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Not many things kill your vibe when you’re out for a run like cramping or side stitches. To prevent this kind of physical discomfort, it’s essential that you fuel up before (and after) hitting the pavement or treadmill. What you eat, how much, and when will depend on the intensity of your run. It may take some adjusting until you find what works for you, but there are some helpful guidelines you can follow. Let’s dive into some specifics.

Before a low-or-moderate-intensity run

For the purposes of this blog, let’s consider a low-intensity run as a jog or fast walk, and a moderate-intensity run as anything under 90 minutes. During this form of exercise, the body will burn fat as its primary source of energy. A high-protein snack or meal about 30 minutes to an hour before your run will do the trick. Try to stay away from anything containing high-fiber or fat, as it may cause an upset stomach.

Before a high-intensity run

If you’re going for a harder run or a race, you’ll to want to fuel your body with carbs about an hour to an hour and a half before running. Your body is only capable of storing a limited amount energy at any given time, so eating close to the start of your run is essential to unlocking that energy, otherwise known as glycogen. But what happens when your body burns through those glycogen reserves? To keep yourself fully-fueled during those long workouts you may want to use supplements like energy gels. These can be consumed during the workout to give you a fast boost of glycogen on your extended run. There are tons of different energy gels on the market. I’m partial to GU, but be warned that these high-calorie supplements are known to cause intestinal discomfort in some people.

After your run

Refueling your body after a run is just as important as fueling it beforehand. A post-run snack or meal will replenish the glycogen you burned up and help your muscles repair and recover. Your standard, balanced diet will get the job done. Just remember that you’ll want to refuel your body as soon as possible after your run. Research shows that muscles are most receptive to recovery and repair within the first 30 minutes after exercise. So if you want to minimize soreness and stiffness: snack first, shower later.