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What To Eat Before A Run On Keto For Optimal Performance



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Running is an excellent means of performing cardiovascular exercise that is extremely cost-effective and offers numerous health advantages. Nonetheless, if you aim to adequately energize your body for an optimal workout, what keto low carb food options should you consume prior to running?

The Traditional Pre-Run Intake

If you have ever researched running, you would typically be advised to have a high-carbohydrate meal before starting your run. The food you consume prior to running can impact your performance, or at least that is what we are informed. The main concept is to consume around 50-60 grams of complex carbohydrates approximately two hours before beginning your run. This allows your body enough time to process and assimilate the essential nutrients.

If you follow a diet that is high in carbohydrates, your body relies on carbs as its preferred source of fuel since they can rapidly convert into glucose, which provides energy. By eating a substantial amount of carbs before going on a run, your body can utilize the additional energy from the carbs, enabling you to run for an extended period of time.

It seems logical, but if we follow a low carb keto diet, what is the most suitable fuel source to consume before a run? In other words, is it better to completely avoid eating before a run and exercise on an empty stomach? Now, let’s examine some potential choices.

A Note on Electrolytes

Your electrolyte balance may vary during keto, and this becomes crucial during running due to significant losses, particularly in sodium, through sweating, especially during long-distance runs.

Ensuring their active replenishment is a must, and the ideal approach to achieve that is by being proactive! Consuming a supplement prior to a run can be immensely beneficial in preventing symptoms such as headaches and cramps.

In connection with this, you may require a magnesium supplement if you suffer from severe muscle cramps following exercise.

Eating Before a Run on Keto

What kind of food is recommended to eat before a run? When your body is in ketosis, it has adapted to utilize fat for energy, therefore, consuming something rich in fat is ideal. It is important to stay adequately hydrated by drinking sufficient water before, and possibly during, your run to avoid dehydration midway.

Low to Moderate Intensity Run Recommendations

If your intention is to go for a light jog or a moderately long run with a low to moderate level of exertion, there is no necessity to include anything particular to provide energy for your run. The majority of the energy required for running at medium to low intensities is obtained from fat, which can be derived from either your diet or your body’s fat reserves.

Based on the FASTER study, it was found that athletes who follow a ketogenic diet and are fat-adapted can utilize fat as a source of fuel even during rigorous activities, without the need for carbohydrates, at higher levels of their V02 max. This is in contrast to high carb athletes who reach their peak fat oxidation at approximately 50% V02 max.

For those embarking on low to medium intensity runs, here are some choices available.

  • A handful of nuts or seeds
  • Keto coffee or Bulletproof coffee
  • A couple of eggs and 1/2 of an avocado
  • Nothing. Sip some water and head out the door.

To ensure you don’t feel too heavy during your low to moderate intensity runs, seek a snack or meal that agrees with your stomach. Consuming a lighter snack approximately thirty minutes to an hour prior to your run, or enjoying a more substantial meal one to three hours beforehand, should yield the desired outcome.

Moderate to High Intensity Run Recommendations

Fueling protocols can become challenging when increasing the intensity of your runs or workouts, such as during sprints, intervals, or high-intensity sessions that cause your heart rate to skyrocket.

If you are an athlete who has adapted to a keto diet, you can perform at higher intensities without relying heavily on carbs for energy. However, your ability to reach aerobic threshold intensity levels is still somewhat restricted. Therefore, if you are following a ketogenic diet but desire to optimize your athletic performance, you might want to consider strategically incorporating carbohydrates into your diet and/or training.

Zach Bitter, an ultra-endurance runner and holder of the American record for 100-mile runs, adheres to a high-fat low-carb diet. Nevertheless, Zach considers carbohydrates as a means to ramp up his performance, comparing them to supplements like caffeine that provide a slight energy boost.

If incorporating carbohydrates into your peri-workout nutrition is part of your plan, it is possible to do it in a way that minimally disrupts ketosis while still providing sufficient fuel for a high-intensity workout.

If you consider the length and intensity of your run or workout, you can determine whether pre-workout carbohydrate supplementation alone is sufficient or if you also require something to consume during your exercise.

Having a cup of coffee or a high-quality pre-workout supplement can also provide you with an extra burst of energy.

This approach can be likened to the targeted ketogenic diet followed by bodybuilders. Termed as TKD, it specifically focuses on strategically incorporating carbohydrates into the diet, mainly before and after workouts. By selectively timing carbohydrate intake around exercise sessions, it helps to either maintain or enhance performance without significantly disrupting ketosis.

If your workouts are of moderate to high intensity and last less than an hour, generally, a pre-workout meal containing some carbohydrates should be enough. However, if your workouts exceed an hour in duration, it might be beneficial to have both a pre-workout carbohydrate snack and consume carbohydrates during your workout.

