Reader to Reader: Low-Calorie Energy?

What pre-run snacks give a boost without blowing the calorie budget?


Posted: 23 August 2006
by Jane Hoskyn

"I'm trying to lose weight, so I always eat breakfast and just have fruit for lunch. But I come home from work quite hungry, and crash if I go for a run before dinner. Any suggestions for a quick energy hit that doesn't involve lots of calories?"Rutjosnabet

Your answers...

  • I couldn't get one foot past the other in the evening if I just had fruit for lunch! I'd suggest a mid-afternoon snack of meat or cheese sandwiches, and a banana or a couple of biscuits before your run. – Velociraptor
  • Allsorts are just the job, except they rot your teeth. And if you overdo it, the liquorice gives you the trots. – SFC
  • You do realise there's no such thing as non-fattening energy? Any food that gives you energy is going to be fattening if you eat more than you can use right then. – Rowan Green
  • If you ate lard before going running, your body would make a decent stab at converting it into available calories for the run. – DazTheSlug
  • Have a proper lunch. You're running on thin air. – Tequila
  • If you're only eating fruit for lunch you might be a bit low on fuel for a run. I've lost a lot of weight by eating sensibly and doing lots of exercise. Lunch would normally be a big tuna or chicken salad, then three bits of fruit during the afternoon. Watch the fat, but you still need good regular protein and carbs for fuel. – PhilPub
  • Take some Love Hearts on your training run. You'll wonder how you ever got on without them. – pugheaven
  • Kendal Mint Cake. Zero fat and essential on the long runs. – emmilou
  • Moo Milk Toffee Banoffee flavour. I don't know what's in it, but it gives instant hit of energy. – Bear B.Hind
  • Jelly Babies work for me as a mid-run energy boost. Used to eat the occasional mini Mars Bar during a long run, during FLM training. – Kazzaaaaah!
  • BANANAS! – Emma Ronald
  • 'Nanas are the devil's food before running – sends my tummy all funny. Bleurgh. Small handful of raisins and a square of dark choccie about 15 mins before an evening run does it for me. And lots of water during the day. – Treacle Tart
  • Dried fruit is pretty good as a healthy option. But as Rowan said, anything is fattening if your body doesn't use it for energy. You’d get fat on lettuce if you ate more calories from it than you expended. Dried fruit is as calorific as most sweets but it's better for you because of the extra vitamins and fibre. That said, I took Jelly Babies and sour strawberries on my last long run, and they seemed to do the trick. Marathon training is a great excuse to stuff your face. – sal19


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Discuss this article

In the quest for losing weight my daily eating schedule is a breakfast, fruit for lunch and then a sensible meal in the evening. However this meansI come home from work quite hungry before my main meal and if I go for a run I energy crash. Any suggestions for a quick energy hit snack/food that of course does not involve excessive calories?


Posted: 18/08/2006 at 12:41

For before or after running?
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 12:49

banana or crisp bread with hommous??
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 12:53

rice cakes with peanut butter.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 12:55

If you're only eating fruit for lunch you might be a bit low on fuel for a run. I know you're trying to watch the calories, but if it's any help I've lost a lot of weight by eating sensibly (and lots of exercise), and lunch would normally be a big tuna or chicken (no skin!) salad, then three bits of fruit to keep me going during the afternoon - including a banana which I'd have a couple of hours before evening exercise.

Watch the fat but you still need good regular protein and carbs for fuel.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:02

Go and find the recipe for RW flapjack. It's amazing stuff and contains all natural and healthy ingredients.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:19

I've found it.............

125g dried apricots
150 ml orange juice
50g butter
75g runny honey
50g sultanas
75g pecan nuts
25g pumpkin seeds
25g sunflower seeds
25g sesame seeds
150g demerara sugar
175g porridge oats

Heat oven to 190 C /gas mark 5. Line a 13 *25 cm tin with baking parchment - you'll be very glum if you skip this bit (I use an 18*18 cm (7" square) instead).

