What do you eat before training?

Tara Vossers
Tara Vossers Vrijdag, 2 oktober 2015
What do you eat before training?

A sloshing stomach, stabbing pains in the side and the feeling that there is a brick in your stomach. These are complaints that you don’t want just when you are enjoying your run. You may be experiencing these symptoms because the composition of your pre-workout meal is not optimal. In this article, I will give you some tips for light meals that you can enjoy running on.

Digestion during running

During running, extra blood flows to your legs. As a result, there is less blood present in the gastrointestinal tract. A large or heavy meal takes a little longer to digest than a small, light meal. Therefore, running immediately after eating a large meal is not a good idea. The blood needed to digest this meal flows away to the legs. Digestion is temporarily halted so that the meal remains in the stomach and is barely processed. Stitches in the side, a sloshing feeling, bloating, nausea or gastrointestinal distress are then the order of the day.

What are large or heavy meals?

Products rich in protein and fat cause slower gastric motor activity than carbohydrate-rich products. Products rich in carbohydrates are easier for the stomach to digest. A large bowl of full-fat cottage cheese, a high-fat meal such as chips or large pieces of fatty meat are examples of products that remain in the stomach longer. Certain vegetables can also be heavy on the stomach. These can include, for example, ‘stamppots’ or cabbages.


To prevent some of the complaints, timing is of the utmost importance. A heavy meal can be eaten before training, provided there is sufficient time between the meal and training. Allow at least 2.5 hours for this. If you are plain to go running at 20:00, the advice is to finish the large meal at 17:30.

Light meals

Eating more closely to the training time is possible if it is a light meal. A light meal is a meal that contains sufficient carbohydrates, possibly with a small amount of protein and a minimal amount of fat. Since carbohydrates can be digested more quickly and easily, a light meal can be eaten up to 1.5 hours before training. Small snacks or refreshments such as fruit can be eaten up to 30 minutes beforehand.

Examples of light meals

To give you an idea how to put together a light meal, here are some examples. These examples are average portions. In some cases, you may require more or less. This depends on your height, body weight and daily activity.

Light meal 1: Bread-based meal

One or two slices of bread with a low-fat topping and a piece of fruit is an example of a light meal. When it comes to toppings, avoid those that are high in protein or fat. For example, choose meat products or low-fat sweet spreads such as jam or apple syrup. Fibre-rich bread such as wholemeal bread is heavier on the stomach than white bread. If you often suffer from intestinal distress, it may be a good idea to eat white bread instead of high-fibre bread.

Light meal 2: Yoghurt

Preferably choose low-fat yoghurt, since low-fat yoghurt is easier on the stomach than full-fat yoghurt or quark. Use an amount of 150 to 200 grams and add some carbohydrates, such as in the form of muesli or a piece of fruit.

Light meal 3: Smoothie

Since a liquid meal is digested faster than a meal with products that you must chew, a smoothie can be a good solution. For example, use 150-200 ml of skimmed milk and combine it with a few spoonfuls of oatmeal or a piece of fruit. Just put it in the blender and you have a delicious smoothie!

Light meal 4: Crackers

Finally, crackers are somewhat lighter on the stomach than (wholemeal) bread. This is due in part to the lower fibre content. Eat three to four crackers topped with low-fat sweet spreads such as jam or apple syrup. You can also enjoy one or two crackers with a savoury topping. In this case, choose mainly meat products or cheese. Be careful with eggs, cottage cheese, avocado or peanut butter. These spreads are heavier on the stomach.

Tara Vossers
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Tara Vossers

Tara Vossers heeft als (sport)diëtiste een eigen praktijk in Doetinchem waar ze sporters begeleidt bij verantwoord afvallen en het geven van voedingsadvies aan (recreatieve) sporters.