It is advisable to consume intra-workout carbohydrates approximately thirty minutes into your workout to allow sufficient digestion and utilization of the carbohydrates for the remainder of the session.

Best Keto Food to Eat Before a Run

You may need to modify your diet based on the duration and intensity of your run. If you are planning to go for longer runs, you will need to consume more energy, thus adjusting your food intake accordingly.

Experienting with various approaches is advisable to observe your body’s reaction. For brief runs, consider running on an empty stomach to assess your sensations. It is recommended to keep a record of your thoughts, timing, and any relevant notes for future reference and review.

Short runs

You have two choices for shorter runs under 10km in length – run on an empty stomach or have a small high-fat snack. There are several potential options available.

Give it a try – run on an empty stomach and observe how you feel.

If you’re in a hurry, simply take a small quantity of nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts as a quick snack.

No matter how eggs are prepared, they serve as an excellent source of protein and fat. Hard-boiled eggs are especially convenient as a quick snack and can be enhanced with a pinch of salt to maintain optimal electrolyte levels.

Avocado is likely the optimal vegetable snack to consume before running, packed with beneficial fats, and ideal when consumed approximately an hour prior to a run.

Peanut butter, along with other varieties of low-carb nut butter, provides a rich source of calories, fat, and protein, making it a delightful choice. Moreover, you can opt for a celery stick as a convenient utensil, reducing clean-up while enjoying your snack.

If you can spare some time, you may consider making fat bombs ahead of time. These usually comprise a blend of coconut oil, nut butter, butter, cream cheese, and flavorings such as cocoa powder. Simply store them in the refrigerator and have 1 (or 2) approximately half an hour prior to your run to boost your energy levels.

If you prefer your food to be in a liquid state, consider trying a butter coffee, which is an excellent option. Additionally, incorporating MCT oil into it is highly beneficial as it is a fantastic source of fat fuel that can be efficiently burned while you are running.

Long runs / Race

In case you are participating in a race such as a marathon or running a distance exceeding 10km, you will require additional energy. While high-fat foods serve as an excellent energy source, carbohydrates might also be necessary.

Although keto-adapted runners can run at higher intensities, incorporating some carbohydrates may be necessary to achieve optimal performance. If you plan to run for over an hour, consuming approximately 10g of carbs can enhance your running performance. Nevertheless, individual experiences may differ, so it is advisable to experiment and assess your own results.

You can also experiment with any of the following in addition to the mentioned foods:

Increasing your calorie intake with foods rich in protein and fat can enhance the ease of your run. Fat bombs serve as excellent options since they are compact sources of energy. Refer to the aforementioned section on short runs for recipe suggestions.

It is advisable to limit your consumption of coffee since it acts as a diuretic and can lead to dehydration as it promotes frequent urination. To avoid any inconvenience during a lengthy run or race, it is best to have a small portion of coffee. As your body will already be naturally energized during the run, there is no need for additional caffeine.

Optional carbs

The targeted keto diet (TKD) is a modified version of the regular diet that involves consuming a small amount of carbohydrates approximately 60-90 minutes prior to a rigorous workout. The objective of this approach is to make use of the energy supplied by the carbohydrates before it disrupts the state of ketosis.

If you do not have any problems with poor performance and energy levels during your workouts, there is no need to be concerned about TKD or other variations of the keto diet.

Exogenous Ketones Before A Workout

A suggestion that should be taken into account is the utilization of exogenous ketones or ketone esters prior to going for a run. The advantage of consuming exogenous ketones is to swiftly enhance energy levels, aiming to enable you to sustain yourself for a longer period and exert more effort.

People had reported anecdotally that incorporating exogenous ketones or ketone esters into their pre-run routine resulted in reduced fatigue during extended workout sessions. It can be likened to having a supplementary fuel tank, which can be used before needing to utilize the primary tank, providing an extra reserve.

It might be worth giving exogenous ketone supplements and ketone esters a try, despite their relatively high cost, as long as you are financially able and interested in experimenting.

Keto Post Workout Meal

Do you have knowledge about what to eat before a run on keto? However, what about after the run? Your keto post-workout meal is not as crucial as your pre or intra-workout meal when it comes to fueling your run. Unless you are running in a fasted state, promptly acquiring sufficient nutrition is crucial for aiding your recovery.

When it comes to recovering from a run on a keto diet, the most important aspect is to maintain your regular eating routine for your post-workout meal, which should include a sufficient amount of protein, healthy fats, and ensure you include leafy greens.

  • Make sure you’re not under-eating
  • Replenishing any lost electrolytes
  • Drinking enough fluids
  • Getting adequate rest before your next run


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