Should I Run On An Empty Stomach?

While some people run better when eating something small 60-90 min before a run, many runners, including me, who love to run primarily in the morning are better off with no food in the stomach. I get up, maybe a sip of water and I get going. Running on an empty stomach works for me, at least for the time I’m doing, which is 30-60 min. 

So the question, can you run on an empty stomach and is it safe?

The answer is yes, you can run on an empty stomach, it is safe, but the answer might be different for some people because of a few factors. For example, if you are on a weight watch, it is essential to understand the benefits of eating the right food at the best times , before or after the run, to avoid weight gain, and ensure you’re storing right amount of energy to get the most from each run, and a few more things.

In this article, I will share more about running on an empty stomach and its do’s and don’ts.

When to Run and When Not To Run on an Empty Stomach?

I hate running in the afternoon. Why? Just because I have to be careful about what I eat all day plus I feel exhausted after work and have no energy left for the run. 

If you are like me and you decide to start your running sessions quite early in the morning, let us say between 5 am and 7 am, there is a high chance you might be only half awake at that time (at the beginning of your running journey) and the last thing on your mind would be food. So, you might opt out eating breakfast. If you decide not to eat anything before your race, make sure that you are well pre-hydrated, your last night dinner included healthy proteins and fats and that your race is max 30 min. 

On the other hand, if you are used to having breakfast in the morning before you start your busy schedule, you should eat something before the run, a banana or a date is more than enough, just make sure it is at least 30 minutes before your morning race.

When it comes to my morning runs, I do not eat anything before the race. Also, in most cases, what I eat or drink the night before affects my morning runs. If I have a glass or two glasses of wine with dinner or eat a heavy meal, I’ll definitely feel it in the morning. So I make sure the night before my dining experience is a healthy one plus my body is well hydrated.

P.S. If you have been already running on an empty stomach and you are feeling alright, keep doing it. However, if this is your first time to run without eating anything, follow how you feel. If you feel dizzy or fatigue, it is a sign that you do have a lack of glycogen. Stop running right away. Have something small to either drink (have a few sips of water) or eat something light. If this is the case, it could be that running with no breakfast fuel is not right for your body.  Experiment and see what works for you. If needed always take nutrition with you. Follow your guts.

Running More Than 30 Minutes

Don’ts

If you are planning or running more than 30 minutes, or you have intense training, then it is recommended to eat something small before your practice. So, when you get into 2+ hour runs, have your breakfast at least 60 min before the run.. If you don’t, you will burn all your stored energy and feel exhausted.

Do’s It is perfectly okay not to eat before your run, if you run no more than 30 minutes.

You Had Your Breakfast and You Are Not Feeling Well While Running With Full Stomach

That would be me. I cannot possibly be eating anything in the morning before getting ready for a run. If you do not feel well while running with a full stomach early in the morning, and I do not mean full full stomach, I mean even a half banana or half energy bar can make you feel sick, it is safe to stay away from breakfast.

Again, if your dinner was satisfying, you are well hydrated, you can freely skip your early morning breakfast, and you are good to go. And please do not worry that you will experience muscle loss if you do not have a meal? When your diet is in balance, your body stores enough glucose overnight in the form of glycogen in the muscles and in the liver, so when you start your run with no breakfast, your muscles will not shrink suddenly.

You Have Diabetes? – Consult Your Doctor

This is very important and something not to ignore. If you have a health condition of any kind, like diabetes, consult your doctor. Your health practitioner will help you suggest a proper solution for your races.

Want to Lose Weight? – Keep Reading

You want to lose weight, it means you eat less. Right? I thought the same, but I was wrong. A lot of people (I was one of those) believes that if you start running to lose weight, among other things you should avoid having breakfast, to speed up the weight loss process. In reality, the result will be either you will lose a little, or you will even gain more weight. There are many reasons for that:

  • You’ll increase muscle weight.
  • Second, after you finish running, you will be so hungry you will fall into the hungriness trap not being able to control your eating. So avoid feeling hungry and eat small amounts of good food.
  • Third, it is easy to justify why you should have a treat or junk food.

The fact is when you run to lose weight you’d need to watch out your nutrition intake and eating the right food. Don’t think that if you starve yourself you will lose more weight or you will lose weight faster. 

And do not stress about the carbohydrates intake. Long distance runners need to worry about their carb intake, but not you. Especially if you are new to running and your race is up to 10k, or you run 20-30 min max. While they spend lots of energy, you don’t.  Pick the right food at the right time is the answer.

What kind of food to eat for breakfast if you want to lose weight?

  • Scrambled eggs on toast.
  • Toast and peanut butter.
  • An avocado.
  • One banana with peanut butter (rich in carbohydrates and potassium).
  • If you have figs or plums or dates at home, have few before the run.
  • Simple plain yogurt with fresh forest fruits will do the work.

What food to avoid?

  • Processed food
  • Forget all about diet foods, they are bad for you!!
  • Ignore sports drinks (they are loaded with sugar), they are calorie-rich, sugary drinks.
  • Avoid sugar in any form, they will slow down your weight loss regime and make you feel down and tired.
  • Everyone says you need loads of carbs. Not you, you do not need to carb-load. You do not run fast, and you do not run long distances. Live carbs for when you run more than 90 min. Carbohydrates are needed to provide the glucose that your body needs for energy. Add these later in your running endeavors.

Also, avoid eating raw fruits, especially mango and apple might give you a discomfort from the fructose and it may slow down your performance, so avoid eating these foods, as well as avoid eating meat as most meats take over eight hours to break down. Other food is high-fiber food as it takes a longer time to digest, complex carbs.