Food for Runners: What to Eat Before Your Long Run

"What food for runners should you consume?" is a question that you should have leading up to every long run. You should be mindful of what you are eating and when you are eating it.

Everything that you put into your body with either:

  • fuel you, keeping you energized during your long run
  • or will negatively affect your performance whether it’s your pace or just how well you feel during the duration of your long run.

It will come down to trial and error with each and every long run but once you find that perfect magic sauce for you, you can systematize the process!

Did you read that correctly?

The magic sauce for YOU!

Yes, everyone will be different. Different things will work for different bodies and so you need to test what works for YOU!

I want to help you out though by giving you in this post:

  • some guidelines,
  • some suggestions on great food for runners
  • and a timeline that you can start testing out on your next long run!

Before we start, I want to emphasize that we are specifically talking about nutritionally preparing for a long training run and not a race.

There are similarities but if you want to learn more about what you should be eating before a race then read this page.

When Should You Eat Before a Long Run? A Timeline...

24 Hours before your long run:

Start to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking 24 hours before your scheduled long run.

I like to up my carbohydrate intake by about 50-100 grams the day before a long run.

This will allow extra glycogen to be stored for fuel for the next day.

I also like to focus on eating solid, whole foods, and lots of complex carbohydrates for steady release energy throughout my run.

There is a Food for Runners Recommendation list below that lists some of the best options for you before your long run.

The night before your long run:

Have a meal that contains lots of complex carbohydrates such as:

  • pasta
  • quinoa
  • whole grain breads
  • beans (if you don’t have trouble digesting them) 
  • and include some lean protein such as chicken or fish.

Try to avoid meats with lots of fat as this might take a toll on your digestion and how you feel during a run.

But remember, everyone is different!

You might be just fine with that steak! :)

Combine this with about 8 ounces of an electrolyte drink or your energy drink.

Also take about 500mg of Vitamin C.

4 hours before your long run until you begin your long run: 

  • Drink about 8 ounces of your energy drink.
  • Eat something that is mostly carbohydrate rich but easily digestible (such as whole grain crackers).
  • Eat some complex carbohydrates that provide the steady release energy (such as oatmeal) but also include a few simple carbs that give you a mix of quick release energy to get you started (maybe some pretzels) and drink at least 8 ounces of water.
  • Take any supplements that you normally take throughout the day.

Important Note:

The closer you are to your scheduled long run starting time, the more you will want to focus on liquid nutrition such as your energy drink or an electrolyte drink.

Liquid nutrition is important for your long runs as it will provide energy faster to your body than solid foods.

The problem with consuming solid foods in the hours before a long run is that they won't be stored in time to help fuel your long run but instead will weigh you down and send blood flow to your digestive system instead of recruiting everything to your cardiovascular system and your leg and core muscles to help you have a great long run. 

If your long run is later in the day then try one of these breakfast ideas that you can prep ahead!

And if you are looking for specifics for eating before a morning run look at the following: what to eat before running in the morning.

Food for Runners to Eat before their Long Run Recommendations List:

  • Oatmeal
  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Pastas
  • Hummus + pita bread, pita/tortilla chips or cut veggies
  • Fruit Juices
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Beans (if you find them easy on your stomach)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Eggs with whole grain toast
  • Smoothie - Greek yogurt, berries, spinach

Of course this is not a complete list of food for runners to eat before heading out on a long run but it gives you some ideas when absolutely nothing is coming to mind!

Print this list of food off or take a screen shot of it for your phone so that you have it easily accessible for when you are preparing for a long run.

Foods that you should avoid before your long runs:

  • Dairy (cheese, milk)
  • Fried Foods
  • High fat content foods
  • Nuts
  • Higher fiber foods that will be harder to digest
  • Fructose - it is absorbed and digested at a slower rate than glucose or sucrose
  • Foods that are hard for YOU to digest (remember, this is personal to you but as an example, I love peanut butter but find it harder to digest than other foods and so would not eat a lot of it before a run as I know I will feel it!)

Related Pages to Food for Runners:

I'd Love to stay in touch!
Join 23,000+ Other runners and receive my weekly training newsletter!

I'll send you my  free 24 Hour Timeline Checklist of Things You Should Do After a Long Run  when you sign up! 


As featured on:


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Sources Used:  Katch, Frank I., et al. Sports and Exercise Nutrition. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2012.

Alternate Images: