Peak performance: nutrition for early morning running

Peak District 27 November 2011

New Balance Minimus trail shoes

This weekend, my new running shoes and new early morning nutritional regime got tested out in the wild and windy Peak District.  My shoes (the New Balance Minimus trail shoes – see left) are recovering after an ankle-deep mud bath. More on those later.

I mentioned on this blog a few weeks ago that I was keen to find out a few simple but effective ways to prepare for an early morning run without falling back on Lucozade as an energy boost, and to recover and get ready for a busy day without slumping mid-morning.

Enter fellow early-morning-runner, Jo Scott-Dalgleish.

Jo is a nutritional therapist specialising in sports nutrition, and here are her expert pointers for getting the best start to the day:


Getting up before dawn for an early morning run, it’s only too easy to pull on your trainers and head on out of the door on an empty stomach.

But this approach isn’t going to allow you to make the most of your run. To exercise effectively, your muscles need to be well topped up with glycogen, for which you need carbohydrate. The best pre-run carbohydrate is quickly digested and delivered to your muscles. A banana is a good bet or half a toasted white bagel with honey. If you prefer to drink something, try diluting 125ml of fruit juice with 125ml water. Grape juice, pomegranate juice or blueberry juice are good choices to drink before a run as they contain more anti-oxidants than other fruits.

Once you are back, it’s best to eat breakfast within 45 minutes as this is the ‘window’ to replenish the glycogen you used up in your run. It’s also important to eat around that time to prevent a blood sugar crash later on, which can result in making unhealthy choices such as pastries, croissants and muffins. Including a slow-release carbohydrate with your breakfast will help to sustain your energy levels throughout the morning. A great post-run breakfast choice is porridge with a couple of tablespoons of nuts or seeds (which provide healthy fats and protein) and a handful of fresh or frozen berries. Other ideas would be low sugar baked beans, boiled or poached egg with whole grain or rye toast, or low sugar muesli with semi-skimmed milk or natural yogurt.

Putting new shoes and Jo's nutrition tips through their paces on a muddy trail through the Peak District

I have to admit that I put a Yorkie bar (when in Rome…) in my pocket just in case – it seemed appropriate in case of emergency!  

But otherwise I didn’t miss the Lucozade and Jo’s tips are much more natural and healthy, so I will be sticking to them from now on.

Jo Scott-Dalgleish BSc (Hons) MBANT is a Nutritional Therapist practising in Chiswick, West London. She specialises in sports nutrition, energy management, weight loss and digestive health. Please see for more information.


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