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How much carbs should I eat before running to boost my performance?

Aim for taking a pre-running meal that provides 1 to 4 grams of carbs per kilogram body weight to boost performance. Optimal amount of carbs depends on the type of ride, available time, individual tolerance and personal preferences.

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Written by: The Athlete’s FoodCoach, on 12-02-2023
Woman eating banana before running

Why is the amount of carbs before running relevant?

  1. Sufficient energy supply: Adequate carb intake ensures sufficient energy supply to support your running session and boost performance.
  2. Fuel up glycogen stores: Carbs can be stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which is an important source of energy during running. Consuming sufficient amount of carbs before running to some extend helps to replenish glycogen stores, delaying the onset of fatigue during prolonged or intense runs
  3. Maintain stable blood sugar levels: Eating carbs shortly before your run increases glucose in the blood and can may increase liver glycogen content. This can help prevent a rapid drop in blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and a drop in performance during training.
  4. Avoid gut issues or feeling empty: Consuming too many carbs may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort during your run, while insufficient intake can result in feelings of emptiness. Finding the right balance helps prevent a drop in performance.

How do I get the amount of carbs in my pre-running meal on point?

Dependent on the type of run, timing and individual tolerance, the optimal amount of carbs differ. You can get your carb target on point by:

  1. Discover carb needs for your ride type: Use the FoodCoach app to structure your training and receive customized pre-exercise carb recommendations. In general, the longer or more intense your run will be, the more carbs you'll need to boost performance.
  2. Consider timing your meal: Ensure optimal performance by carefully timing your pre-running meal. Plan well in advance, especially for prolonged endurance or high-intensity runs with increased carb needs (up to 4g/kg body weight in for example marathon running). Adjust the timing based on your specific carb intake goal. A useful rule of thumb is to match the amount of carbs in g/kg body weight to the number of hours before your run starts.
  3. Consider total meal size and composition: Review your pre-exercise meal size and composition if you encounter challenges in consuming and digesting it, hindering your ability to meet carb requirements. Make adjustments by reducing fiber and fat for a more easily digestible meal.
  4. Train your gut: When you experience gastrointestinal discomfort when trying to meet high carbohydrate requirements, systematically introduce and adjust your carb intake before running sessions to enhance gut tolerance over time. This process is called “training the gut” and can be beneficial for athletes aiming to optimize their performance by meeting increased carbohydrate demands.

Paying attention to amount of carbs in your pre-exercise meal can boost your overall performance. Use the FoodCoach App to receive customized per-exersise meal recommendations.

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