Put apricots (chopped) & OJ in a pan and simmer for 20 mins. Then blend to puree. I stick them in a jug whole with the OJ, microwave for 2 mins then whizz with stick blender instead.

Back to the pan: gently heat puree, butter & sugar until sugar dissolved (stir it !).

Add the other ingredients, mix well & spoon into tin. Cook for around 15 mins, it'll still seem very sticky but it firms up as it cools

Cut into pieces and cool on a rack.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:26

Take Love Hearts on your training run ;-) You'll wonder how you ever got on without them ;-)
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:46

ooohhh yummy Mister W. That looks well worth a try.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:46

kendal mint cake! zero fat and essential on the long runs!
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:47

RTFQ, dinosaur ... I couldn't get one foot past the other in the evening if I just had fruit for lunch!

I'd suggest a mid-afternoon "snack" of two rounds of meat or cheese sandwiches, and a banana or a couple of biscuits before your run.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:48

It takes allsorts...
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:52


SFC
Right on Mike....Allsorts just the job except thet rot your teeth and if you overdo it the liquorish gives you the trots.

Banana, oatcakes and homous
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 13:55

You do realise there's no such thing as none-fattening energy? Any food that gives you energy is going to be fattening if you eat more than you can use right then.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 14:04

A proper lunch, you're running on thin air.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 14:07

Rowan - well said. And conversely, if you ate lard before going running, your body would make a decent stab at converting it into available calories for the run.

Posted: 18/08/2006 at 14:57

Too true Daz, always nice to be able to justify the bacon butty!
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 15:07

Mmmmmm... Bacon Buttyyyyy... <drool>

(Actually one of my fave post run snacks)
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 15:13

Moo Milk Toffee Banofee flavour - don't know what's in it but gives instant hit of energy.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 15:40

Jelly Babies work for me as a mid-run energy boost. Used to eat the occasional mini Mars bar during a long run too when I was doing FLM training. My theory was that I should be able to burn those calories off in the couple of hours of pavement pounding!! ;o)
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 16:34

BANANAS!
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 16:43

Bananas are great post-run - can't eat them too soon beforehand. I had a 'funny turn' after my race on Sunday but I felt 100% better as soon as I had some nana.
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 16:47

i felt a nana the other day and had a funny turn:o-
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 16:48

But that's just you Hoose!!!! ;o)
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 17:00

nana or a funny turn?
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 17:01

I can vouch for the flapjack being yum :oD
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 17:03

Both equally!!! ;o)
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 17:03

flapjack and nuts usually for me:O)
Posted: 18/08/2006 at 17:05

Nanas are the devils food before running - sends my tummy all funny! And afterwards they make me feel sick. Bleurgh!

Small handful of raisins and a square of dark choccie about 15 mins before an evening run does it for me. And lots of water during the day.


Posted: 18/08/2006 at 17:14

Think dried fruits meant to be pretty good as a healthy option- but as rowan said earlier anything is fattening if your body doesn't use it for energy- you could get fat on lettuce if you ate more calories from it that you expended!

Dried fruit is as calorific, and has a similar low fat content as most sweets but is better for you if you consider it has more vitamins and fibre and less funny colours and flavours.

That said i took jelly babies and sour strawberries on my last long run which seemed to do the trick... marathon training is a great excuse to stuff your face...
Posted: 19/08/2006 at 09:54

Well, finally got one of my messages quoted on the Home Page featured thread (this one), and it sounds like I'm advocating LARD as a pre-run snack!

Ah well, I suppose we celebrities have to get used to being misquoted... (sighs resignedly)

<swollen_head_smiley>

Posted: 24/08/2006 at 16:47

it may sound odd but you may not be eating enough.
I always have my breakfast then fruit mid morning. For lunch I'll often have a large salad with more fruit in the afternoon especially a banana if im running. then when i get back from my run i'll have veggies and quorn or pasta or rice until i've had enough well sometimes until i cant move! i expect to alot of you this may sound a bit piggy like but it's what i've learnt at slimming world and last night i got my award for having lost 6 stone.and i stil eat occasional chocolate and cake. so my advice is dont be scared of calories they are not all out to get you :) keep in mind that running burns of alot of them I burnt approx 1069cals on my 7 mile run sunday. Hope this helps take care.Kink
Posted: 24/08/2006 at 19:46

im there on the home page too! fame at last! don't we sound important?
Posted: 24/08/2006 at 19:50

Quick hit may be a spoonful of honey.

