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Pre- and Post-Run Foods: Vices and Virtues

by Christine Skelly » on Apr 26, 2011 5

You know how you ­should eat, you know how you should exercise, but like everything in this world, nobody and nothing is perfect. This segment is about imperfection and how to embrace it and change that word into something very useful: versatility.

Lean meats, veggies, fruit, no dressing, low fat or no fat, and exercise 5 days a week makes a lean, mean, running machine, but it can be difficult to keep up with in the daily grind, along with stressors and no time to go running in the first place if you are one of the people who uses the word “busy” to describe their life. So here I will discuss the foods that may seem terrible for you, but can actually help you and that you can get away with (in small portions) when integrated with all the running you will soon find time for.

simple carbs and maybe some fiber for your body


I tend to try and go for 3 things before a run, keeping it simple since I rarely use foresight and planning when I run (I go when there is time):

1) Simple, fast-digesting carbs

These will drop into your blood sugar quickly and give you the fuel you need to start off strong, and are vital to start any day. These should be eaten first of the three if you are on a time crunch as they will be taken in for energy quickly, perhaps before you get dressed so they start to process as you get ready.


  • granola (carbs and fiber)
  • Kashi cereal is a favorite of mine (fiber and protein)
  • multigrain bagel (carbs and some fiber)
  • whole wheat pasta/spaghetti (carbs and maybe some fiber)
  • peanut butter (protein and simple carbs)
  • a piece of fruit (simple carbs and fiber)
  • egg whites (lean protein)

Bad for You but still work:

(These are the things that aren’t in the health magazines, but typically are lying around the house, or maybe around as leftovers)

several beneficial running ingredients all in one place

  • cold pizza
    The downside is the fat, but you will also have a good source of carbs, dairy from the cheese and lycopene from the tomato sauce which is actually more concentrated when in tomato paste form anyway.
  • The Olive Garden from last night:
    Once again, any sort of restaurant food will have high amounts of sodium, but you are also getting the necessary carbs for energy.

2) A ton of water

I usually try to ingest at least half of a water bottle (~10-15 oz.) as soon as I wake up or as soon as I decide to go running which is usually 20-30 minutes pre-run. After I eat my simple carbs I usually finish the rest of the water bottle and fill it up again. After the complex carbs and protein, I usually finish another half a bottle which can make me last for a bit over 2 miles before my system starts to cry out for more water.

3) Complex Carbs or Protein (think long-term)

If you are going on a longer run, these will be your back up engines that will kick in when you feel your initial thrusters waning.

  • small portions protein, either lean protein or nuts such as almonds (fat contains 3 times as many calories per gram of fat than carbs, and thus more potential for burning energy in less space, so be careful)
  • multigrain carbs—these are slow-releasing as they are fiber-rich and will give you energy throughout your journey



lean protein to build muscles after your run, but drink lots of water

1) Lots of Water. Period. You need to put the water back in your body that was used plus some.

Good for you:

  • Peanut butter and almond butter(protein)
  • Skim or 1% Milk (protein and calcium)
  • Almonds (protein and healthy fats plus vitamin E)

Bad but still work:

  • Ice cream or chocolate milk
    Both have necessary calcium and protein that will help your muscles recover, but just be aware of the high sugar content, though your body’s metabolism will still be high enough to burn this through the day.
  • More indulgent nuts
    Hazelnuts, Pistachios and Macadamia Nuts: While these contain the protein that will help you’re your muscles heal, but their high fat content can be a factor that should be considered when being compared to other options such as almonds.
  • An IHOP omelette
    Once again, getting the meat lovers anything can result in the fat content shooting up along with the oil being used to cook the omelette but you are going to benefit from the protein the eggs contain.

I have tried to be better about my food choices as I run more, so I’d love to hear everyone’s vices and virtues when it comes to the food you eat before and after your runs. What is the food you treat yourself to? What is your best power up food?


  1. Dan

    April 26th, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Personally, this may sound like halftime at youth soccer games, but I love eating fresh oranges after a long run. Something about the citrus just makes me feel so refreshed.

    I also enjoy snacking on peanuts after runs.


  2. Michael

    April 26th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I’m a huge fan of eggs. I generally eat a couple of scrambled eggs and some sort of meat (leftover chicken, sausage, bacon, whatever) a good hour or so before a run (any less than an hour and I get a stomache ache and just generally feel ‘heavy’).

    I haven’t put much thought into what to eat after running. If I’m hungry, I usually just eat whatever I would have eaten anyway. I Like your ideas and splurges :)


  3. Victoria Klein

    April 26th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I usually go running before lunch – around 10 or 11am, so I’ve already had breakfast (whole grain cereal & a banana), then I have a peanut butter sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread & baby carrots after my run :)


  4. Val

    May 31st, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Home-made ginger tea. I first tried it in Southern Tibet, and an easy way to do it is to slice up bits of ginger, mix it with boiled water, and let it infuse. Not only does the warm water help for hydration, but ginger relieves sore muscles and stimulates circulation.

    A Plus: add basil leaves


  5. Christine Skelly

    June 12th, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Those are all great ideas! Eggs are so good for you for protein and citrus is good in so many ways (vitamin C, anti free radicals, low calories and fiber, etc), and thank you for the tea tip!

    Though I am not a fan of ginger, could I do it with fruit or something? I know I wouldn’t get the gingery effects, but maybe something else could help?


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