What do eat before training? What a runner consumes before training is of vital importance.


By Maria Polyzou



The main source of fuel for energy and strength are carbohydrates which are stored in our muscle tissue as glycogen for the days before we exercise. It takes time for our cells to fill with glycogen.


Cereal bars, energy drinks, gels and other sources of carbohydrates can help by giving you the energy you require during your training session. Whether we eat during exercise depends on the particular requirements and preferences of each runner.



When should you eat before training?


Exercising on a full stomach is not a good idea.  The food which remains in your stomach during training is sure to cause you major discomfort and nausea, something that will make you not enjoy your run.  In fact, if it is to be a session of great intensity, there is no doubt you will encounter problems.  If you decide to eat a full meal, this should be consumed at least 3 – 4 hours prior to your run and of course it all depends on the type of food you have. 


What do we do in the case when we do not have time – due to work obligations - to eat a proper meal?


You should begin by eating a good breakfast on the day when you are to train in the afternoon.


Take along some fruit; ideally bananas, dried fruit, cereal bars, and yoghurt.  Try to eat some of these at regular intervals throughout your day. Drink a lot of water, fruit juice and isotonic drinks.  All these foods are rich in carbohydrates and are easily digested.


Recommended food for exercise


Eating before exercising is something only runners can decide on, based on experience and some general guidelines which include the consumption of a proper meal 4 hours before training, a snack or a high in energy and carbohydrates drink, 4 hours prior to exercising, and the replenishment of liquids 1 hour before you start.

1 hour or less before exercising

  • Fresh fruit, like apples, watermelon, peaches, grapes and oranges
  • Energy gel
  • Up to 1 ½ glasses of a sports drink


2 to 3 hours before exercising

  • Fresh fruit
  • Bread, baguette, pasta
  • Yoghurt
  • Water


3 to 4 hours before exercising

  • Fresh fruit
  • Pasta served with tomato sauce
  • Oven-baked potatoes
  • Rice
  • Energy bar
  • Yoghurt
  • Toasted bread with a little peanut butter, low-fat cold meat and cheese
  • water


Food you should avoid eating before training

Food rich in fats or fibre are to be avoided as they are very difficult and slow to digest thus remaining in your stomach for a very long time.  Moreover, it will draw blood into the stomach so as to facilitate digestion; this can cause cramps and great discomfort.  Meat, donuts, potato chips and chocolate should be avoided before training.


You should know that everyone is different and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. 


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