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Running Tips

Running on empty?

Broccoli with legs

Not so fast. Let’s demystify hunger on the run.

Is “runger” a thing?

That’s a term we just made up for running while hungry. And the answer, according to Dr. Kyle Pfaffenbach — a professor in the Health and Human Performance program at Eastern Oregon University and advisor to Brooks Beasts — is probably not.

“Interestingly, exercise itself is actually a hunger suppressant — see what happens when you offer someone a plate of chicken and waffles immediately after finishing all-out 400s. Hunger is not always tied directly to a run itself. Hunger signals could mean a person is under-fueled, not getting enough protein daily, or because they recently saw an Instagram ad for pizza,” he said.

Woman running with an avocado and an orange

Dr. Pfaffenbach explained that hunger often associated with exercise occurs post workout as the body begins the recovery process. Increased hunger typically comes with more caloric needs to support training and recovery.

“Hunger signals during exercise are not all that common, but there are some exceptions in ultrarunning or long-distance hiking situations. Just remember, nutrition is highly individualized, and each person should be in touch with their own hunger cues.”

Take this nutrition advice and run with it

Dr. Pfaffenbach shared some general tips to help you avoid being under-fueled and feeling hungry after a run.

Experiment with your nutrition and schedule

Find out what works for you during different types of runs. Do you feel better if you eat carbohydrates a few hours before your run? Do you tolerate running on an empty stomach? For a high intensity session, the quality and performance for the workout will likely suffer if a runner is under fueled. On the other hand, some runners prefer to run first thing in the morning and do not want to run on a full stomach. This can work for steady state aerobic runs.

Learn your hunger cues

The best way to avoid being hungry is to understand why your stomach is feeling empty. Are you getting enough protein in your diet? Have you changed up your training routine and require more calories? Did you have a proper meal the night before you exercise?

Woman running with an avocado and an orange

Carbs are (usually) your friend

A good starting point for maximizing performance for both short and long distances is to consume some carbohydrates about 90 minutes before training along with some hydration. This will fuel most runners before exercise.

Practice mindful eating

Paying attention, without judgement, to what you put in your body is a healthy habit that teaches you about hunger and exercise. Mindful eating includes creating adaptable eating plans that address your individual nutrition needs, avoiding distractions as you eat, and focusing on how food makes you feel as you’re eating it.

More tips and tricks

Feeling full of knowledge about hunger and running? Explore our Run Happy Blog for training plans and workouts, gear updates, inspiring stories from the run community, and much more.