Motivating Foods: What To Eat To Put You In The Mood For A Run

This isn’t your typical guide on what to eat before any ol’ run. We find out what to eat before a run if you’re tired, PMSing, hyper and so much more.

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What to eat before a run, a woman doing a "from where I stand" selfie showing running shoes and a green smoothie
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I already know that food is fuel. But sometimes different situations require a different fuel strategy. Some days I’m ready to go, and other days I need more of a nudge. While I might blow these situations off as motivation issues, turns out that it just might be a food issue. That’s why I reached out to runner and trainer Heather Gardner, who is also a New Balance ambassador and founder of Tribe Fitness. To celebrate Global Running Day on June 7, she’s sharing her secrets on how to combat motivation with – my favourite problem solver – food!

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what to eat before an early morning run, a woman running along the dock during sunrise
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What to eat before a morning run

The situation: I have to get my run in before 7 am

Eat something light, suggests Gardner. “I always eat breakfast, even if it means getting up earlier before an early morning workout,” she says. Something that’s easy-to-digest such as toast or small bagel with peanut butter and a banana, or oatmeal with a banana or strawberries. For me these foods are tried and tested, easy to grab and go, and will fuel me for my workout.” She adds: “For me skipping a meal because of a workout isn’t an option, I’d just get up earlier.”

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eat before a late night run, two women running under a bridge at night
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What to eat before a late-night run

The situation: My day escaped me and it’s now 9 o’clock.

Stick with your dinner schedule. “If I was running this late in the evening I probably wouldn’t be having anything other than my dinner, which I would plan for two to three hours ahead of my run,” says Gardner. “I’d keep my dinner healthy, not to heavy, and easy to digest. If I felt I needed an extra boost before my run, I would eat something light such as a banana, a granola bar without to much fiber, or some cut up veggies.

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eat before a lunchtime run, a woman running near office buildings
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What to eat before a lunch time run

The situation: I can squeeze in a run during my lunch hour.

“I love noon-hour workouts,” admits Gardner, adding that we should save eating lunch for after the run. “Make sure to hydrate throughout the day, plan for eating my lunch after [the] run, having a snack of a banana, granola bar or cut up veggies one to two hours before.”

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eat before a run when you're bloated, a woman resting during a run
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What to eat when you’re feeling bloated

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The situation: I’m having a puffy day, and I just don’t feel like hitting the street.

“If I’m feeling bloated, keeping hydrated throughout the day is important,” says Gardner. “Definitely avoid foods that are high in fiber as they might make me even more bloated. I would likely eat some seasonal fruit or veggies if I felt I needed a snack before my run. Adding a a sugar-free electrolyte energizer might be something that I have instead of a snack if I just needed some quick energy and wanted to keep it light.”

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eat before a run with pms, a woman catching her breath from running with cramps
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What to eat before a run if you’re PMSing

The situation: I don’t really have much more to add. ‘Nuff said.

This time of the month does suck, but that’s no reason to hang up your running shoes, says Gardner. “Running is be a great idea.” She says to stick with the balanced meals we, hopefully, have as part of our daily diet. “I might skip the pre-workout snack to avoid feeling more bloated or crampy and instead try drinking water with a sugar-free electrolyte energizer being sure to stop hydrating about an hour before my run.”

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eat before a run tired, a tired woman taking a break from her run
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What to eat before a run if you’re feeling sluggish

The situation: I have zero motivation and I just want to lie on my couch in my cozies.

“If I was lacking serious motivation to move, the first thing I would do is call my bestie and set a time to meet,” says Gardner. “I would then grab some quick calories like from a banana and drink my water being sure to add a sugar-free electrolyte energizer for an extra boost!”

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eat before a run when you're hyper, a woman jumping during her run
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What to eat before a run if you’re hyper


The situation: I have energy to burn!

When Gardner is super hype she just sticks with her regular eating plan, with balanced meals and healthy snacks. Instead of looking to food to solve the situation, to bring her energy levels back to an even keeled balance, she changes up her running routine. “What I might do instead is switch up my run workouts and get my sprint interval workout done – typically more a challenging run – while I have so much pep in my step.”

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eat after a run, a woman sitting on the floor with some food after a run
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What to eat after a run

The situation: I did it! (Pats self on the back.) Now what!?

Right after a run, Gardner says, don’t worry about food as much as drinking something. “Hydrating is very important after a run, being sure to start with water or an electrolyte drink. Within 30 to 45 minutes of my cool down and stretch I try to eat carbohydrates and protein. Depending on the time of day this might be an omelet filled with lots of vegetables or in the evening this could be grilled chicken and mixed veggies.”

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eat for running, a fit woman in her kitchen drinking a peach smoothie
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What to eat daily to be a better runner

The situation: How do I set myself up for success each day with my diet

“I typically eat the same thing day to day,” says Gardner. “I’ve found healthy meals that I love and keep my life simple by eating various combinations of these foods. Some people might get bored, but this is what works for me within my active lifestyle. The best thing you can do is find out what works for you and how your body responds best to food before, during, and after your run. You want to make sure you have the energy to give your run the best you can, and you want to fuel after your run so you can rock your next workout.”

There you go: It’s time for me to start a food journal and log how I feel after I eat and work out.

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