What to Eat Before and After Running in the Morning – Question Answered!

Jeff Baldelli
Written by
Last update:

Going Back to Basics – Is Running Actually Good for You?

While it’s an obvious and much-appreciated benefit of running, the truth is that running really is good for you.

In this section, we jump back to the basics and discuss the top 10 health benefits of running.

Because of their popularity, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about the negative health effects of running and other forms of aerobic exercise. As you’ll see, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

1. Reduces Cholesterol Levels

You’ll know someone is running a marathon when you see their legs and arms covered in colorful, sparkly, and sometimes even bow-shaped accessories.

The reason for this is simply that every marathon runner understands the importance of wearing compression socks during training and throughout the race.

Now while these colorful accessories do a great job of showing support for the sporting event, they also have a much more serious reason for being there – supporting circulation.

People who are running, especially competitive runners or marathon participants, need to make sure that their circulation is in great shape. This is to make sure that the blood they’re constantly pushing through their system doesn’t become too viscous to deliver oxygen to the muscles that they’re using for their activity.

Compression socks are great for this, and when they’re combined with other forms of exercise such as running they have even better effects. Running, particularly if you’re running on a regular basis, is known to have an extremely positive effect on reducing cholesterol levels.

In fact, a team of doctors from Oregon Health and Science University did a study where they also monitored a group of patients who had recently had heart surgery. They also measured the amounts of cholesterol and triglyceride in their blood. They then told half of them to go out and start running on a regular basis.

After six months, the group that had been told to start running showed significantly reduced levels of triglycerides in their blood. Triglycerides are one of the leading contributors to the buildup of plaque in your arteries and can expedite coronary artery disease.

The group that didn’t go out running experienced no benefit … weight does not appear to be the overriding factor either.

Eating Before Running

If you’ve ever had a runner’s high, then you’ll know just how much food can affect your ability to run, especially if you don’t eat the right foods at the right time. Most runners turn to sports drinks, gels, energy bars, or protein shakes, but there’s a lot more options than you think.

The Best Types of Foods to Eat before Running in the Morning

Whole Foods, Real Food, and Macro Counts.

One of the big mistakes that many people make is eating too much processed food, which means fewer nutrients and higher amounts of unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar. Sure, you can get away with it occasionally, but if you’re hitting the gym on a daily basis, your body needs more than just calories.

The best habit to get into is eating more whole foods, which means food that is unprocessed and has been grown naturally.

What does this mean?

Well, whole foods are going to have more nutritional value than their processed counterparts. They’re also going to have fewer amounts of unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar, which means that when you tuck into a piece of fruit, you’re not just getting a huge amount of sugar and calories, but also vitamins and minerals.

Different types of fruits and vegetables will have varying nutritional value, with many of the most common fruits and vegetables such as apples, spinach, and carrots being high in antioxidants, which can help avert disease and aging.

While your body finds calories and protein useful, you get more nutritional value from vitamins and minerals, which lead to stronger bones, better cardiovascular health, and help treat chronic diseases.

Because of this, you should also consider including more of your favorite “super foods” in your diet. These are foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

One thing worth mentioning is that not all food sources have the same nutritional value, which is why you should also consider the proportions of carbs, fats, and proteins that you eat. The most commonly recommended ratio of these three macro nutrients is about 40% carbs, 40% fats, and 20% protein.

You may be wondering about the rationale behind this particular macro ratio.

Eating After Running

When you have a metabolism-boosting, fat-burning, muscle-building workout like a morning run, the last thing you want to do is undo all of this effort and benefit by having a poor post-run nutrition plan.

The aftermath of an intense workout causes what is called “microtrauma” for your muscles. These tears in your essentially “jelly-like” muscles will heal, though, giving you bigger, stronger muscles if given the proper nutrients to help you recover.

Types of nutrients that will help you recover after your morning run include proteins, carbohydrates, and, most importantly, water.

In terms of calculating how much to eat, one tip is to consume at least 10g of protein in one sitting. You can also separate this into multiple smaller servings throughout the day. This is because protein takes a while for your body to digest, so it’s useful to have it in your system longer than a carbohydrate-based food.

Another tip is to alternate between consuming a protein and carbohydrate. For example, your first post-run meal could include a big hunk of meat with a whole-grain bread roll. This is because the proteins provide amino acids, the building blocks of immune cells and muscle fibers. Meanwhile, carbohydrates provide your body with glucose, which your body uses for quick energy.