Any carbs are going to be fattening unless they are needed straight away to replace losses.
Posted: 24/08/2006 at 19:54

Absolutely JJ

Run to eat, eat to run.

Calories in = calories out. The difference is weight change.


So if you want an instant hit with no calories, then all I can think of is a double espresso coffee, black, no sugar.

But not at bedtime.
Posted: 24/08/2006 at 23:52


SFC
Does it have to be dark chocolate? I read somewhere that it has antioxidant properties but milk chocolate tastes mush nicer...
Posted: 25/08/2006 at 09:04

Kink Bunny, your regime sounds very very similar to mine, except I would substitute curry and beer for chocolate and cake in your 'treat' category. :)

Well done on the weight loss - 50 lbs for me this year and counting...
Posted: 25/08/2006 at 09:10


Ali
I recommend Anita Bean's book 'Food for Fitness' lots of nice recipes and some easy to follow eating plans depending on what you are trying to achieve - there are some specifically for weight loss and some for runners.
Posted: 30/08/2006 at 14:33

A shot of strong black coffee or a diet pepsi should get you going, works best if its the first caffeine hit of the day
Posted: 31/08/2006 at 08:09

How hungry you feel, and how much energy you have available when you are running are both strongly linked to blood sugar levels.

Quick hits of simple carbs, like sugars, white bread, cakes etc. will cause your blood sugar level to boost quickly. OK during a run to keep you going, but this can be a problem before exercise or at lunch.

The problem is that the body controls blood sugar levels with insulin and it is a not a very clever process: when blood sugar levels get too high, insulin is produced in such large amounts that instead of reducing blood sugar levels to a sensible level, they crash through the floor. This is why we feel sleepy after a big meal and why we get hungry after a few beers.

You are bang on with eating breakfast. You should try to include some protein (e.g. nuts or an egg) in your breakfast and try to have wholegrains for carbs (oats / porridge is excellent), as this leads to a slow, controlled release of energy and maintains blood sugar at the correct levels for longer - you'll be alert and you won't get hungry so quickly.

You should look at lunch in a similar way. All the carbs in the fruit you are eating are relatively simple, mainly sugars. Now, the actual amount of sugars is not too great, afterall we know fruit is much lower in calories per portion than cake! However, the sugars are quickly digested and thus cannot give you the sustained energy levels you need. This is why you are starving later.

The solution is to eat a bigger lunch, keep the calories low, but not too low and avoid white bread, sugar etc. Eat more beans, chick peas, vegetables, white meat, fish, wholegrains, nuts and seeds but keep an eye on the calories. You still have to remember that CALS IN - CALS OUT = FAT.

Oh, and caffein, being a stimulant, will increase adrenalin levels, which increases blood sugar and hence insulin levels, ultimately giving too low a blood sugar level; so, lots of coffees will make you hungry later.

This should get you through most of the day without leaving you starving. A mid afternoon snack if a piece of fruit or some veg's will keep you going until run time. Then just before the run, go for some of the snacks suggested above. I prefer the slower releasing energy options - sunflower seeds or nuts. The other advantage is these contain protein which, when taken before and after exercise, helps strengthen and build your muscles. And muscles burn fat.

By the way, I must emphasise that I am not a nutritionalist, but I have recently had a few consultations with one. It was well worth it and I have subsequently hit PBs on most of my regular running routes. Could be worth a try.

A web page that may help:

http://www.bupa.co.uk/health_information/html/healthy_living/lifestyle/diet/burn.html


Posted: 31/08/2006 at 10:08

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