Running is a high endurance sport that doesn’t just require energy, but sustenance. You might have heard of many runners “carb-loading” before a long run, and this is exactly why. They not only need quick sources of carbs to provide energy but also need sources that will sustain them longer and that are easy to digest. No one wants to head for a run with stomach cramps or indigestion, right? But you also don’t want to lose your energy half-way through an amazing run either.

Certain plant-based foods have just what a runner needs to keep them going longer, stronger, and help them recover more quickly after their run. You don’t see runners eating steak and burgers before a run and that’s no coincidence! Animal foods take much more energy to digest since they’re rich in hard-to-digest fats and/or proteins that promote inflammation. They also contain numerous chemicals like anti-biotics and other chemicals that make them less than optimal for your body. Pre-run, your body needs quality nutrition, so give it what it needs whether you’re running a marathon, taking a twenty minute run, or just getting started with a new running regimen.

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Eat one or two of the following plant-based foods before your run. They’re easy to digest, rich in fiber and natural sugars, and incredibly energizing all own their own.

1. Bananas

Bananas are one of a runner’s best superfood. Inexpensive, incredibly easy to digest, rich in fiber and natural sugars, and packed with potassium, bananas have it all when it comes to pre-run needs. Have one alone or with a small amount of oatmeal to stabilize your blood sugar longer. If you have enough time pre-run, make a green smoothie including banana in it too.

2. Oatmeal

Speaking of oatmeal, it’s a great pre-run vegan meal. Oatmeal is rich in easy to digest fibers, contains no sugar, is packed with magnesium that aids in energy production, and is a good source of potassium and protein. Make overnight oats, hot oats, or blend some into your green smoothie. Try to consume any grains you eat at least an hour before your run so they have enough time to digest properly. Soaking your grains may make them even easier to digest and may also increase their nutrient content.

3. Brown Rice

Brown rice is rich in amino acids and complex carbs to sustain you long amounts of time. It’s also one of the top sources of magnesium and can help prevent muscle cramps due to high amounts of potassium. If you’re making a smoothie, sprouted brown rice protein is one of the easiest protein powders to digest and is a good source of all essential amino acids.

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4. Dates

Dates are included in many energy bars and bites specifically for their energizing properties. Dates are a common beloved food among many runners because though they’re high in sugar and they digest fairly slowly yet provide a quick source of energy. Dates are also a good source of potassium and magnesium, which keep your energy up and prevent muscle cramps. Since dates are a high-calorie food that’s rich in natural sugars, use them before a run when you need those sugars for energy, instead of when you’re just sitting around your house with the munchies.

5. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are rich in fiber and amino acids that help you keep going long and strong for hours on end. They were used in ancient times to sustain Incan warriors for long periods of battle without causing dehydration or fatigue. These tiny seeds are rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and are one of the easiest seeds to digest. Make a chia gel pre-run and consume it as a beverage or make some chia pudding to have an hour or so before your run.

6. Cacao Powder

While you may not want to consume a bar of dark chocolate or bag of raw cacao nibs pre-run, consuming some raw cacao powder may be helpful. Cacao powder is rich in iron, magnesium, protein, complex carbs, natural sugars, and high amounts of fiber. It’s also a well-known superfood for improving energy, performance, and mood. Make this delicious Breakfast Berry Smoothie with Cacao Drizzle and Chia Pudding for an incredibly energizing, pre-workout meal!

7. Maca

Maca is a superfood also known to increase energy production in the body. The Peruvian superfood is perfect for runners and all athletes because it contains nearly all the essential amino acids, along with  anti-inflammatory properties. Use it in an energizing smoothie, stir it into oatmeal, or add it to your energy bars and bites. The delicious, caramel, malty-like flavor of oats pairs well with a variety of meal choices. Some people even  use maca as a replacement to coffee for its naturally energizing properties.

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8. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are bursting with magical nutritional properties! They contain chlorophyll to prevent muscle cramps and inflammation, high amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin C to prevent inflammation, and they help produce oxygen formation the body to aid in lung health. Leafy greens are also a good source of plant-based iron and a wonderful source of magnesium. While I wouldn’t suggest eating them alone, leafy greens in a smoothie make a great option to have before a run. They also make a great post-workout recovery aid since they reduce inflammation and are natural sources of protein.

Pair a few of these plant-based foods together however you can for the ultimate pre-run meal. Remember to avoid high amounts of fat and hard-to-digest protein sources pre-run. Performance, plant-based nutrition can make you a better runner (or athlete) all the way around.

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What are you waiting for? Learn how to be a plant-powered athlete and what other healthy foods you can eat to fuel your workouts.

What’s your favorite pre-run meal?

Image Source: Cacao Maca Energizing Smoothie 

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