Finally, you should aim to consume 1g of carbohydrates for every kg of body weight. This means that if you weigh 50kg, you should consume 50g of carbohydrates. If you weigh 70kg, you should aim for 70g of carbohydrates.

In addition to this, you’re going to want to consume enough water to reach your target hydration level. For most people, this means aiming for something between 50% and 75% of your total body weight. This may be surprising, especially to those of you who have been told to drink lots of water. The percentage of water in your body does not change whether you’re drinking it or not.

When you’re well hydrated, your body can balance out most of the extra salts and minerals that were flushed out of your system. If you don’t replace these, your body will start to retain them.

Eat Like a Pro

Many people think they can eat whatever they want before running because they’re burning so many calories. This may not be a bad practice for some people, but it could also be an unhealthy one.

The reason why you need to take care when it comes to eating before a run is that your body needs carbs to avoid dehydration, and too much protein can make it harder for your body to properly digest. If you’re eating and running at the same time, this also can give you bathroom issues, which we can tell you from experience is not fun.

If you’re running on an empty stomach, you can count on taking in little to no calories, which is dangerous for several reasons. As far as protein, while your body does use it to build and maintain muscles, it also uses it to repair and feed your other body parts. The average male can digest 90 grams of protein per day, while the average female can handle 60 grams per day.

The best time to eat is after you’ve showered and are ready to start your day. This gives your body some time to churn through the meal and fully digest the contents, thereby causing you to need to urinate more often. You can also expect to take in more calories if you’re out and about because you’ll be eating at regular intervals.

The easiest way to prevent lethargy from not ingesting sufficient calories is to eat a hearty meal right after you’ve gotten back. You can try a protein bar, a bowl of oatmeal with bananas, or even a veggie and turkey wrap. The point is that you want to consume some extra calories.

After you’ve eaten, and have had some time to digest, head to the shower. After this, your body will be in prime shape to exercise.

Don’t Worry about Working out on an Empty Stomach

While there is evidence that points to health risks of working out on an empty stomach, the evidence is insufficient. The evidence says that if you do work out on an empty stomach, it will negatively impact your athletic performance.

While this may be true, what the evidence doesn’t delve into is how much your athletic performance will be affected by not having food in your body.

What to Eat Before a Morning Run?

This question was asked by Sarah Jessica Hilson in her interview with SELF Magazine. First, she was asked how she keeps her body fit enough; so she said that she does exercises to keep body fit and maintain a healthy weight.

Then this question about what to eat before a morning run was popped up.

The first point Sarah Jessica Hilson made about the prep was you better do not have an empty stomach. She said that sooner or later, empty stomach will tell you loud and clear: you are hungry!

Hilson said that before she jogs, she will eat a good breakfast and an hour before her run, she will drink something with protein and carbs. It is best recommended that you eat foods with high energy level such as eggs, whole grains and fruits before you jog.

It’s also recommended that you have a small snack about 30 minutes before you start your run.

Also, it’s not recommended that you eat too much. That would make you feel too full while running.

What to Drink after a Morning Run?

Hilson said that it depends on how much you sweat during your jog. She explained that if you sweat a lot, then you better have a plan on what you’re going to drink afterward.

One important thing to remember is to drink water after you finish your run. It’s pretty hydrating and will keep you cool for a long time.

For those who sweat a lot and need something to replenish the loss, she recommended sports drinks. Sports drinks are a high-level of carbohydrates and electrolytes as well.

What to Eat before a Morning Run and What to Drink After?

Sarah Jessica Hilson suggests that eat a good breakfast and an hour before you jogged, you should drink a protein-packed shake. A good choice for your breakfast could be a yogurt with some nuts to top it off.

Megan Andelloux of Still Performing Inc. wrote an article that asks a question that many people have, what does it take to be a morning person. These days, it seems like everyone is in a rush. Many people are finding it easier to crawl out of bed in the afternoon to go to work over abruptly waking up early in the morning. However, fortunately, not everyone is a slave to the routine of late mornings.

What to Eat After Running in the Morning?

What should you eat after any intense workout? Like your pre-workout meal, this question has many complicated answers.

First, it depends on what you’ve had for that pre-workout meal. Instead of taking up your valuable time by telling you how to chew your food, I’ll just summarize the optimal post-workout meals based on the workout intensity you’re going through.

Low-Intensity Workouts

For these types of workouts, which are usually very short and easier than the average Joe, you can have a smaller meal. Your body will definitely need less.

Within 30 minutes after your light workout, you can have a small meal that’s composed of the following:

5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight unless you are doing an exercise session within the next 4-6 hours; then you should eat 2 to 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.

