’ they taste). One large medjool date contains about 18 grams of carbohydrate (no fat or protein). They are very easy and fast for the body to digest and absorb, so can be eaten very shortly before heading out. And like bananas, if you’re eating them 15 minutes or more before heading out, dip them in some almond butter and some cacao nibs.
6. Applesauce with Cinnamon
Another fast and easy one! Just grab one of those little individual size applesauce cups, sprinkle on some cinnamon, eat and go. Applesauce is easier to digest than eating a whole apple is, so you can eat it much closer to run time than you could the full piece of fruit. However, apples are known FODMAPs, which don’t sit favourably for those sensitive, so just be aware if you have pre-existing gut issues, this one may not work for you. Cinnamon not only makes the applesauce snack taste yummier, it helps the body to absorb the carbs you’ve just eaten faster and keeps blood sugar levels steady all the while lowering inflammation.
7. Rice Cakes
Rice cakes are a rather processed food (as opposed to the whole foods I prefer to recommend), however sometimes they just work really well as an easy and fast food to digest (the body can quickly turn them into glucose). Thus, because rice is a very ‘safe’ food, even for athletes who have digestion problems, rice cakes and/or rice puffs may have a place in some peoples pre-run nutrition routines. In fact, I’ve had a number of runners who’d previously suffered from severe GI distress and found rice cakes topped with nut butter or coconut oil and maybe a sliced banana or date along with some hemp hearts and maybe drizzled with a bit of honey to be a fantastic pre-run food that allowed them to run without issue.
8. Energy Drink or Gel
Energy drinks and gels (or gummies) are commonly used DURING long runs, but if you’re in desperate need of quick energy immediately before you head out for your run, these are very easy and fast for the body to digest and absorb. Be warned however, repeated use of pure sugar immediately pre-run trains your body to utilize only carbohydrates for fuel. Ideally you are training body to burn more fatty acids for fuel and not just burn sugars. Therefore continued use of gels and energy drinks before every run can contribute to less than optimal body composition in some athletes, as the body becomes less metabolically efficient. That said, utilizing a gel in the 10 minutes pre-race is a great strategy for extending glycogen stores. So use this option sparingly and strategically.
Do you have a favourite pre-run snack you grab before your mid-day or later-day run? Let me know in the comments below!
To deliciously healthy food and stronger faster running… Cheers,
Sarah Cuff, R.H.N.
Holistic Sports Nutritionist
Founder Eat 2 Run Sports Nutrition
CSNN Sports Nutrition Instructor
Better Bodies Club Nutritionist
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Great ideas, never thought of rice or puff cereal but this would be good for a non- wheat eater…my hubby will be thrilled to get this treat once in awhile! I’m biking out to the store to buy this, after eating a banana with chia seeds (or hemp). Thank you!
It’s nice to have many various options – there’s so many more than 8 really, this just adds to the idea list. Nice, love how you fueled your bike ride to the grocery store with a banana with chia (or hemp)!! 🙂