Reader to Reader: Time for Breakfast?

What - and when - should you eat before an early-morning run? Send us your thoughts!


Posted: 19 September 2006
by Jane Hoskyn

This week, a first-thing fuel conundrum...

"I'm training for a marathon, and I struggle with my early morning runs. I simply don't have time to get up, eat, and wait two hours before I can run. Do you have any advice on food that can be eaten, say, half an hour before a run?"
Steven Watt

Your answers...

  • It depends how you classify eating breakfast. If you run after eating eggs, bacon and fried bread, you'll probably be seeing it again before long. Anything solid like cereal or bread takes at least a couple of hours to digest. I usually have an energy drink before my Sunday long run, and I take carb gels with me in case I need to top up. Save the full English for when you get home. The anticipation will keep you going! – mattyf
  • I just drink black coffee before training in the morning. Training on empty helps promote fat-burning metabolism to kick in – and minimises the need for a mid-session loo! – Slow-coach
  • I can't leave the house before a long run/race (10 miles plus) without having my bowl of porridge. Louis, my dog, has a bowl of it, too; about 45 minutes we go for a run together. Oats are known for their calming effect on the nervous system, and they provide slow-release energy. – Sarah Woodford Jones
  • When training for marathons I find it essential to eat before long runs. I set my alarm for 6am, stumble downstairs, eat a bowl of microwave porridge with honey, drink a cup of tea, then get back in bed by 6.15. The alarm goes again at 7.50, and I’m out by 8am. – M'boy
  • I set the alarm for 5.15am, eat porrige and banana with matchsticks in my eyes, and go straight back to sleep for two hours. – Queenie Victoria
  • The fuel for a morning run will be provided from the previous evening's food intake. I think it's worth taking on some extra fluids if the morning run is long (mine's only five miles) as I believe that you dehydrate a bit over night. – Tom
  • Simply have a high-carbohydrate meal before bed and stop being such a pussy! But seriously... I regularly run very early in the morning (5-6am). I literally take 10 minutes to get up and hit the road. Your legs feel like lead for the first few miles, but that just means it feels easier when you're fully fuelled for a race. – Matthew Percy
  • Get up, brush your teeth, have a cup of tea and go. Shower and cereal on your return. Any more than that, and it becomes too big a routine to stick to. It's hard enough to go running at 6am in the winter anyway! – Russell Hall
  • I did a 14-mile run yesterday morning and didn't have time for breakfast beforehand, so I thought I'd experiment. I had a pint-and-a-half of water an hour before, and a spoon of honey and some Lucozade Energy tablets just before leaving. It was a great run, my longest to date – I actually think I suit running on an almost empty stomach far better. – Natsospeedy
  • I've tried the early runs on no food, and I feel really sick with hunger. I also feel quite weak. I'd rather eat beforehand and put up with a stitch. – Rob
  • I've tried long runs on a completely empty stomach and feel alternatively shattered and vaguely delirious! For anything longer than an hour and a half, I have an energy gel before starting, an energy drink/gel after the first hour, and a gel every three miles after that. That keeps my sugar levels ticking over and stops me weaving across the path or being tempted to nap on a park bench. – adi123
  • Rusks are easy to digest. I can eat them and exercise within half an hour. – ben parker
  • I have a bowl of muesli ready by my bed, wake up at 5am eat it, go back to sleep until 6am, get dressed, down a pint of two-thirds water to one-third juice, then I'm out the door for that 20-mile run with a couple of gels and half of litre of electrolyte for the journey. – Glen Keegan
  • Coffee! It usually takes me about half an hour to get my act together after getting up and heading out the door. I have a cup of coffee as soon as I can – caffeine helps stimulate my bowels! Boffin
  • Before my morning runs, I have a cup of tea with a spoon of honey in it and a big glass of water. I get so many tummy troubles if I eat before hand, even if I leave it for a few hours. I did my last marathon on a cup of tea and some greek yoghurt with honey. – Hazel Adams
  • I run about 18 or 19 miles on Sunday mornings on a completely empty stomach, not even a drink. I find that I'm sluggish the first few miles, then get quicker and quicker. I need to eat within an hour or so of getting back. Generally, before marathons, I do eat. I can't say I've ever noticed a difference in speed/performance between eating and not eating. It is far more to do with what you've eaten the night before, or your general health and preparation. – Exhausted
  • The gist of it seems to be to do what suits you. I try to make sure I've eaten well the evening before and am well hydrated before I go to bed. I have a glass of water by the bed so I can drink as soon as I wake up. – mudlark
  • I've run three marathons now, and have never eaten before any of my runs. I find the feeling of food lolling around in my stomach most unpleasant, and tend to get indigestion too. When I get home I have a can of SlimFast shake for shorter runs or porridge/banana/honey for longer runs. We're all different, and I think you need to experiment to find what suits you best. – Redhead
  • I have a mug of coffee!! – K9
  • Fruit only takes around 20 minutes to digest, so this is great for a short early morning run. I often take a pocket full of Jelly Babies and have one for each mile I run. This works for me and give me the sugar rush if needed. – northern angel
  • If I'm running early then I leave a banana beside my bed, eat that as soon as I wake up, take a swig of water and I'm off. – Ink Blot
  • I wouldn't recommend an early morning run after 10 pints of lager and a kebab. Not on a regular basis, anyway. It's a good refresher now and again, though. – Dave A


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