15 Best Energy Foods for Running

Fight premature exhaustion!

Eating the right foods helps you get the most out of your run. If you lack calories and nutrients, your body might go into premature fatigue. Your muscles will feel slow and heavy, and you won’t be able to run as far or as fast. Combat exhaustion by eating the right energy foods for running.

The right pre and post run snacks help you maintain blood-sugar levels steady, and delays the onset of fatigue. Additionally, post-workout snacks are also paramount in muscle recovery because they provide necessary proteins. It’s what helps you become faster and stronger. Here is the 4-1-1 on what you should be eating.

Before You Run
For pre-workout snacks, look for foods that are easy to digest. You want calories that are readily available as energy. Aim for low-fiber and low-fat foods because fiber and fat are hard on digestive system. Additionally, if you’re eating 30 minutes or less ahead of your run, choose a small, light snack. You don’t want food bouncing in your stomach with every step. Check out our recommendations below.

1. Bananas

Almond Butter and Banana Sandwiches
A medium banana has about 100 calories, most of these from natural sugars and other easy-to-digest carbs. Not to mention, bananas are known for their potassium content. Athletes use up potassium at faster than average rates. Therefore, runners need to take in more potassium than the average person. Replete your stocks with a pre-run banana.

Recipe to try: Almond Butter and Banana Sandwiches

2. Applesauce

Slow Cooker Skinny Applesauce
When it comes to a pre-run snack, applesauce is a better option than whole apples. This is because applesauce has a lower fiber content. Fiber slows down your metabolism, but during a run you want your body to break up food for energy as fast as possible. Therefore, a low-fiber snack gives you quick energy. One cup of unsweetened applesauce has around 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar.

Recipe to try: Slow Cooker Skinny Applesauce

3. Oatmeal

No-Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Bites
Oatmeal might not seem like the ideal pre-workout snack because of its fiber content. However, most of the carbs in oatmeal are not fiber, but other simple and complex carbs that pack tons of quick energy. Not to mention, oatmeal is highly customizable. Add a half cup of berries or a teaspoon of honey for some additional sugar. Try eating your oatmeal at least an hour before your run.

Recipe to try: No-Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Bites

4. Tea

Iced Sencha Tea With Peaches & Lime Recipe
Green and black tea are not just bursting with antioxidants, they also have the perfect caffein boost to power your run. Try having a cup of tea to go with your pre-workout snack. This small change might make a big difference.

Recipe to try: Iced Tea with Peaches and Lime

5. Coffee

Cinnamon Spiced Coffee
Just like green tea, the caffein in your favorite coffee drink can be the perfect power-up for your run. If you like indulging in coffee shop drinks, a run could be the perfect excuse. Just keep an eye on the calorie content because many of these drinks can have around 500 calories!

Recipe to try: Cinnamon Spiced Coffee

6. Granola Bars

Oat & Fruit Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Granola is made from oats, which makes it a high-carbohydrate, ideal pre-workout snack. Added fruits provide vitamins as well as extra sugar for quick energy.Try having a 200-calorie bar about 30 to 60 minutes before your workout.

Recipe to try: Oat & Fruit Chocolate Chip Granola Bar

After You Run
Kickstart the recovery process with a snack that includes both carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates replete your energy supplies to stop your body from breaking down muscle for energy. The protein provides amino acids that are necessary for muscle repair. Because muscle repair is essential right after a run, you should aim to consume 30 to 40 grams of protein within 30 minutes of your workout.

7. Greek Yogurt

Yogurt & Blueberry Jam Popsicles
Greek yogurt is great for post-run recovery because it contains both carbs and protein. One cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt has about 23 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbs, and 130 calories. You can add fruit for additional sugars, or a spoonful of peanut butter for extra protein.

Recipe to try: Yogurt & Blueberry Jam Popsicles

8. Cottage Cheese

Skinny Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Cottage cheese isn’t for everyone, but if you like its particular brand of creaminess, it’s an excellent alternative to Greek yogurt. One cup of non-fat cottage cheese has 15 grams of protein for a measly 100 calories.

Recipe to try: Skinny Cottage Cheese Pancakes

9. Smoothies

Skinny Banana Split Protein Smoothie
There are several benefits to a post-run smoothie. First, you can drink a smoothie relatively quickly, which means if you’re scrambling to find food within 30 minutes of your workout, a smoothie might be the answer. Second, liquid calories are easy to metabolize, meaning energy and nutrients will be readily available. The biggest benefit of smoothies, however, is that they are easy to pack with carbs and protein, the two nutrients your body will need most. For carbs, add fresh or frozen fruit, a tablespoon of oats, or a teaspoon of honey. For protein, try Greek yogurt, silken tofu, or a clean-eating protein powder.

Recipe to try: Skinny Banana Split Protein Smoothie

10. Eggs

Breakfast Egg & Veggie Muffins
Eggs are a great post-run meal, even if it’s not breakfast time! They are popular among athletes because they contain all essential amino acids, and therefore provide the protein you need to rebuild and strengthen muscle tissue.

Recipe to try: Breakfast Egg & Veggie Muffin

11. Salmon

Salmon Teriyaki on Snow Peas with Sliced Scallions
Salmon is known for providing the good kinds of fats, fatty acids that you need for proper function. However, what makes salmon a great post-run meal is not its fat, but its protein. A 3-ounce serving of salmon has 17 grams of protein for just 170 calories!

Recipe to try: Salmon Teriyaki with Snow Peas

12. Chicken Breast

Chicken Breasts with Pasta & Pesto
Chicken breast is a leaner option than salmon. One serving has about 27 grams of protein for under 150 calories. Look for lean options that contain little fat. Pair chicken with some carbs, such as quinoa or whole grain pasta, and you have a complete post-run meal.

Recipe to try: Chicken Breast with Pasta & Pesto

During Your Run
Eating during your run might sound a little strange, especially if you’re new to running. However, athletes have been refueling mid-run for decades. Your body can use up food-derived calories in as few as 45 minutes. If you’re running for longer than this, you might benefit from a mid-run snack. Test several snacks to see what works best for you!

13. Sports Drinks

Orange Sports Drink
An ideal sports drink contain sugar and electrolytes. The sugar provides energy and electrolytes keep you from dehydrating. Check out options at your grocery store, or prepare your own with fruit juice. Add a dash of green tea for caffein and nutrients.

Recipe to try: Orange Sports Drink

14. Chewy Candy

15 Best Energy Foods for Running
Another popular option among athletes is chewy candy. A few bites of candy provide energizing sugar without sitting too heavy in your stomach. Sports brands such as Gatorade make energy chews specifically for mid-workout snacking. However, candy such as Starburst can work just as well.

15. Dried Fruit

15 Best Energy Foods for Running1
From raisins to dried mango, you can find dried fruit to suit anyone’s tastes. Dried fruit is like a healthier, adult version of gummy candy. Its high sugar still makes it a good mid-run snack, but you can rest assured that all ingredients are natural.

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Sofia Lopez

Sofia received her BA from Cornell University and her MFA from San Francisco State University. She creates workouts and fitness challenges. Her hobbies include running, hiking, and listening to audiobooks from the exercise bike.

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