40 to 60 grams of easy-to-digest protein.

15 to 20 grams of healthy fats. The best sources for these fats are olive oil, fish oils, and flaxseed oil.

For added nutrition, you can have a few servings of vegetables.

You can also capture essential vitamins by including a multivitamin and a vitamin D supplement.

Moderate-Intensity Workouts

If, on the other hand, you did an exercise session that typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour to complete, you’ll also have an easier post-workout meal.

However, for this post-workout meal, you’ll want to have a bit more carbs, protein, and fat. The main difference is that it will be bigger. Here’s the breakdown:

Again, 1.5 to 2 grams of carbohydrates for every last pound of your body weight, depending on how many hours you’ll be exercising for the next.

Between 40 to 60 grams of protein.

Between 25 to 35 grams of fat.

If you’re following The Ketogenic Diet, then, you can replace the fat with 25 to 30 grams of extra carbohydrates. This is because the ketogenic diet encourages eating plenty of good fats, unlike typical low-carb diets, which discourage fat intake.

Don’t Forget About Hydration

In a study conducted at the Victoria University of Wellington, test subjects engaged in prolonged cardio exercise with either 500ml of water or a sports drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes every 10 minutes.

Afterward, the subjects received an IV of either plain water, glucose and electrolytes, or a sports drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes.

The glucose IV increased plasma glucose levels 36 percent higher than the placebo IV. Blood concentrations of insulin, which regulates the rate of food being digested and carbohydrates being metabolized, were 23 percent higher in the glucose IV than the placebo IV.

The researchers found that the subjects who received the glucose IV had higher plasma glucose and insulin levels, more glycogen synthesis, and maintained plasma glucose concentrations longer than the placebo group.

This means that a small amount of carbohydrates right before your run will help provide and maintain proper energy levels for improved endurance, while saving you a bit of time trying to find something to eat once you’re done.

On the other hand, if you’re ingesting a carbohydrate drink straight after you’re done running, the results tend to be the opposite.

A study conducted at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) showed that of the participants who received a sports drink immediately following moderate intensity exercise, 14 percent had a significantly higher exercise-induced rise in plasma glucose level.

Among the participants who received an non-carbohydrate drink, or a placebo drink, the one percent increase in plasma glucose level averaged over the 12 hours and 20 minutes following the end of exercise was not significantly different from zero.

This means that in the immediate post-exercise period, carbohydrate oxidation was seen significantly increased in the group receiving the carbohydrate drink.

The big difference between the "Post Exertion Carb Drink" and the "Post Exertion Water Drink" is the difference between a bunch of added calories and an overall lower calorie count.

The other major difference is the major spike in blood sugar levels that comes with the carbohydrate-rich drink. These spikes in blood sugar are great for providing your body with quick bursts of energy, but it can quickly lead to fatigue.

A third study at the AIS divided participants into three groups. Each group was asked to exercise at a hard intensity for a 45 minute period, followed by a recovery period of 10 minutes.

Final Words

Anyone can run in the morning. Like anything in life, it just takes a little bit of self-discipline and motivation to get going.

Obviously it’s not going to be easy, just like everything else in life, but it’s not necessarily out of reach.

Those who can run are rewarded with a multitude of health and productivity benefits. Even for those who are currently sedentary, the basic principles of running can be applied to simple bodyweight exercises.

If you’re not a runner, the action of waking up in the morning and running can set in motion a change in your life.

Usually, people who run in the morning swear by it and look back with amazement at how much running changed their lives and improved their overall health and happiness.

If you’ve been wanting to run but are still skeptical of the idea, I encourage you to try it. Even if you don’t maintain it in the long run, even one or two sessions will be enough to prove to you that it can be done.

Runners make running look easy. They glide across the ground with ease, feeling as if they could go forever. You don’t need to learn how to run like an Olympian to benefit from running, but you do need to wake up and go outside. Get out there and run and you’ll see the improvements in your life…I guarantee it.

Nicholas Amoruso has been interested in health and fitness since the point he could walk. Having lost 75 lbs by the age of 19, Nicholas realized the benefits of fitness and started to consume everything he could get his hands on. He wrote his very first fitness article in October of 2010, which was seen by millions of people around the world.

Since then, Nicholas has been writing about health and fitness for various websites, such as EliteFTS, Muscle & Strength, T-Nation, and more.

He wrote this book, The Most Effective Exercises You Aren’t Doing & Why You’re a Loser If You Don’t, with the intention of inspiring people to get moving and achieve their full potential in life.