Nutrition Tip: Getting Your Pre-Workout Fuel On

By Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD

Nutrition is an integral part of training for endurance, a workout session greater than 90 minutes.  Good nutrition allows for optimal training, and optimal training paired with stellar nutrition enables a well-done race in which you can offset hitting “the wall.” “The wall” being the point in which you have depleted your glycogen stores (the body’s storage form of carbohydrate). Since your muscles require carbohydrates to contract and essentially, fuel exercise, it’s not only important that you consume carbohydrates—in the form of fruits, grains, and vegetables—at all meals, but that you have an adequate amount of carbs before your endurance training.

Generally, you should aim for 0.5 to 2 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight one to four hours before a long run. Keep in mind that pre-exercise food should be carbohydrate rich and well tolerated. Additionally, remember that each person differs in what works best for them before an event. For example, while some may tolerate a banana with peanut butter and a glass of non-fat milk, others may not do as well with that meal. As training progresses, you’ll learn what works best for you. Regardless, don’t skip pre-exercise fuel. You need it to fuel your run, top off your muscles’ energy stores, and prevent chronic glycogen depletion.

For example, an hour before a long run, consume 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. For a 140-pound runner, that’s 70 grams of carbohydrate.

Sample Pre-Run Meals/Snacks:

  1. Banana and home-made trail mix: 1 large banana (30 grams carb) + Trail mix (3/4 cup honey nut cheerios + 2.5 tablespoons of raisins + 1 tablespoon slivered almonds) (40 grams carb)
  2. The fruity English muffin: 1 English muffin (25 grams carb) with 1 tablespoon jam (15 grams carb) topped with pear slices (20 grams carb) and 4 ounces of orange juice (12.5 grams of carb)
  3. The on-the-go trainer: 1 Kashi TLC Crunchy Granola Bar (26 grams carb) + 1 large banana (30 grams carb) + 6 ounces of non-fat yogurt (about 15 grams carb)
  4. Bagel & jam: 1 toasted whole-wheat bagel (55 grams carb) with 1 tablespoon of jam (15 grams carb)
  5. Trail mix & juice: ¾ cup Kashi Heart to Heart (25 grams carb) + 6 dried apricots (25 grams carb) + 8 ounces of orange juice or light chocolate soy milk (25 grams carb)

Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD believes that optimal health starts with the activity that you do every day—eat. Corinne is a Registered Dietitian (RD) with a Masters in Nutrition from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She earned her Bachelor’s in Nutritional Sciences from Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and completed her dietetic internship at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. With an outstanding education and a unique approach to counseling, Corinne tailors nutrition to your body and lifestyle to drive behavior change and get you results. You can find Corinne in San Francisco at MV Nutrition. Email her at


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