If you are about to head out for a run, one thing that you’ll want to be thinking about if you hope to optimize your performance is how to fuel up beforehand.

The foods that you eat in the hours prior to hitting the pavement are going to make all the difference in how you feel once you get out there. It’s vital to have a good game plan in place.

This said, not all runs require the same degree of fuel. If you are doing a 5k race, you will fuel much differently than if you were going to do a marathon for instance.

To help you understand the difference and get your own strategy in line, let’s look at your complete guide to fueling up before a run.

The Short Distance Run

If you are heading out for a shorter distance run, say between 2-5 km as your C25K – 5K Trainer may have you doing, you won’t need to be too specific in your food at this time.

Most people can easily get by up to this distance on whatever food they ate in the hours prior to the run. This might mean your breakfast meal or lunch – or whatever snack you happened to have.

This said, it likely isn’t a good idea to try and run on an empty tank. While you can if fat loss is a major goal for you and this is being done first thing in the morning, you will find that your performance is much higher if you do get some fuel inside you.

Opt for some lean protein along with a moderate dose of carbs. A bowl of oatmeal and an omelet for instance works great, as would a banana with some yogurt.

Aim for around 200 calories or so total.

The Medium Distance Run

If you are going out for a medium distance run, say a 10k run this time, you will definitely need to eat. This is likely going to have you running for nearly an hour so you’ll find yourself running out of fuel if you don’t eat something as you head out.

Strive for around 300-400 calories this time, preferably around 2 hours prior to running. If you eat too close to when you head out, you’ll find that cramps tend to find you and can really put a damper on your performance.

Keep the meal lower in total fat content and rich in carbs and protein. Some chicken with brown rice would be a great bet as would some sweet potatoes with turkey for instance.

You can eat a few vegetables but keep them to a lower level as they too can cause cramping to occur.

The Long Distance Run

You might also be considering heading out for the long distance run. If you are training for a half or full marathon, using your Half Marathon Trainer program for instance, you are going to need some good fuel to keep you going.

At this point, carb loading might be considered. This means in the 24 hours leading up to the long run, you will be focusing on taking in more carbohydrates than normal.

Eat foods that are dense in carbs but not too high in volume. Pasta and bagels for instance work perfectly here. Make sure that you are still eating some protein as well.

Too many runners make the mistake of carb loading without protein, which only leads to a blood sugar high followed by a crash. You need to balance out those carbs with a lean source of protein. Chicken, turkey, fish, or even protein powder can all work great here.

The Intense Run

Finally, perhaps you aren’t doing a distance run but instead are doing a sprint event. If you are doing interval training, you too need fuel for this. The body can only use glucose as a fuel source for interval training, so getting in those carbs will be a must.

Try a fast acting carb source along with some protein about an hour before the session. Here again, a banana with some protein powder would work perfectly.

So there you have a closer peek into how you should be fueling before each type of run you plan to do. Always experiment with different food options yourself to figure out what works best for you. Some runners will perform great on one food for instance while others would perform miserably. Learn your own body and then abide by how it responds. This will ensure maximum performance.

What food items do you find work best for you for fuel? Comment below!