It’s time for the next addition to my half marathon training series, and I think it’s going to be one of my favorites. If you’ve been reading here for even just a little while, you are probably aware of the fact that I LOVE food. I cannot go more than a few hours without eating, and I can think of only a few things I love more than creating new recipes in the kitchen. I love learning and reading about nutrition, as well as coming up with meals that are wholesome and full of ingredients your body will love. So naturally, when it comes to half marathon training, one of the things I focus on the most is making sure I am fueling my body with what it needs. If you are training for a race, or live a very active lifestyle, then this post should be perfect for you!
What to Eat While Training for a Half Marathon
Before a Run
What you should eat all depends on what time of day you run (and how far you’re going). Isaac and I try to run first thing in the morning (waking up around 4-4:15), but some days we do it after work in the afternoon.
If you run first thing in the morning…
Please note that if you eat something before your run in the morning, your food doesn’t really have time to digest, so stick to something small that won’t make you sick. I personally need at least something in my stomach, especially if it’s a long run, but Isaac never does. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you!
Mini Muffins- I love meal prepping a batch of mini muffins on Sunday for the week. I try to keep them low in sugar, with some oats, protein powder and egg whites. If we have a long run scheduled for the day, I’ll grab one or two mini muffins to eat while getting dressed, and they help tide me over until after the run when we have breakfast.
Nuts or Trail Mix- Sometimes I wake up ravenous. When that happens, grabbing a small handful of nuts or trail mix gives me some fat to stay full, without weighing me down with all the extra “fluff” in other foods. My favorites are cashews, almonds or pecans, and you can try making this trail mix recipe that you will L-O-V-E.
Granola- Sometimes a small handful of granola does the job! I do better on my runs when I have something in my stomach, and just a little bit of granola can go a long way! It has carbs, fats and sugar that give me a little burst of energy to help power through my runs.
Banana- These are perfect for eating before a morning run, because they have lots of carbs (which will give you a burst of energy) and potassium (to help muscle recovery). They’re also easy to eat, which is a plus! If I have a shorter distance planned, I’ll go for 1/2 a banana instead of a full one.
Nothing- This is also known as “fast running”, where you run on an empty stomach. This works great for some, but not so much for others. I tend to get weak and a little light-headed if we run for too long on an empty stomach, which is why I try to stay away from it when I can. But there has been lots of research done on it, and I encourage you to read about it and see if it’s something you would like to do.
If you run during the day or in the afternoon…
From my experience, I approach fueling for my runs completely different later in the day than I do first thing in the morning. When you have time to let your body digest the foods it eats, you can be a lot more intentional about what you consume, and when you consume it. I’ve found that giving my body about 1-2 hours of time to digest is perfect for avoiding cramps during my run, and not feeling too hungry in the middle of it. Once again, I need to remind you that every body is different, and you need to find what works for YOU!
Eggs- One of my favorite afternoon snacks is two scrambled eggs with a little bit of avocado on the side. It gives me protein to stay full, and the avocado has healthy fats that I love. I also begin craving savory foods in the afternoon, so this satisfies that as well! The eggs are easy to digest, and don’t weigh you down, which makes them perfect for a pre-run snack.
Protein Smoothie- Yes, these are awesome for a post-run meal (which I’ll talk about in a little bit), but they are also one of my favorite pre-run meals to eat. I like to blend together a scoop of protein, 1/2 frozen banana, a handful of ice and some almond milk that I sip on right when I get home from work. It curbs my hunger (which is like a bottomless pit some days), and gives me the energy I need to tackle my run!
Snack Bar- I try to go easy on the snack bars, since they do tend to be high in calories, fat and sugar, but sometimes I like to splurge and eat one as my afternoon snack. They are also heavier, and take a little longer to digest, so I try to give myself a little more time between eating and my run than I do with other pre-run meals! My favorite snack bars are Lara Bars, KIND bars and KiZE bars.
Light Meal- If you are running soon after breakfast or lunch, I recommend going lighter beforehand, and making up for it after the run. The last thing you want are side-splitting cramps because your body was in the middle of digesting food! I try to go for foods that are a little higher in carbs (like a small bowl of oatmeal, toast with PB&J, half a sandwich, or some chicken and quinoa) with some veggies or fruit on the side to give a little extra fiber and nutritional benefits. Think about things that are easy to digest and that are light on the stomach, and you should be good!
After a Run
For best results, try to eat a meal about 30 minutes after you finish your run. By doing so, you are helping your muscles recover faster, and fueling your body before you crash. Especially after a long run, I try to eat as balanced a meal as possible, with carbs, protein, fruit/veggies and healthy fats.
Smoothie & Toast- I LOVE smoothies after runs, because they are hydrating and refreshing, and are packed with protein! I like to make a green smoothie (like the recipe in this post) and enjoy it with some toast with guacamole or peanut butter on top.
Pancakes & Eggs- These protein pancakes are a great way to get in some protein and fruit, and when you enjoy it with some eggs on the side, you have a power packed breakfast that will help you recover in no time!
Biscuits & Protein- Go for biscuits made with whole wheat, and mix things up by cooking some ground turkey and veggies (like onions and bell peppers) and seasoning with a little bit of taco seasoning. It’s super tasty, and your body will thank you!
Muffins & Chocolate Milk- One of my favorite breakfast foods is healthy oatmeal muffins (like these jelly filled ones!). When you pair them with an 8 oz glass of chocolate milk, you have a high calorie breakfast that will replenish the energy you burned on your run. Read here to see why chocolate milk is such a great post-run drink!
Lean, Clean & Green- I try to stick to this regardless of whether I ran or not, but it’s something you should definitely aim for after a run. Lots of times I feel tempted to eat something heavy, greasy and carb-y since I just burned a ton of calories, but that can do more harm than good. Yes, your body needs to replace those calories it burned, but you will feel better and recover faster when you fill your body with wholesome foods, nutrients and lean protein. Check out these recipes for some yummy lunch and dinner ideas!
*I do make one exception to this rule, and that’s race day. The sky’s the limit the afternoon after a race! 😀 *
Healthy carbs- After a run is the perfect time to begin loading up on carbs for your next run. When you’re half marathon training, you can run up to 6 times a week, which means you need to continue prepping your body for the runs ahead. I try to stick to sprouted breads, whole grains, sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa.
Protein Shake- I talked about them in the pre-run section, but it is also a fantastic post-run meal to enjoy. You are giving your muscles a burst of protein to help recover from the run, and a little something to tide you over until your next meal. I like to blend together a scoop of protein, 1/2 frozen banana, a handful of ice and some almond milk. A smoothie bowl is perfect as well!
Cheese & Turkey Roll Up- I love these rollups, because they’re easy to make, and so yummy! Just take two slices of turkey (I like to get mine from the deli counter), and roll them up with a slice of cheese in the middle. It has protein and fats to curb your appetite, and aid in muscle recovery.
Delicious Green Smoothie
Whew! That was a lot of info! If you made it this far, congratulations. You’re a trooper. And as your reward, I am thrilled to share my latest and greatest recipe- a delicious green smoothie. This bad boy is THE perfect recovery meal after a run, and you will be craving it day after day. It’s loaded with greens, protein powder, fruits and all things yummy. Make this for breakfast, lunch or even between meals for a sweet and refreshing treat!
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1 1/2 cups frozen fruit
- 2 handfulls spinach
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- Throw all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
- Enjoy immediately!
Now it’s your turn to talk! Answer one of these questions in the comments below:
Do you have a favorite pre or post workout meal?
Are you training for any races right now?