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Are peanuts good to eat before running?

by Joyce
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Pre-run foods are tough to figure out because you cannot just go for anything that appears on your palate. If you consume too much, your stomach is in for an unpleasant surprise during the race, and eating too little results in insufficient energy throughout your run and more fatigue. Even the foods and snacks you consume have a major role, including peanuts.

If you lack proper nutrition, you will not achieve the top-tier status or achieve your goals. Therefore, choosing the right fuel for your body is important. Many people have questions on peanuts in particular because they both function as a healthy snack and a protein-rich source to help build your muscle. With that said, are they a good idea to eat before you go for a run or any intense aerobic activity?

The truth is that peanuts are a great snack to eat before a run, although you should avoid them just before the race begins. The best time to eat them would be half an hour to an hour before the run, in order to ensure you do not experience gastric issues.

What should you consider when choosing a pre-run snack?

It is very important to find a balance between foods that are easy for your body to digest and foods that sustain your energy, regardless of whether you are going for a short or long run. The ideal snack or meal before a run should always contain:

  • Healthy fats
  • Healthy carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Low GI (glycemic index)

We will explain the importance of each food before the run, and whether peanuts fit into these categories.

Low GI foods

In the world of nutrition, you might be familiar with the term ‘glycemic index’. This is a system that rates foods that contain carbohydrates and places them on a scale of how quickly the body digests them, as well as their effect on your glucose (blood sugar) levels after you consume them. The lower a food is on the GI scale, the more complex its carbohydrates are, and the slower its effect on raising your glucose levels.

According to nutritional science, it is important for you to consume low GI food or snack before engaging in any physically demanding activity, especially running. This is particularly essential when you consume these foods at least 2 or 3 hours before the run, not just before the race – this will help the foods release energy at a slower rate.

Peanuts fall in the low end of the GI scale, having an index of 14 – and the low GI end is any food that has a GI of between 0 and 55. In fact, they are the lowest GI among seeds and nuts, which makes them a good choice for a pre-run snack. Aside from them, you can also eat dry apricots, organs, oats, blueberries, and bananas.

Healthy carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important fuel source, and they cannot be underestimated – however, it is very important to avoid overloading on them before a run because you risk feeling bloated, sluggish, and tired. Small carbohydrate amounts can help you though because they can improve the glycogen stores that you need for energy.

Because peanuts are low on the GI scale, they are also low in carbohydrates; instead, most of their nutritional content consists of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Per serving (28 grams), they only contain 6 grams of carbohydrates. An even better option is to make peanut butter, and combine it with bagels, bananas, or eat it on its own.

Proteins

Small amounts of protein before races can help you feel full for longer, and also assists your muscles to recover at a faster rate. Even though peanuts are seen as legumes rather than nuts, many will see them as nuts (due to the similar nutrient profile) and enjoy them in the same way. 

In particular, peanuts happen to be among the best sources for plant-based protein compared to other options, with 28 grams of peanuts containing 7 grams of protein. They are also versatile enough to combine into other foods, due to their pleasant taste. Other protein-rich foods you can eat include eggs, pulses, beans, and fish.

Healthy fats

It is common knowledge among nutritionists that you should not forget healthy fats before you go for a run – regardless of the length of the race. Fats are essential because they are a fuel source for your body, helping to sustain it over longer distances and supporting the absorption of other nutrients as well. In addition to that, they also help to support the health of your joints and muscles.

Note that healthy fats should be consumed at least 2 to 3 hours before your run. This is because they are slower to digest, and can interfere with your energy boost during the run, making you sluggish and nauseous. 

Peanuts are very high in their fat content and are even classified as oilseeds because of this. Most of their fat content consists of polysaturated and monosaturated fats, which are healthy for heart functioning and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol. In fact, a single serving contains 49 grams of fat, with 16 grams being essential omega-6 fatty acids. However, they lack omega-3 fatty acids, so you can supplement them with sources of these fatty acids for better balance. 

Other fat sources you can take include flax seeds, fish (particularly fatty fish), tofu, avocados, and other nuts.

peanuts running

Benefits of peanuts and how they work as a pre-run snack

Nutrients that peanuts contain
The benefits they offer for your running
Carbohydrates 
Since they contain complex carbs, the effect on your insulin is lower. This makes them good for pre-run snacks because they will not make you feel sick or sluggish afterward.
Fats 
Contain very high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which help heart health and keep you active for longer.
Protein 
They are among the best sources for protein, containing more than 7 grams per serving. This amount is enough to help your muscle mass recover and increase, especially consuming them regularly.

Final thoughts

As long as you are participating in any endurance or exercise activity, it is very important to pay close attention to what you consume before the activity. In the case of peanuts, they are generally good, as long as you give them some time to settle in your system before going for a run – this is due to their high protein content that takes quite some time to digest. Since they are very high in calories, it is best to limit them to a handful before your race in order to boost energy, and you can add walnuts rather than eating them on their own, as walnuts are rich in omega-3.

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