Do’s and don’ts of eating before exercising

By January 5, 2016Life

Fueling for training is vital for optimal performance. And we all know that eating healthy is key. But there are often a lot more lingering questions regarding what to eat, when to eat and what not to eat- especially when it comes to exercising in the morning.

Use this FAQ guide to choose the best food options for running, biking or working out.

How long after eating a meal should I wait before exercising?

Everyone has different levels of comfort regarding eating around training, so it is important to trial what works best for you. In general, allow two – four hours before running after eating a large meal, to allow time for your food to fully digest. After a smaller snack, 30 minutes – two hours should be sufficient, depending on how much you have eaten.

For energy boosting snacks before a run, try to focus on smaller carbohydrate snacks that have a reasonably high glycaemic index score (GI). A food’s GI measure is relative to how quickly it is digested and broken down into glucose, so high-GI foods are absorbed faster and less strain is placed on the gut.

Should I eat before an early morning run or ride? What should I eat?

You should eat where possible before you get out in the morning, especially if you’ll be exercising for over one hour.

There are two morning situations to plan for:

Early rising

If you wake up two hours before your run, good options include oats, wholegrain toast topped with eggs, granola, bagels or breakfast muffins and freshly made smoothies.

Rollin’ right out of bed

If you prefer to get straight to it with minimal fuss, try a small snack with quick releasing energy such as dried or fresh fruit, nuts and seeds or a shake.

If you are really struggling to eat first thing, try increasing the carbohydrate portion of your evening meal the night before, as this will be stored in the muscles ready for the morning.

What should I definitely avoid eating before exercising?

To provide sufficient fuel, foods should be predominantly high in carbohydrate, but you should also eat foods that you’re used to, make you feel comfortable and don’t feel too ‘heavy’ in your stomach when you begin exercising.

In the two – four hours before exercising, try to limit the following foods as these are well known causes of gastrointestinal distresses such as diarrhea and bowel upsets.


  • Foods very high in fiber
  • Excessively fatty foods
  • Unusually spicy foods
  • Drinking too much caffeine
  • Alcohol

On the morning of a big race, how long before should I eat and what should I opt for?

What you eat on the morning of your event should link into an overall fueling strategy that you have developed during your training. Eat a meal two – four hours before the start of the race, and include a range of foods depending on your taste.

Good breakfast options for the morning of your race may include:

  • Pancakes and mixed toppings, such as fruits and nuts
  • Porridge oats with milk or soy milk
  • Granola with milk or soy milk
  • Multigrain bread topped with eggs
  • Fruit salad and low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Bagels or breakfast muffins with low-fat cottage cheese
  • Fruit juice or a fruit smoothie

Article from Good Food.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Nik says:

    Most people should avoid dairy before exercise, even if it is 2 hours prior. Mainly avoid dairy because it takes a long time to digest, you want simple foods and sugars for the most part.
    Number 1 rule is to know your own body and what you can and can\’t do.

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